Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cloisters and archeology

Earlier in the week we had briefly visited the Sé or cathedral, which was nice, but not overly fantastic after having visited cathedrals in France a couple of years ago. Today, while Jason was working, we decided to head to Praca de Comercio just so the boys could have a big open space to play in without having to worry about tight streets and getting hit by cars. On the way down, we got distracted by the Sé and decided to go in. (Even when we do have a plan it is pretty much meaningless because we are very distractible, we never actually made it to the praca.) Last time we were inside the Sé, the cloisters had been closed but this time they were open. We decided to pay the €2.50 and go in because as I mentioned earlier, I am a sucker for cloisters, and having read the Rick Steve's guide book I thought that these just might be the cloisters that also happened to have an archeological dig in process. I should also mention that I am a sucker for archeological digs, so this was a mind-blowing experience for me. I know that I will not be able to do this place justice, but I will share our experiences anyway. In the center of the cloisters archeologists are unearthing, you guessed it, Iron Age, Roman, and Moorish settlements, depending on what layer you are looking at. We walked on scaffolding above the sight so that we could peer down into the dig. It was amazing watching the archeologists at work, seeing the grid work so they can properly document where they found things, scraping a little and then carefully marking on their maps, carefully filling one bucket at a time. We saw ancient plumbing systems below, pottery, a Roman wheel made of stone, and open, empty tombs lying right next to the pathway where we could touch them if we dared. Portugal is much more accessible than the states, at least this site was. Outside of the cloisters were dim alcoves containing ancient stuff, some had sarcophagi or tombs out in the open where anyone could touch or deface them, there were faded religious tablets, ancient tombstones, gorgeous tablets of tile, all out where we could touch them. It was so very different than the states where everything is sterile....vacuum-sealed behind glass with the perfect lighting. And yet no one had done any harm. It was goosebump-inducing to experience all of those antiquities first hand.

Click here for photos.

1 comment:

  1. Kirsten,

    Thank-you for sharing these words and photos. I, almost, feel like I am there with you, without the jet lag and back ache from the 19hr trip. What a wonderful mysterious journey.