Travel experts rank these nine monasteries among the most intriguing in Europe. While the monks are well-educated and may speak English, the person who answers the phone might not. Lodging may be located away from city centers, and some guest houses may have curfews.
*Monastery Yuste, Cuacos de la Vera, Extremadura, Spain. Founded in the 15th century. Guests can visit the Royal Chambers where Carlos V stayed. Phone: (34) 927-172-130
*Monastery Guadalupe, Guadalupe, Extremadura, Spain. A great pilgrimage center centuries ago, also where documents authorizing Columbus's first voyage to America were signed. Phone: not available.
*Monastery Virgen de Valvanera, Anguiano, La Rioja, Spain. Houses a famous 12th-century wood carving of the Virgin and child. Phone: (34) 941-377-044
*Pluscarden Abbey, Moray, Scotland. Founded in 1230 by King Alexander II. Known for its brilliant stained glass and honey colored walls. Phone: (44) 134-389-0257
*Prinknash Abbey, Prinknash, Essex, England. Dates from Middle Ages when it was a hunting lodge and country retreat for Benedictines. Well known today for its pottery products. Phone: (44)-1452-812-455
*Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, Tipperary, Ireland. Its 40 monks run a dairy farm and world-class boarding school. Phone: (353) 505-21711
*Foyer des Pres Oblats, Fontenay-Aux-Roses, Ile de France, France. The unadorned abbey church is magnificent in its stunning simplicity. Phone: (33) 141-133-737
*Santuario della Verna, La Verna, Tuscany, Italy. A 13th-century monastery built by St. Francis of Assisi. Boasts a labyrinth of ancient passageways and chapels. Phone: (39) 0575-53-41
*Convento Santuario Madonna di Barbana, near Grado, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. Built in 582 on a small island that was a refuge from barbarian invasions of ancient Rome. Has a statue that is one of the oldest images of Mary. Phone: (39) 0431-80-4-53
*Residence Stella Alpina Hotel, Spiazzi di Monte Baldo, Veneto, Italy. Built to host pilgrims to a shrine perched on a cliff halfway up the vertical rock of Monte Baldo. Phone: (39) 045-624-7082
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