Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mount Saint Michael

My sister bought a new digital camera and called me up to take pictures together. We sat around for a while pathetically wondering where we could go, and finally decided on Mount Saint Michael. We hopped in the car and went; Dakota went with us.

Mount Saint Michael sits atop a hill overlooking the entire Spokane area. Originally built in the 1920s or 1930s as a school for Jesuits, it housed at its height, over 400 priests. Today it serves as a convent for the Sisters of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen and a private K-12 school. Also, a small group of monks devoted to the Congregation of Mary live just down the road.

When we arrived, a monk wearing a brown robe was working the soil near the front of the building. We photographed some of the religious statues outside the building before finding an open door.

It felt awkward just wandering around the old hallways with their granite floors and elevated ceilings. We finally stopped a nun, Sister Maria Inviolata, and asked her for a tour. She immediately agreed and began to show us the various rooms.

Perhaps the two most memorable sites were the original elevator and the chapel. Sister Maria told us the elevator is the oldest operating elevator in the city of Spokane...and it certainly looks the part. The elevator has an old-style wrought iron cage instead of doors and a set of unlabeled buttons for operation. She said one switch sounds an alarm. Good thing she was operating the elevator...I would have thought the alarm switch was the "up" switch. We stood in the dark until Sister Maria pulled a switch and a single light bulb over head illuminated. When the elevator stopped on the next floor, it stopped too soon and we had to step up to get out.

The chapel sits on the second floor, directly over the dining hall. It is truly a beautiful structure, with angel statues and stained glass windows. Sister Maria graciously allowed us to photograph the interior of the chapel.

At the end of our visit, I was glad my sister called me to take pictures with her new camera. What started as an experiment in digital technology became a cultural and spiritual experience.

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