Moving a monastery to Miami
On Friday, after checking out of our hotel in Miami, we had a few hours to fill before heading to the airport. I remembered seeing a sign for an “Ancient Spanish Monastery” during our travels and thought that it may be worth exploring to waste some time and grab a few photos. It was easy enough to find, situated on a quiet side road. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot and saw the monastery, I knew that it would be a great photo subject. So, for a mere $8 each, my wife and I took the self-guided tour. It’s a relatively small place so I don’t know if “tour” is the correct word – more like “a look around”.
The grounds were quite lush and on this warm Florida day, it was very tropical feeling. The building did indeed seem very “ancient” and it was fun taking photos there, with the exception of the modern lighting situated throughout the grounds and cloisters. Kind of puts a damper on the “ruins” aspect of it. Also, the site is used for numerous weddings and there was a group people gathering for one as we were walking around. They were a bit annoying because they gathered in one of the cloisters, chatting loudly, and totally prevented us from seeing parts of the building (and from taking any photos in the general area), and they didn’t seem to mind or care that they were in the way.
Now for a little history. The Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux was constructed in Segovia, Spain in the early 12th century and remained there until the 1920’s when William Randolph Hearst purchased the cloisters and out-buildings and had them dismantled, stone by stone, numbering each one, packing them in crates with hay and shipped them to America. That in itself is pretty crazy to me. That would be like Bill Gates today buying a pyramid and moving it to Seattle. Anyways, around that time, hoof and mouth disease had broken out in Segovia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fearing possible contagion, quarantined the shipment upon its arrival, broke open the crates and burned the hay, a possible carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the workmen failed to replace the stones in the same numbered boxes before moving them to a warehouse. Soon after the shipment arrived, Hearst’s financial problems forced most of his collection to be sold at auction. The stones remained in a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, for 26 years. One year after Hearst’s death in 1952, they were purchased by Messrs. W. Edgemon and R. Moss for use as a tourist attraction. It took 19 months and almost $1.5 million dollars to put the Monastery back together. (source: spanishmonastery.com )
As for the photography side, everything is pretty straightforward. Considering all I had with me was the slowish kit lens on the Lumix GX1, I think it worked decent in the low light of the cloisters and held up with the wide dynamic range of the indoor/outdoor lighting, though I could have really used a wider angle lens to capture more depth. This place really cries out for HDR photography but since I don’t normally shoot for that I didn’t even think about it at the time. Still, for single exposures I think they look good. I’m posting color shots but I did black and white conversions on most of the shots and I think I prefer those even more. You can see them on my Flickr page. These are some interior shots and I’ll post a few exterior shots later.