Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sweet Smelling Monks

A short ferry ride from Tenby lies Caldey Island, a small outcrop of rock, grass and Cistercian monks. Caldey, from the Viking word "Keld-Eye" meaning "cold island" has had some sort of religious building on it since the 6th century but the current monks only arrived in 1929, from Belgium of all places.

I only saw one monk and as he was pretty sprightly for an 80 year old, I think I'd be more accurate in saying that 'the order' came to Caldey in 1929 !

As I said in a previous post, they make their financial living from manufacturing and selling perfume and chocolate so if you want chocolate smelling perfume or perfume tasting chocolate, then Caldey Island is the place for you. They have lots of both. Typical Belgians !

Actually the chocolate is yummy and although basic, they do sell it in plain, milk, white and dark varieties. The simple gold wrapped bars, when stacked for sale, look like a small display from Fort Knox. I expected to find a Willy Wonka winning ticket inside mine ! I didn't.

As well as monks, the island has a lighthouse, an abbey, an old priory, a church and various other semi ruined buildings which can all be walked around to offset the effects of too much chocolate. On the commercial and tourist side, there is a gift shop, a perfume shop, a post office and of course, a cafe.

My mum, bless her, would've spent her entire pocket money buying up all the religious trinkets on sale from miraculous medals and rosery beads to statues of the Virgin Mary and more crosses and crucifixes than you could get in a Vatican City souvenir shop.

We also walked along the island paths and came upon some bizarre signs to guide our steps.

I was just glad that the little man icon wasn't wearing a robe !! It can get very lonely there after the visitors have gone home.

Actually the first sign to greet visitors once they have walked up the steep path from the ferry dock, is a bit more practical and gets to the point right away. No one could accuse these monks of not knowing their market !

Once the visitors leave each day, the island returns to it's religious and contemplatory roots. There are various places for private prayer and there is even a calvary up on a hill overlooking Caldey Sound with wonderful panoramic views back to Tenby. Inside the small church, visitors have left prayer requests on scraps of paper and cardboard, anything they have to write on.

I was especially taken with the slightly more secular request, presumably from a child, seen here in the bottom left corner of the photo.

I'd like to think the parents took care of that particular request even if God didn't. But how would we know?!

It's a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, shrouded in mystery. A bit like a Caldey Island bar of chocolate.


Daphne said...

It's a beautiful little island - and I didn't know that the name meant "Cold Island" - it's always pretty warm when we go but I bet it gets chilly in the winter.
And I now know the difference between a cross and a crucifix after you explained it on the island - something I've never known before!

Silverback said...

I meant to warn people not to expect to see any chocolate as you lot bought up the entire 2009-2010 stock last week !

rhymeswithplague said...

Thanks for a very enjoyable post! I enlarged the last photo and read all of the notes. Looks like Yorkshire Pudding preceded you ("Please keep our lads in Afghanistan safe and bring them all home to their families")....

I might like chocolate-flavoured perfume, but I don't think I could stomach perfume-flavored chocolate!

Debby said...

Oh looks like a place right up my alley. You just know I'll be touching everything. Awesome thought to take a picture of those prayer requests. I bet I could've got vibes off those for sure! We must go there for sure.

jay said...

The note about the hamster is sweet! Such faith!

Interesting post. One wonders how the monks stay focussed with all the wordly stuff they are surrounded with all day. Perfume, chocolate, tourists ... permissive footpaths. Tell me, does 'robeless' mean 'naked'? We have a permissive footpath here, but I've never seen a naked man on it!

Hmm. Wonder where Sid would like to go today.

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