The Valley of Silence
The area known as Tebaida Leonesa boasts important artistic and cultural values that are intimately linked with its natural landscape. Beginning in the seventh century, Tebaida Leonesa gave rise to several anchoritic and monastic settlements due to its setting—an isolated, rugged, and mountainous area sometimes called the “Valley of Silence.”
Throughout the centuries, the valley has kept intact its cultural, natural, and immaterial values, including peace and silence, calmness, and spiritual tranquility. Today, societal shifts, a changing economic system, and a growing tourism industry are exerting pressures that place the unique qualities of the cultural landscape and its link to the community at risk.
Tebaida Leonesa was included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch to support the local communities in calling for a comprehensive management plan that promotes responsible and inclusive development of the area. Following the Watch, American Express announced a grant to help restore wall paintings of the Church of Santiago de Peñalba, a tenth-century masterpiece of Mozarabic architecture and one of the region’s most important churches.
A Visit to Tebaida Leonesa
Last year, we set out to meet some of the residents of two towns within Tebaida Leonesa to learn more about their history in the region and their relationship to the cultural landscape.
Paco and Daniel
We started with a visit to Santiago de Peñalba and were greeted by Paco, who runs the town's cantina alongside his son Daniel Lopez. Daniel shared with us a photography book with images of the town and noted his mother, Paco’s wife, is one of the girls featured on the cover of the book.
This is Isidro Pascual, a native of Santiago de Peñalba. Isidro’s sister resides in the same family home where they grew up alongside their parents, seven siblings, one aunt, and one grandmother. Everyone in the town harvested and lived off their land.
Angel Mateos Vega
Next, we visited Montes de Valdueza where we met with Angel Mateos Vega, 73, who was born and raised in the town. Though most residents were at one time employed as shepherds, Angel was the last one living in Montes, having retired in recent years.
José Luis Duque
This is José Luis Duque, an artisan whose work extends directly from the tranquil landscape around him. Though originally from Madrid, Jose has been traveling to Montes for many years as a place to work and be at peace.
For centuries, rural landscapes have maintained a balance between human activity and their environment. WMF will continue to work towards a sustainable course of action for the preservation of Tebaida Leonesa and other rural landscapes like it around the world.
WMF’s conservation project at Tebaida Leonesa is made possible thanks to American Express.
© Liz Ligon Photography 2018.