Sunday, 12 September 2010

11 Sep 2010 - Fontiles

From the bottom of our road there is a lovely view down the Jalon valley towards Orba. At first sight what appears to be a road running up the side of a hill catches they eye.

However it is in fact the wall of the nearby leper hospital at Fontiles. It was built in the early 1900s and is today mainly a training school for doctors and nurses who will work overseas. I understand that they still have a few patients suffering from the disease, however it is now used primarily as a sanatorium for elderly folks.

There is a large car park just outside Fontilles, unfortunately is it for the cemetery! We have parked there a number of times, and it has always been closed. Which is a pity because it is very Spanish and would be interesting to walk around.

There are no restrictions on entry to Fontilles, and no signs other than a white board with a red cross and the legend Fontilles Sanatorium. We have been told that visitors are welcome, in order to allay any worries associated with the subject of leprosy.

The first sight of Fontilles is a surprise, as it covers such a large area, in such a lovely setting and has the most impressive and interesting looking buildings. And of course the wall.

This large and imposing wall runs along the hills surrounding Fontilles. We have been told that it was built to ease the fears of the surrounding villages, rather than to keep the patients inside. To see this large wall running through such a beautiful area reminded me of our first sight of the Berlin Wall. It seemed so out of place and intrusive.

The first building you pass is the administration building. From a distance it is very impressive, but as you get nearer you can see that it is badly in need of a little maintenance. The staff are very friendly, speak English and have a supply of leaflets explaining the history and present use of the hospital.

There are extensive walks around the community, and again no restrictions that we could see. Being a warm morning there were groups of patients in wheel chairs taking advantage of the lovely weather.

There are a number of shaded areas with seating arrangements and religious statues. It has a wonderful peaceful feeling about the whole place, not at all depressing as so many modern hospitals can be.

We saw a number of these stone seats. Very attractive, but not at all comfortable.

At the centre of the whole complex is the very Spanish church. Each time we have visited it has always been open to the public. As Spain is such a religious country we had expected that this would be normal, but in fact we have only found them open during a service.

Not a very clear photo of the church. It was very dark and cool inside, and this was the best that my camera could do. It is very large inside, but also very gives the impression of being very simple and basic.

There is of course the usual brightly painted statues to lighten the gloom.

Just outside the church is this lovely little grotto, my favourite spot.

It is a short walk back to the main square….

…….and the statue of the founder of the colony

Our final visit was to the café, which was surprisingly busy. And being Spanish, surprisingly noisy. It seemed so strange given the peace and quiet of the area, to hear what sounded like a loud meeting, but proved to be just three men sitting and having a chat.

As we sat at the bar we heard one of the patients call out “Juanita”. Looking up we saw this large wild boar ambling past. All the patients seemed to know her, and she seemed quite unconcerned. Normally these animals avoid humans, and we have only spotted them twice, and each time they ran off immediately they saw us.

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