The day began and (sort of) ended with people lined up, crowded in, to catch a glimpse, touch and be close.
We set out down the Gran Via with one end in mind, but were distracted by a crowd at an H & M across the road, obviously gathered to see Someone. A web search led me to believe that it might be David Beckham. We asked someone, “Quien es?” and she answered, “Beck-hahm,” an assertion affirmed by various other Spaniards around us, and finally by an Englishman who nodded and said he’d seen it on the news.
So…why not wait? We did, probably for too long, but you get to a point at which you say, “Well, we’ve waited this long….” He finally arrived in a jet black minivan, but since we were, you know, across the road and the black minivan didn’t move right away, and there were crowds…we didn’t see him, although my daughter thinks she caught the top of his head.
We then changed directions and headed over to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, the last of the triad (after the Prado and the Reina Sofia). It is a good, representative collection, arranged chronologically, so following it from the top floor down, you get a succinct history of European and American art from 14th-century Italy to a little past Lichtenstein. A few favorites – I am not one to take photos in art museums, even when it is allowed. I know that there are better images online or in books that I can manage, so I usually don’t bother except as a form of note-taking for future reference.
This is called The Virgin of the Dry Tree. The reference is to a Confraternity of the Dry Tree, which in turn is probably a reference to Ezekiel, and then, the tree of the Garden that brought death, which Jesus will restore to life.
Now, this is attributed to Gilbert Stuart, and is called Portrait of George Washington’s Cook, although apparently there is some speculation involved in this identification. But George Washington did have a cook in Philadelphia, his name was Hercules, and he was enslaved – more here, including the story of his escape from slavery in Mount Vernon.
After the museum and lunch, we walked back over to a church we’d seen beforehand, a church with an impressive line of people snaking into it. What was that about?
The line leading into the church.
…and to the other side of the block.
Well, it was this – Jesus of Medinaceli – a statue stolen by Moors, then retrieved. It is venerated, apparently, on Fridays.
The statue is on that top level. People walk up the stairs to venerate it.
Let’s see. Church open all day – so all are welcome to enter into this place and be a part of what is going on. Loads of people, from everywhere and anywhere, bringing the totality of their lives, joys and pain. Looking at the schedule of this basilica, we see Mass several times a day, every day, and Confessions off and on all day, every day.
Open doors. Open to anyone.
Anyone can walk in and see, listen, touch and be moved by grace.
No one judges and no one excludes because here, all eyes are fixed on Christ, and when we are all looking in His direction, the supposed flaws of our neighbor recede from our sight.
Why do they come?
Seeking mercy, perhaps?
And finding it in ancient sacraments and traditions grown out of centuries of spiritual experience and reflection?
Because mercy wasn’t invented this week, perhaps?
By this time, it was around five, perhaps later, so we just wound our way back home, through the neighorhood of Santa Ana, which I hope to revisit tomorrow or the next day, back up through the Puerta de Sol, to the other mass of El Corte Ingles stores…this time we found the branches selling clothes and toys, so time to split up and see what the Spanish have to offer. (We must always do Lego comparisons). I also looked through the grocery store in the basement and decided that will probably be the place where I do my take-home food shopping this weekend – it really is too bad that cured meats aren’t allowed back in the US…no jamon or chorizo….sigh.
I also discovered a great store called Tiger – it’s sort of a cross between a dollar-type store and Ikea. Low prices (from 1-4 E on most things) and sharp, clean, colorful design sensibility.
Also, while I knew, in theory, that Holy Week was a big deal in Spain…I see now that I didn’t know anything at all, really. It’s a big deal. There was a display table in the book section of El Corte Ingles with books, videos and CD’s about Semana Santa. I’ve seen children’s coloring and sticker books about it. On the first afternoon we were here, we saw a huge, rectangular block being borne out of a chapel door by a group of men…we had no idea what it was at the time, but know I now it was one of those platforms to carry statuary – it was completely covered in protective tarps and so on, but I’m assuming they were carting it somewhere to get it ready for Holy Week….
(Related…Valencia celebrates St. Joseph’s feastday in a huge way, and I was halfway tempted to head over there this week to take a peek…well, actually less than halfway, because it’s far from here and the crowds are huge..but still…tempted.)