On a breezy day last June, our wanderings took us, as they so often do, to Mdina. It was almost lunchtime when we got there so we headed towards a little cafeteria which we had never tried before. Although Mdina is dotted with enticing little restaurants, what makes this little gem extra special is its location. As perhaps its name implies, The Old Priory cafeteria is situated on the ground floor of the Carmelite Priory adjoining the Carmelite Church in Mdina.
As we lounged on our chairs I was struck by the austere beauty of this old place. The thick white-washed walls seemed to draw my eyes right up to the vaulted, painted ceilings.
There is an element of peace here, surrounded by so much simplicity. I wondered how many feet had trod on the worn tiles; how many prayers had been muttered in the hushed corridors and in the lonely, bare rooms the monks slept in - appropriately called cells. Perhaps there were some who entered the priory in the hope of escaping the outside world. Or perhaps they came seeking an inner peace. Was this their refuge or their prison?
In truth, this is a different world to the one we know so well. Sounds from the outside are muffled by the thick walls and the windows are set high up from the ground.
The sign over the door prohibits the entry of all those outside the priest-hood beyond that point.
Maybe we think of these men as leading lonely lives but I also believe that many of them had fulfilling lives, steadfast in their faith until the end.
And for those that did not find what they sought in those silent corridors beyond the door? Ah, I am afraid I do not know what fate was theirs.
Perhaps they too found a measure of peace and serenity or perhaps they just slowly faded away, their former lives forgotten, their sandaled feet shuffling softly in those lofty rooms until their last breath was spent.
As always, old places like this make me wonder what sort of life the monks used to lead. Fortunately the Carmelite Priory is now open to the public and tickets may be purchased to tour this interesting place. I am sure that, one day soon, we will make an effort to, not only eat at the priory but to also visit the rest of the monastery. On this day though, we were content to just enjoy a meal in peaceful surroundings.