After visiting the Holy Virgin, I paid my respects to the several monks in their own apartments, under the conduct of Pere Pascal, and was greatly entertained.—I found them excellently lodged; their apartments had no finery, but every useful convenience; and several good harpsichords, as well as good performers, beside an excellent organist. The Prior, in particular, has so much address, of the polite world about him, that he must have lived in it before he made a vow to retire from it.
I never saw a more striking instance of national influence than in the person of Pere Tendre, the Frenchman!—In spite of his holy life, and living among Spaniards of the utmost gravity of manners, I could have known him at first sight to have been a Frenchman. I never saw, even upon the Boulevards at Paris, a more lively, animated, or chearful face.
Indeed, one must believe, that these men are as good as they appear to be; for they have reason enough to believe, that every hour may be their last, as there hangs over their whole building such a terrifying mass of rock and pine heads, so split and divided, that it is difficult to perceive by what powers they are sustained: many have given way, and have no other support than the base they have made by slipping in part down, among the smaller rocks and broken fragments. About an hundred years ago, one vast block fell from above, and buried under it the hospital, and all the sick and their attendants; and where it still remains, a dreadful monument, and memento, to all who dwell near it!—I should fear (God avert the day!) that the smallest degree of an earthquake would bury all the convent, monks, and treasure, by one fatal coup.
Before I bring forth the treasures of this hospitable convent, and the jewels of Neustra Senora, it may be necessary to tell you, that they could not be so liberal, were not others liberal to them; and that they have permission to ask charity from every church, city, and town, in the kingdoms of France and Spain, and have always lay-brothers out, gathering money and other donations. They who feed all who come, must, of course, be fed themselves; nor has any religious house in Europe (Loretto excepted) been more highly honoured by Emperors, Kings, Popes, and Prelates, than this: nay, they have seemed to vie with each other, in bestowing rich and costly garments, jewels of immense value, and gold and silver of exquisite workmanship, to adorn the person of Neustra Senora; as the following list, though not a quarter of her paraphernalia, will evince: but before I particularize them, it may be proper to mention, the solemn manner in which the Virgin was moved from the old to the new church, by the hands of King Philip the Third, who repaired thither for that purpose privately as possible, to prevent the prodigious concourse of