In Cullman Alabama (of all places) exists this wonderful little monastery where a Benedictine monk spent over 40 years recreating the worlds greatest architecture in miniature. brother Joseph Zoettl accomplished this task by using materials that were donated and sent to him from all over the world. The pictures are not the best as I was using a pretty awful point and shoot on this particular day, but I just had to share this with you as I find it so fascinating. You can read more about the history of the Ave Maria Grotto here: http://www.avemariagrotto.com/content/history

Watch on theintrepidautist.tumblr.com

Horrible Histories: Why Vikings invaded England

Hi my name is Mackenzie and I'm addicted to traveling.

I have an addiction. An addiction to traveling that is. Traveling is sort of like a drug, not harmful to your health of course but harmful to the wallet.

After a busy week in classes full of midterms or reviews, doctors appointments to get one step closer to my residency permit, and a bit of a stomach bug, a weekend trip is exactly what I needed. 

8 AM Saturday morning a charter bus departed from our apartment building to head to Meteora. Meteroa, or Μετέωρα, means “suspended in the air”. Meteroa is the location of the Easter Orthodox monasteries of Greece. The complex is made up of six separate monasteries constructed on natural sandstone rock pillars. Meteora is honestly like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It legitimately looks as if we were standing in front of a giant green screen.


We visited two of the six monasteries, and upon entrance had to tie a cloth around our waists. Women are not allowed to wear pants, and in some places not even allowed to enter. The first we entered was the only one that nuns currently reside in, the second a monastery in which monks lived in. Since people are actually living there we of course did not get a tour of the whole building, but we were allowed to visit a few rooms. Before entrance of the altar we were to light a candle, and say a prayer. These buildings were filled with the most elaborate woodwork, descriptive paintings, and the most amazing things made from gold, silver, gems, glass, the whole shebang. After an afternoon at debatably the most beautiful place on this earth we jumped back on the bus and headed to the city of Ioanniana.



After a much needed good nights sleep in Ioanniana, we got on the bus for a short time and headed for the famous Perma cave. We followed a trail through a wet, dark, and humid cave for about 45 minutes. Narrow pathways, and what had to be hundreds of stairs all carved into the natural cave made up the trail. I do not even know how to describe what the cave looked like. It was filled with an incredibly arrangement of stalagmites. Stalagmites are a type of rock formation that are rise from the floor, or descend from the ceiling of the cave from an accumulation of drippings. Something you only see on the Discovery channel. 



The Ioanniana castle, just a few minutes away from the cave, was the next stop on our trip along with a short visit to the local island. We frolicked in fields of daisies, road on a boat, and bartered with the locals. Overall it was a gorgeous day, and a great weekend. We got back on the bus and headed home. Although I do love traveling with all my friends from school, I am so very happy to not have to take another trip on that bus until May. 

This week is full of midterms and travels to Munich and Salzburg. I’m trying to dance around in some hills.

The History of Rievaulx Abbey


  • ·         Of the total 80 Cistercian monasteries in Britain, Rievaulx was the second (after the 1128 foundation of Waverly in Surrey). It was deliberately constructed in an isolated are in the North York moors where, in 1132, there were only 9 hoses recorded. Rievaulx Abbey was set up to act as a base so that the reforming Cistercian movement could spread in the north of England.
  • ·         The first abbot of Rievaulx was a Yorkshireman Abbot William.
  • ·         After William there came Maurice and, while he only serves 18 months before resigning, he gained additional land for the abbey.
  • ·         Aelred joined the abbey in 1134 and became its most famous founder and under his watch the abbey doubled in size. As a reward for his hard work he was venerated when he died in 1167. His book for novices ‘The Mirror of Charity’ is still widely studied even in the 21st century.
  • ·         After the death of Aelred the sources for the history of Rievaulx grow sparse. However it’s apparent that the community thinned over the next 100 years, but still remained. In the 1220s there were many impressive new extensions built, which included a gold shrine to St Aelred.
  • ·         The 12th century onwards brought great popularity for the new Mendicant movements of the Franciscan and Dominican monk. These monks were situated in towns and actually left their cloisters to evangelise. As a result more traditional monasteries such as the Cistercians at Rievaulx lost popularity and support.
  • ·         Over time, as well as losing some of the simplicity and hard work that had been the main feature of the Cistercian monastic reform, class differences grew more prominent between the illiterate lay brothers who did most manual work, and the educated choir monks. Eventually the lay brothers were excluded from the monastery and hired help was brought in instead.
  • ·         The 13th century brought dire economic issues. In 1276 the extensive sheep flock was decimated by murrain of cab disease and in 1279 king Edward 1st intervened to install a financial administrator in the abbey.
  • ·         In 1322 King Edward II stayed in Rievaulx, but his army was surprised by the Scots and the Scots beat them in the battle of Byland. The Scots plundered the abbey before they withdrew. This was a huge blow, and by the 1370s there were only 15 monks and lay brothers (as opposed to the 650 at the height of the abbey’s popularity). To economically survive the monks broke up the abbey’s granges and rented out land. This seemed to work and they gradually started to recover. 
  •    In 1532 Henry VIII began his reformation. In 1533 Abbot Kirby was deprived of his office for questioning the king. After the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace ‘rebellion’ unsettled the king, he cracked down on larger monasteries, and in 1538 Rivelaux was surrendered.


English heritage Guidebooks, 'Rievaulx Abbey' by Peter Fergusson, Glyn Coppack and Stuart Harrison