There are many places of worship that seem to have a special energy. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re religious or not, but often you feel a sense of calm when you enter them. Such places provide the space to sit, contemplate and get in touch with your inner self. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several of them on my travels — and I’d like to share a few of them with you.
Mount St Ervans, Grenada
Grenada has always been special to me but on my last trip I saw a side of it that had previously eluded me when I visited the St Martin de Porres Retreat Centre in Mount St Ervans, set in a spiritual place high in the hills of St Andrews. I was attending a Reiki retreat and the organisers couldn’t have picked a better location.
The retreat centre itself was unassuming with simple rooms and not many luxuries, which isn’t surprising as local priests hold their retreats there. However, that simplicity was part of the centre’s charm and contributed to a relaxing atmosphere. It’s hard to put into words just how peaceful it was, but everyone commented on the soothing environment.
For me the best part of the centre — and the one which allowed the best chance to sit and think — was the gazebo. Accessible via a short path through the gardens and set away from the residential area, the gazebo offered a fantastic view of the mountains, the sea, and the Grenadines. It was great to sit there before sunrise every morning and be alone with my thoughts while being surrounded by natural beauty.
This centre is not really a tourist attraction; there are no signs to tell you what it’s all about and no multilingual leaflets. However, it is possible to book a room so you can get away from it all — and I’d definitely recommend it.
Ulm Minster, Germany
I always think of the church in Ulm (or the Ulmer Muenster, as I learned to call it) with awe. My visit there in the 1980s was probably the first time I’d been into a place that made me fall silent in awe. And it wasn’t the architecture, the size (it’s nearly 125 m long and nearly 50 m wide) or the sculpture (dating from mediaeval times to the modern era) which caused this reaction. It was the atmosphere. Perhaps all these things contributed to the ambience – Ulm Minster is majestic and very, very old. The cornerstone was laid in the 14th century, though the church was not completed until the 19th century.
This church is awesome in the true sense of the word, but it’s also worth a visit for another reason. It has another surprise up its sleeve for those who are hardy enough to climb the 768 steps and navigate the narrow winding staircase to the top. After all, there’s no point in being the tallest church in the world without a great view — and this one’s a doozy! Not only can you see the town of Ulm itself (which has some spectacular Bavarian architecture) but on clear day you can see the Alps. If you’re in this part of the world, don’t miss this incredible spiritual place!
Mount St Benedict, Trinidad
As its name suggests Mount St Benedict in Trinidad is a Benedictine monastery – the oldest one in the Caribbean region, founded in 1912. When I visited it as a child, I remember the narrow, winding access road – the monks didn’t make it too easy to get there. If you looked out of your car window you could see a sheer drop on either side so I didn’t look too often, but it was great to arrive and enjoy the lush grounds and the sense of peace.
This is still a working monastery with a group of monks who are active in the community but now they share that attractive location with the public. Groups can go on weekend retreats there and enjoy the beauty of nature while recharging their batteries and experiencing peace or solitude.
Which are yours?
These are some of the spiritual places that have made the biggest impression on me. There are many others that I could add to the list, including the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and Salisbury Cathedral in the UK. Have you ever visited a place with a palpable calm? Care to share?
Photo Credits: Author, Public Domain, Public Domain