Monday, February 6, 2017

Rock Chapel - Hidden Treasure

It is Sunday afternoon and the house is quiet except for a playlist playing in the other room from our Bluetooth speaker.  Both Toddler D and BabyD2 are here for a few hours.  Both are asleep right now, as is their Papaw.   It is a bit chilly outside and the rain is falling from time to time.    The only light in the house is coming from the lamp hanging on the wall behind me.  Even the dogs are napping on the deck outside my back door.

While they nap, I am looking back through photos I've taken since the first of the year and trying to purge and organize them into folders for easy retrieval. As I scroll, I am reminded that I haven't yet shared our first adventure of 2017. Ron was off on that Monday, January 2 so we decided to go for a drive. Months earlier, my friend Debbie had posted some photos of a small chapel hidden away in the woods near Shreveport and I wanted to visit it as well. We GPS in hand, we drove to Mansfield in search of the Rock Chapel.

At first glance, we thought the gate across the road was locked, but upon further investigation, we found it open, so we walked down the winding road into the woods.
As we neared the chapel, we noticed wooden crosses hung on the trees lining the road. (We later learned that there is one cross for each monk that lived at the monastery).

Then we saw it.  A small, humble stone chapel built on a hill above a stream.  A bridge crosses the trickling stream and is flanked by beautiful camellia bushes that were filled with blooms.  It was beautiful!
Rock Chapel was built in 1891 by Carmelite monks as a place to meditate, reflect, pray, and to study in seclusion. The chapel itself is the last remnant of an old Carmelite monastery which flourished in the late 1800s. 
The monks living in the monastery built the chapel itself, carrying rocks from the surrounding hills and using mud as plaster to hold it together.  The monastery itself burned down shortly after the turn of the century and was never rebuilt, but the chapel remains.
In front of the chapel are six graves with crosses, 3 of which have names and dates on them. The monks were so very young when they died, most likely victims of some illness that is now treatable. 
I'd heard that the doors of the chapel are often locked, but this day, the lock was left unhooked.  We carefully opened the doors and stepped inside to find frescoes that were created over 100 years ago! Back in the 1960's the painting had been meticulously restored, but the recent effects of termites was evident.  

While the painted churches I have visited in Texas were in much more ornate and spectacular, there was something so incredibly sacred about this place.  

The painting above the door translates (roughly) "I have much love for the Lord God."
The afternoon we were there, the sun shone down through the trees creating a glow that was so beautiful. It was the perfect opportunity to work on my "shooting the light" through my camera lens.
We wandered around a bit and then just sat, breathing in the air and listening to the birds. 
Neither of us wanted to leave, and I really wanted to paint he scene, so we went back to get the truck (where my art kit was), drove it down the road and parked it so that we could sit in the back until the sun went down.
Curled up on the back tailgate, I sketched until we heard voices approaching on the road behind us.  We turned to find a young couple laughingly walking dow the path.  We greeted each other and then watched as they made their way across the bridge and up the hill.  The looked around a little bit and then the young man got down on one knee.  I snuck a few pictures of his proposal and then we cheered as she obviously accepted.  Later, we exchanged email addresses so that I could send them the photos and he explained that this was a special place to him since he had grown up nearby (they now live in Colorado, I believe).
Everything about this adventure was special and one I am likely to never forget!  What a hidden treasure this sweet chapel is and a gift that continues to bless so many people.
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