Italy – Convent of St. Mary of the Sea

This solitary church and convent, shut in from the world by the rugged walls of bastioned precipices, is not far from Majori, at the mouth of the ” Val Tramonti “- the valley of the mountains. You will observe that there is a church, and it is a very ancient one, in the center, while the convent occupies the buildings at the back and on either side. The structures rest upon stone arches whose walls are fifteen feet high on account of the inflowing tides of the sea. Those six row-boats belonging to the convent lie peacefully enough just now on the pebbled beach, with the broad band of snowy foam back of them ; but, in wild storm, when the wind blows furiously off the sea, things are not always so placid here. Then the water rises above the arches, and, at times, gigantic waves break over the entire structure with terrific force; then the foam we now see rippling so playfully becomes terrible as the white teeth of dragons. In such a storm, the only safety for the inmates of the convent is to climb to the shore-road above and seek shelter with the fisher-folks whose hamlets dot the coast. Observe the strength of the buttresses which support the walls of the convent, and notice that stone gallery which extends about the buildings above the arches. In fair weather and high tide, the boats come right up to the arches; the bow of one is seen there now. See that tree growing out from the side of the right-hand precipice ! How nature economizes even to the use of a few feet of soil that happens to lodge in the cleft of a rock! What a fine arch that road-way terminal presents to our view ; and the road it-self, as it goes zigzagging along that stern and rocky coast, exhibits in its construction wonderful feats of engineering skill.

The sense of isolation and solitude that occasionally comes over one in such a place as this would be over-powering, were it not that there is constantly spread out before you one of the most picturesque and charming scenes in the whole world, a scene that impresses itself on the memory forever. On every side, beauty and sublimity meet the eyes, and vast precipices, clothed with chestnut, aloes and fir, and terraced with lemon plantations, tower sternly and grandly above the sea. Surely nature has lavished the splendors of her whole range of tints and colors in the brilliancy and variety of hues with which she has clothed this delightful spot.

The splendid road seen to our left extends beyond that tunnel to Salerno. Amalfi is behind us. Moving in that direction we shall see one of the most ancient landmarks of Amalfi, the Capuchin Hotel.