Discovering what we were never taught

Discovering what we were never taught

Miguel and Pablo during the filming of the documentary. Photo by José Luis Martínez Arce @jlarce_

Who we are

We are Miguel Arguibide Cia and Pablo Beorlegui Otano, from Navarra (Spain). We are both 23 years old and graduated in Audiovisual Communication. Since we were students, we have had the opportunity of working with local musicians and brands making videoclips,  commercials, among others. We also gained some experience filming at parties and special events. For this reason, the Spanish association Patrimonio para Jóvenes got in touch with us.

A short video announcing an event of the International Day of Monuments and Sites was our premiere with cultural content.

Monasteries, Past Present and Future 

The first contact we had with this project was in the autumn of 2021 when we listened  to the presentation of the architect Lucía Ruiz Ullate talking about her experience and  tour around different monasteries. Even though she did a great job, we were not drawn to the subject.  

But in the end our attitude changed when we were living our own experience in a  monastery during a week of volunteering at the Cistercian Monastery of San Pedro de Cardena, near the city of Burgos, in the region of Castilla y Leon. Talking and living with  the monks, sharing their times of prayer and work, as well as the conversations the  volunteers had were some of the unforgettable experiences. 

We said yes to this volunteering without giving it much thought and for no special reason, perhaps because we had no better plan for those days. We just wanted to give it a try. We ended up having a lot of fun, we worked hard, and the week passed much  more quickly than we had thought it would. We noticed that, before arriving at San Pedro de Cardena, we had the same prejudices as the people of our age and perhaps  even older people as well. We thought that monasteries were boring, that there was  nothing to do there, and that monks were not easy people to deal with.

Refurbishment works at the Monastery of La Oliva in Navarra (Spain). Photo by Pablo Beorlegui.

Meeting the photographer José Luis Martínez Arce

During that week of volunteering we met José Luis who told us about his experience in the programme ‘Monasterios: pasado presente y futuro’ (Monasteries: past, present and future). It was José Luis himself who was in charge of the photographic reportage during this week of volunteering in which we participated. And last but not least, we took on the challenge of moving forward with the project and here we are.

What are we doing now?

We are currently working on a documentary about our discovery of monasteries, which is, at the same time, a discovery for our generation and the people around us. This is not a scientific research on monasteries, their artistic styles or the safeguarding of their intangible heritage. We cannot do that. No one has taught us anything about it, or even introduced us to it.

During our tour of some monasteries (it is impossible to cover them all as the monastic heritage of Spain is huge), we had the opportunity to visit and live with some monastic communities, such as San Isidro de Dueñas (Palencia) and Santa María de Huerta (Soria).

To contextualise the subject of monasteries in a broader perspective, we also visited the cities of Burgos and Cuenca and asked professionals about religious heritage, its management, communication and, where appropriate, new uses. One of the most impressive experiences was the visit to the Monastery of San Juan in  Burgos, which is a museum today, as well as, to the La Merced Library (Called La  Merced because it is located inside a fomer church) in Cuenca and Espacio Torner, inside the old Saint Paul´s church. This building is now a museum of contemporary art, exhibiting the work of Gustavo Torner, an artist from Cuenca. We had the great opportunity to talk to Marta Moset, the person in charge of this cultural building.

Continuing with our discovery of “artistic spaces” we visited “Espacio Santa Clara” in the city of Soria. Thanks to the collaboration with the Department of History of the Antonio Machado High School, we had an informal talk with their students. When asked about their opinion and feelings regarding the concept of a monastery their main answer was: “it  must be a boring place”. However, at the same time, they said that they had never visited any monasteries. Their opinions were just the same as our past thoughts before we started the project. However, these were different students coming from different cities and with different educational backgrounds. We should think about why we find the same prejudices regardless of city or school. On what basis do we think a certain way or develop an opinion about something?Why do we know nothing about such important Spanish heritage?

Filming of the documentary in the Espacio Santa Clara in Soria with students from IES Antonio Machado. Photo by José Luis Martínez Arce @jlarce_

As for monasteries that today are hotels, we visited Monasterio de Piedra and its amazing natural park full of waterfalls and ruins. Another hotel that we found  astonishing was Monasterio de Valbuena, from the hotel brand Castilla Termal, which also functions as the headquarters of Las Edades Foundation with a cloister full of wall paintings, the refectory, and the reproduction of St. Peter’s Chapel as a Spa room. It is difficult to describe it in words, but we hope we have filmed it in a way that can convey its beauty. Being there is an unforgettable sensorial experience.

We would like to thank the friendly staff who dedicated their time to talking to us. We had an informal chat about monasteries turned into ruins and the great luck of having  preserved Valbuena. This monastery, located among vineyards and far from villages and cities, could had been easily lost when left uninhabited by the monks.

We are having a lot of fun in this project. We have asked ourselves a lot of questions and sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all the things that we do not know. Why did not  anyone tell us about these places?

At the association Patrimonio para Jovenes we are always warned about the greatest danger for cultural heritage: being unknown. And they are right, how can we take care of it, preserve it or manage it if we don’t even know it exists? Why is heritage labelled in our imagination as something confusing or even boring?

During our trip we were amazed every day. We are also very happy to have had the opportunity to work on this challenge. Hopefully, through our work, other young people will be able to discover this spectacular heritage.

We, the young, have the challenge of preserving, sharing, and enjoying our heritage. But first, we need to get to know it!

The premiere of the documentary by Miguel and Pablo is available here:


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