Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

I’m going to wait until I get home to do a lot of detailed posting. I just can’t think much here and the internet is weird and I’m on this Chromebook (one that Son #4 had to have for school, and so why not bring it and LORD IN HEAVEN I HATE IT) so nothing is easy and everything is dependent on internet and, as I said, I hate it.

So we’ll just do photos mostly.

Oh, and if you have a moment, please note the temperatures in Spain and other parts of Europe for now and the rest of the week. I’ll wait. Got it? Yup….100’s. 100’s. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m a hot-weather gal, for sure. But it’s a different thing when The Obligation of Touristing must happen in 100-degree weather, indeed.

(And here in this part of Spain, the peak temps happen between about 3-6, fyi)

Today we rose, had a lovely breakfast at our hotel, which is not in the old city, but across the river. I have a car, I needed parking, and so I opted for something where that would happen. It means either a long walk or an easy bus ride to the center, but that’s fine. We’re content here. (Again – two rooms).

We caught the bus down and up into the marvelous city of Toledo – and it is marvelous, although I will say (and will say at more length later) that even with its richness, I prefer Seville to Toledo.  And I prefer smaller places like Caceres to either of them. The old city of Toledo may indeed have permanent residents – I’m sure it does – but as a whole, it has a far more touristy feel than any place else we’ve visited in Spain so far on this trip – almost Venice-like, as in: “Would this exist if it weren’t for tourists?” I prefer a place in which real people are  obviously living their real lives amidst the richness of deep history and I’m simply privileged to peak in for a bit and hoping I’m not getting in their way too much.


I’m going to go into more detail later about the beautiful churches of Toledo, but just know that today’s highlights were the Cathedral, which is, of course, fascinating and gorgeous. I’ve been in many major Cathedrals, and I might just put Toledo at or very near the top. The orientation for visitors is extremely well done and the audio guide is tops. You are getting tired of me saying more later, but believe me – when I return home next week, it will be a month solid of posts on this trip.

Ah – that first sentence in the paragraph again said “were” – which indicates plural, which indicates more than one. There were other lovely churches, but the other highlight was probably the Jesuit church, San Idelfanso. Wonderful side altars with vivid statuary and a great view from the bell towers.

By the time we finished with all of that and more and an excellent non-Spanish lunch img_20190626_134620(here – a welcome change), it was past four and time for a break. We caught a cab back to the hotel (it’s uphill and did I mention it’s 100 degrees here?), rested for a bit, during which I did some research and discovered a possibly interesting site about ten miles south of here…

and it was…

Holding my breath, driving up dirt road switchbacks to a  ruined, abandoned castle was the perfect way to say “thank you” to my traveling companions for trudging through countless churches over the past few weeks. It actually wasn’t as bad as some of the discussion board comments had led me to believe – just take it slow and you’ll be fine.

What a sight. Real people lived and worked here, scanning the landscape for danger, prepared to protect and defend, waiting and watching in the silence of a vast, windswept landscape.

All right then. What next? It’s seven o’clock and this being broad daylight because it’s Spain…we’ll bow to the memory of all the tough hombres who manned the castle…and head to the mall.

I do enjoy grocery shopping and mall cruising in foreign countries. It points to the differences and similarities and the ubiquity, quite frankly, of American popular culture. We spent time in the food court and there is no question, without a doubt that the most popular place by a factor of at least five, was McDonald’s. But you could have guessed that, right?

Left: sight not normally seen at Publix. Right: the love for chocolate here runs deep.

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When figuring out routes in any kind of travel, even locally, I always search for “what to see on the way from A to B” or “What to see around C” and so on. So for this leg, I searched “What to see between Guadalupe and Toledo” and searched the map for possibilities. Talavera de la Reina came up – and it was a great stop!

It’s famed for its ceramics. We didn’t have time to do an extensive exploration, and the city was busy and traffic was the heaviest I’ve encountered so I wasn’t really in a mental space to just drive around. It was best to just find parking (underground and extensive) and hoof it to the main site – the Basilica. 

It’s located in a lovely park, right next to – and I mean right next to – the bullring. No idea if the latter is still in active use. Park features from lamposts to the bandstand to fountains and benches are all decorated with ceramic tile.



The basilica itself is lovely. The front entrance has tiles depicting various scenes from Scripture. Once inside, the left side of the church is lined with figures from the Old Testament, and on the right, with the main stories from the lives of Mary and Jesus. Even the pulpit is decorated with ceramic tile. It’s a lovely place, and so clear how, in a time in which people didn’t read the Bible and couldn’t read at all – coming to a space like this every Sunday, encountering the basics of the story of salvation through images – they might be just a bit more knowledgeable than most of us who fancy ourselves more advanced simply because we know what a jumble of letters mean and can listen to Scriptures “in our own language.”

Anyway, here you go. The circumcision is clearly…a circumcision, isn’t it?





Love the tiled pulpit.

Anyway…on to Toledo!

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First, business: The Absence of War is now available on Kindle again. I had pulled it because I entered in a competition which, not surprisingly, I did not win, so here it is again for you – lending is enabled, so if you like it, you can pass it on. And while you’re at it, check out Son #2’s new book, coming in a week or so: Crystal Embers.  Preview here. 

All right, now for travel things. Monday, we traveled from Caceres to Guadalupe, the site of the famed Royal Monastery of Guadalupe. History:

There is a legend of the origins of the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The legend says that St. Luke was the person who created the statue in the first century AD. When he died in Asia Minor, he was buried with the statue. In the 4th century, his remains were transferred to Constantinople in the 4th century. In 590 Gregorio Magno was elected Pope and he had a devotion to this Virgin and exhibited the statue in his chapel. One day the Pope was having a solemn procession with the Virgin in Rome and asked the Virgin to intercede to stop an epidemic in the city. An angel appeared to the Pope and the epidemic stopped.

Pope Gregorio Magno sent the statue to Seville to St. Leandro, who was the archbishop of the city, through his brother Isidoro, who was in Rome. During the boat trip, a sudden storm overtook the boat, but Isidoro prayed to the Virgin and the storm stopped suddenly. The Virgin was enthroned in Seville in the principal church at that time until the Moorish invasion in 714. Many priests in Seville fled the city during the invasion and went north with the statue of the Virgin and other reliquaries of the saints. They hid the statue near the river in Guadalupe.

At the end of the 13th century, a cow herder called Gil Cordero had a vision from the Virgin Mary beside the river. She indicated to him where her statue could be found. She told him to tell the priests where the statue was and for them to build a church in that place. The priests of Caceres then build a hermitage in that place and dedicated it to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Pilgrimages started to the hermitage and later in 1389 the monks of the Order of St. Jeronimo arrived and took over the hermitage. Many of the Spanish kings, especially the Catholic Kings, favored the monastery and many additions were made to it and many treasures were given to it too. The Catholic Kings made a pilgrimage to the monastery after their conquest of Granada.

The statue of the Virgin has been examined by experts several times. The statue was carved in cedar and polychromed at the end of the 12th century. Its style is Romanesque and today her image looks black, from the passage of time. The Virgin is seated and has the Child Jesus in her arms. The image measures 59 cm. Today the Virgin is venerated and on Sept.8 there is a celebration on her feast day. After Santiago de Compostela, the number of pilgrimages to Guadalupe is the most numerous in Spain.

On July 29, 1496, Columbus brought two Indians named Cristobal and Pedro to the monastery to have them baptized, when he met the Catholic Kings here. This was the first baptism of Indians from America. They returned to Mexico and many hermitages and churches in the Americas were dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Columbus named one of the islands he discovered Guadalupe, after the Virgin. Today there is a great devotion to this Virgin in all of the Americas and around the world, especially in Mexico.

Images of the baptism are everywhere and the font that was used is the center of a fountain in front of the monastery.

I was a little surprised by how the monastery was situated. The place has a mini-Lourdes-like vibe, not surprising, if you read the note above about its long-time popularity as a pilgrimage site. So it’s not exactly a peaceful place, with the monastery being literally right up against the little town – the steps a couple hundred feet from the plaza-side cafes. It’s kind of strange, but because the town structures around the monastery retain their medieval look (except, you know, for the Mahou ads and such), it fits.

There are two aspects to visiting the monastery complex: Visiting the monastery itself, which requires participation in a tour, and then visiting the basilica, which is of course, open. The tours just kind of…happen, it seems to me. Enough people gather, and they start a tour. So, thinking that we might do this tour on Tuesday, we showed up Monday around 4:30, having checked in our cute little hostel (2 rooms for $70 total), and people were sitting around in the gathering area, so..you know…why not?

The tour is in Spanish, and takes you in the cloister, adjoining rooms which have been made into museum rooms of choir books and religious artifacts, the magnificent sacristy which features paintings by Zubaran, and then the upper…chapel, I guess. A layman takes you through most of the tour, and then in that upper chapel, a Franciscan takes over. We were, I gathered, about to see Guadalupe herself. He talked for a while, then opened another door – there was a panel with all sorts of painted images on it which he turned…and there she was! He lead a Hail Mary in front of it, then offered us a disk attached to the statue with a rope for us to venerate. Most in the group did, some held back. There was a pregnant woman in the group to whom he gave the privilege of turning the statue back the other way. (When you go in the basilica, the statue is up high from your vantage point – so where you’ve been on the tour is up behind it.)


At one point one of my sons asked me, “What is he saying?” of the lay tour guide and I quickly explained that he was telling us we were in the former refectory and this is where the tables where and up there was the niche in which the reader stood during meals. He stared at me and said, “But you don’t speak Spanish.” “But I speak Catholic,” I said – and continued explaining that if I know the context of the speech and if I’m familiar with the topic, I can follow the general gist of what someone is saying in French, Spanish or Italian. Context is everything, though. So here, once I picked up the word for refectory, I was set.

The tour was a little rushed, but I guess you could also say it was efficient, right? The basilica was…a basilica. There was not much distinctive about it, so I’m glad we got all that done when we arrived – the advantages of the late-living Spanish lifestyle!

No photos were allowed in the monastery, but you can easily find images of that online.

Monday evening, we wandered, took in views, and prepped for the next stage. Tuesday morning, we got up and I thought we might do some walks around Guadalupe, but as we drove out, I couldn’t figure out stopping points or parking places or trail beginnings, so we just sped on. It would be an hour and a half to the next stop, so might as well….


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The one in Spain, that is.


You may not know that long before Juan Diego, there was another Virgin of Guadalupe, and we saw her today. So now we can check that off – we’ve seen the Our Lady of Guadalupes from both the Old and the New Worlds. 

And now, coming to you from the balcony of a lovely little hostel steps from the Real (meaning: Royal) Monastery of Guadalupe, perfect, clean and so cheap we can have two rooms. In fact, if they’d had them available, it’s so cheap, we could have had three, which would have been just fine with me at this point…

I’ll be writing about aspects of this trip in detail for a while, so tonight (from the balcony!) I’ll just summarize today.

I want to begin by saying that from this point on, only about 1/3 of the trip was planned and booked. I booked this hostel the day before we arrived, and I just now booked a hotel in Toledo for the next couple of days. We’ve got a car, there’s no shortage of places to stay, and there was just no way to predict how we’d feel or what we’d want to see. As I always say – it’s all new to me, so really, what does it matter whether I see A rather than B or C?

We got up this morning and headed out to see a couple more things in Caceres. I’ll just remind you that “seeing things” in Spain can be just as fraught as “seeing things” in Italy. God only knows when things will be open, so you have to just do what you can and give the rest to that same God. I mean, hours are posted, but there are all sorts of complications – such as Corpus Christi last Thursday, the Birth of St. John the Baptist today, and so on. So “things” that we couldn’t see yesterday got seen today – most of them, that is. Because, well..it’s Monday. And that means museums are closed and unfortunately one of the things I wanted to see was the Moorish cistern under the museum….no go.

We saw some things, bought a few things and checked out of our hotel –the very nice Casa Don Fernando  hotel right on Plaza Mayor in Caraces. Then to the car and off we went.


A word on the car: I rented the car in Seville, picked it up at the train station there, rather than the airport, which was much further away from our apartment. Given that it was a Saturday and so traffic was much lighter, driving wasn’t an issue. Driving in a foreign country on a weekend is a good introduction: traffic is, as I said, lighter, so you have time to contemplate the mysteries of signage without the pressure of impatient drivers behind you.

Our hotel in Caceres was in the old city, with, of course, no parking, so I parked in a lot about a third of a kilometer away (see photo on the left above), and we just walked with our luggage to the hotel (see photo on the right above). It was about twelve Euros for 24 hours, and they’re so advanced, the ticket must have an RFD chip in it – you pay on the floor on which you’ve parked, and you don’t even have to insert it as you leave – it reads it from afar, somehow as you drive near the exit, and up swings the gate.

Note: I did stress a bit about the car – I don’t know why, considering I’ve driven in Sicily for pete’s sake, and I even worked out alternative itineraries which did not involve driving, but oh boy, I’m glad I dropped that idea. After being dependent on walking and buses and trains for two weeks – what a joy to get behind the wheel of a car again. Really.  Plus, there’s no way we could have done what we did today without a car.

First stop: a place called Romangordo (Fat Roman? I have no idea) which I learned about from this blog post. It’s a small village which has been enriched by a bunch of urban art. It was interesting to walk around in – and we weren’t alone – there were two groups of school children there – and one were getting a big lesson is something related to something the British did in 1812 (not sure what it was). A pleasant twenty minutes or so.


Then back in the car, down the road on the way to Guadalupe to Cabañas del Castillo  ……. I learned about this from a blog post as well, but had no idea, even as I drove up to it, why we were there or what would be interesting about it, until M saw the remnants of the castle on the heights, figured out that we could get up to it, and then…dang it. 

Okay. It wasn’t too bad. I have to say, I saw the sign indicating distance when we began walking, and noted the number “0.8”  I gulped a little, but then determined, as I try to do with everything from finances to social media fascism, it’s for the children, and forged on. When we were all done, I said, “You know, that wasn’t bad. It didn’t feel like an eighth of a mile.” When of course, I was reminded, “It was an eighth of a kilometer, Mom.”


Well, of course.


Gorgeous, gorgeous views.

Then on to Guadalupe…more on that tomorrow, when you awaken!



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All right.

We’re in Caceres, Spain (moving on tomorrow) and today I want to share with you a bit about the celebrations of Corpus Christi we’ve experienced in Seville and, as it turns out, here.

When I booked and “planned” this trip, I didn’t think, “Oh, let’s do Seville during Corpus Christi.” But as I researched, I noticed that, well, Corpus Christi would happen during our time there, and it’s a Thing in Seville. Of course, it’s a Thing in most traditionally Catholic communities, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s not at the same level as their Holy Week extravaganza, but it was a big deal, indeed.


It began, it seems with music. Tuesday and Wednesday night, local bands (that is, community marching bands, of which there are many) marched and played concerts in the Plaza de San Francisco near the Cathedral. There was a big concert, it seems, which we did not attend. My interest in doing so was cut off at the knees when I saw the program and noted the final piece being played.


Makes complete sense, doesn’t it?

Things start getting intense on Wednesday afternoon, as local businesses, households and churches decorates storefronts, balconies and street corners with altars. Wednesday night, the crowds throng the streets. One of my sons and I ventured out – it was a mob scene of all sorts of people from everywhere doing the usual evening strolling and gnoshing with the added attraction of windows done up with Jesus, Mary, angels, chalices and bread to look at.

The owner of our apartment had advised purchasing tickets for seats for the Thursday morning procession. Doing so wasn’t easy, but eventually I figured it out, and snagged some Wednesday late afternoon. The man in the ticket office asked where I’d like to sit, and of course I had no clue, so I just nodded at the first spot he pointed to on his chart.

Turns out…they were pretty good seats! Right in Plaza de San Francisco, which is considered the beginning and center stage of the procession. There’s a big altar set up, the choir is there, and from there prayers are led.

It begins early – 8:30 – and as the morning wears on, you can clearly see – and feel – why. For this is Seville, and while I have lived in the South – including Florida – for much of my life and vastly prefer heat to cold, this southern Spanish heat is something else. It was fine under that canopy for about two hours, then the sun got high enough to start heating up our backs and I started counting the floats – or – .

The procession itself was quite interesting, but not what I expected. I expected, for some reason, I don’t know – bands. Maybe more objects processing. But that’s not how it was. This, rather, is how it was: Most of the procession was composed of members of confraternities and other groups, most carrying long (like 4 feet long) lighted candles or symbols of their particular group. Many, many people young and old. Scads of them, women dressed to the nines, men mostly in what seems to be the Spanish male dress-up uniform – a blue suit. Sometimes black, but mostly blue – not exactly a style you’d see in the US. It went on and on, and led me to understand something about this type of thing: it’s a spectacle, but it’s not intended to be watched. It’s intended to be a spectacle in which you get to participate. For in its origins (and still in smaller places and parishes) the Corpus Christi procession is an action of the entire community. Keeping that in mind, I dug up a little more patience.

And that was that – about three hours later. At which point everyone breaks and heads for lunch, and as you see the confraternity members leaning at tables with their tapas and cervesas, finding refreshment in the hot sun after escorting Christ through the busy city on a weekday morning, you (or at least me) are grateful for where ever the “reformers” were resisted.

A couple of notes:  One of the glorious moments occurred when the bells of the ….tower started ringing wildly. It was, we decided, the moment when the float bearing the monstrance emerged from the Cathedral.

Secondly, the final group in the procession, after the Eucharist had passed, was the military. Men and women of all branches, marching solemnly, were greeted – as no one else the entire procession had been – with applause and scattered shouts of Viva Espana! 

And then here we are, Sunday morning in Caraces. Our hotel is on the Plaza Mayor, so all we have to do for Mass at the Cathedral, is walk across the plaza, up some steps and down some medieval stone streets.

The church was packed – it was to be the community’s Corpus Christi celebration, followed by, yes, a procession. A bishop presided at Mass, and while the liturgy was a little scattered, the Mass parts were in Latin in settings we knew and what a pleasure that was. After Mass, a man got up to the microphone and began organizing the procession, calling out the various confraternities, who got themselves to the middle aisle and out. We waited a bit and then went around them and down to the plaza, where an altar had been set up. The path of the procession was marked – as it had been in Seville  – by a path of rosemary.

Members of confraternities, children who’d received First Communion – girls in long white dresses, boys in suits, many of a vaguely military style, religious, priests and the rest of us, including a brass band – led Christ through the town. For a time, we sat at a cafe on the plaza, eating a light breakfast while we waited for the procession to make its round. We moved back to get a good view as the monstrance returned, and in a lovely moment, a family emerged onto a balcony and tossed flower petals to celebrate Christ as he passed.

Later, we drove to Trujillo – about thirty minutes away. In the late afternoon, even there, little girls in long white dresses appeared, walking around the plaza as the adults ate and drank. In general, it was an immensely civilized scene, so beautifully structured to allow everyone the freedom to do what they want – adults to enjoy each other’s company, children to be around and safe, but also on their own, exploring and just being. The girls in white dresses and boys in their suits, racing around with popsicles and soccer balls told me that here, too, there’d been a procession, a celebration, that here he’d been welcomed, too.


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— 1 —

Yes, we are still here, but not for long. Long days and lots of people around have meant no time for regular posting – just here, about our Monday trip to Cordoba. Hence, what follows are mostly photos of our major activities of the week.

 — 2 —

Oh, I was in Living Faith this week. Go here for that.

And speaking of writing, don’t forget to order a copy of my 2020 daily devotional, which will be available in July That will give you time, if you’re an administrator of a school or parish or diocesan entity, to naturally choose to order it in bulk for your people! (Reminder: no royalties are made by me from this project. It’s written for a stipend. But I did work hard on it and would love to see it in the wild!)

Speaking of writing, check out the first chapter of Son #2’s next self-published novel here and pre-order here.

— 3 —

A ripped St. Jerome, possibly a naked mole rat served up at the Last Supper and St. Ramon Nonato, who had his lips locked by his Moorish (I think) captors. All from the small, but very good Museo de Bellas Artes. There were several more interesting pieces, so I’ll be writing a longer post on that later.


Wednesday-Thursday were focused on Corpus Christi, but with several other activities. Everywhere we went in the center, we were met with signs of preparation for the feast, and then the actual procession on Thursday morning.


The procession begins in the Cathedral, goes to the Plaza de San Francisco marked by these arches in the photo on the right, and then goes through streets, where groups and businesses erect altars (on the left) and decorated windows and balconies. I was under the impression that they did something with the streets as well (making designs with flower petals and such), but I didn’t see any of that.


–5 —

There are several convents around town which sell baked goods and sweets. Some of them are more open to the public but with others, the sisters remain hidden. Here, at San Leandro, where we purchased some lovely “Magdalenas” (like French Madeleines, but in muffin shape) via this turnstile arrangement. You greet the sister – you’re supposed to say Ave Maria Purisima. She asks what you would like (they have what’s available posted), she tells you how much, you put your money in the turnstile, she turns it and returns it with your purchase.

— 6 —

Wednesday night, the town was out in full force. There had been band parades and a concert earlier in the evening, and then everyone surged through the streets, viewing the altars and other decorations:

— 7 —


Then Thursday morning – the procession:


It was suggested that we purchase seats rather than stand, and that was a good decision to do so. We happened to be write at the main altar in the Plaza, so we were in front of the choir and there for some prayers when the Eucharist processed by (last photo). A very interesting experience, about which I will write more later.

There have been other events: Flamenco, a bullfight (yes, sorry. Not saying I thought it was beautiful, but it was something I wanted to see and attempt to understand.) food, various other wanderings, including the The Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo – housed in a former monastery, then ceramics factory.


Wrapping up today, and then…onward….

As I’ve said, take a look at Instagram for more (I have been lax in posting there as well, also, though) and come back for more detailed posts over the next couple of weeks. Half of us are returning to ‘Murica soon, so there might be a bit more time for me to think and write. There’s better be, actually, since I have something due on Monday and then something pretty soon after we get home….

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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Took a quick trip over to Cordoba on Monday.


A note about the train in Spain: it’s not cheap. I mean – it can be if you book ahead and/or choose their least busy times. And I suppose the actual Spaniards who use the system have their discount and reward cards and do just fine. But for me, deciding to do this at almost the last minute, with a crew that I don’t want to force an early rising on – no, it wasn’t cheap.

The grandson’s parents are in Grenada for an overnight (3 hours by bus..so not a daytrip we’re going to take), so the four of us headed to the train station, then to Cordoba.

The main site in Cordoba is the Mosque-Cathedral. They have an excellent webiste here.

Short version: The site was first a Visigoth Chapel (I am not sure if the chapel dates from the Arian days or a point after the Visigoths generally embraced orthodoxy), then taken over by Muslims, who built the impressive mosque. The Christians got it back after the 12th century Reconquista, and in the 16th century, they plunked a church in the middle of the former mosque.

And do remember that much of what you read about the supposed golden age of tolerance in Cordoba (at one time western capital of the Islamic empire and the largest city in Europe) is myth-making. Yes, it was “peaceful” co-existence, but there were reasons for that, reasons related to law, taxation and punishment. A prison that happens to be functional can be described as a “peaceful” place, after all. Before we came over I read The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, and one of the points the author makes is specifically related to this structure – that’s it’s not just the new Muslim leaders struck a deal with the conquered for the site. They, you know, took it. For a summary of his broader argument, read this article. 

For more, here’s Matthew Bunson in the NCRegister, with the added angle of the recent push by Muslims and Spanish leftists to return the mosque to Muslims.

Such was the beauty of the Great Mosque, the Mezquita in Spanish, that when Córdoba was captured by King Ferdinand, one of the first decisions he had to face was what to do with it.

The new ruler decided to transform the mosque into the city’s new cathedral. Respectful of the architecture, he maintained the columns and even preserved the ornate horseshoe-arched mihrab, or prayer niche, and its stunning dome above.

The minaret, meanwhile, was converted to a bell tower, with bells brought from Santiago de Compostela. In effect, Ferdinand preserved the mosque’s beauty for posterity.

With the exception of the chapels found throughout, the one major structural change was made in the 16th century, when Emperor Charles V permitted Bishop Alonso Manrique to construct a Renaissance cathedral in the middle of the building.

Fortunately, the current governing laws in Spain prevent such outright seizure, and Bishop Fernández has also been assured that, should this actually happen, Pope Francis and the Holy See would enter the fray. That will, of course, not stop opposition officials from trying.

And while the current law blocks such expropriation, other goals might be more attainable. The bishop warned of “the more immediate objectives, such as asking for them [Muslims] to be able to share the cathedral … but that’s not possible, neither for the Catholics nor for the Muslims.”

Equally, there is no desperate need for prayer space on the part of Muslims, as there are barely 1,500 in the city, which is served by two mosques. The Islamic population in Spain, while growing through immigration, makes up barely 4% of the total population.

Local Muslims are also not behind the controversy. The push is coming from outside of Spain, and it is believed that much of the funding is being provided by Arab countries, with some Church officials and even Ambassador Ruperez warning that funding may even be coming from Qatar, which is facing many accusations of being a state sponsor of international terrorism.

It’s quite interesting – you can see plenty of photos at the official site and I have a bit of video on Instagram. I will say that many of the guides I read indicated you should give the site two hours, but we found one hour plenty – but perhaps a factor in that is a five-year old.


Anyway, some impressions:

The structure is quite beautiful, unique and stunning. The repetition of the identical striped double arches, juxtaposed with the wild Baroque of the Cathedral is an expression, in a way, of  differences between Islam and Catholicism – something even my teens picked up on without my prompting.

It was not very busy on this Monday in June. If there had been no school groups, it would have been even less so.

Here’s the most interesting thing I saw.

We were in a small exhibit on some particular silvermaker who made chalices. At one point, a Muslim family (who’d been on the train with us from Seville and, it would turn out, would also be on the same return train) came over, led by a security guard, who pointed up to a particular pillar. They told him thank you, then asked him a few questions, studied the pillar, and took photos of it. They left. Not a couple of minutes later another small Muslim group came over, found the pillar, discussed it, pointed, and took photos.

It was this:


I asked the guard the significance. He barely spoke English, but he was able to indicate that it said something about Allah being the only God (probably a portion of the Shahada) and very important to Muslims. Well, yes. So what I concluded (and I can’t find anything about this online in the time I have at the moment) is that it must be the only remaining original Arabic/Koranic script left in the structure. You could see  similar spaces on the other column capitals that had obviously been scraped clean.

And then a third Muslim group came by, stopped, searched, pointed and photographed – three in the space of five minutes.

All right then, after that, it was about four (we’d come on an early afternoon train). We went to the Moorish/Roman bridge. Found a bathroom. Made our way to the ancient Synagogue, which was closed (it’s a museum, so of course, yeah – on a Monday – closed), then decided, eh, find ice cream and just go to the station.

Which we did. We didn’t do a lot of wandering. I was glad to have gone and seen the Cathedral, but the area around it is super, super touristy. I’ve been on plenty of ancient winding European streets, so spending a hot afternoon with a five-year old on narrow streets crammed with souvenir shops and other tourists doesn’t have much appeal to me. So a slow meander back to the station, back to Seville on a slower train, went to the grocery store, provide food for the youngest one, put him to sleep, and then M and I went out for some late-night tapas. Set out at ten, it was still light outside and the streets were busy and restaurants were crowded with all sorts of groups, including families.

We found a good tapas bar – we weren’t super hungry, but I just wanted to try some new things. So I found a new thing on the menu and ordered it. As I was sitting there waiting and watching the action behind the bar, I pointed and laughed and this weird thing being plated – “Look,” I said, “It’s a piece of cake with…lettuce on the side! What in the world?”

And then the waiter grabbed it and put it in front of me.


Not exactly what I expected when ordering a “zucchini tart.” But it was good!

Also below: innovations from Spanish cuisine, including free 2L coke bottles with your Seagram’s and one I can truly get behind – pre-skewered relishes in a jar.



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Life just is on a different timetable here, and not just because we’re traveling and our bodies are still discombobulated. The sun doesn’t set until probably 10:30 at night these days, so naturally, life goes on. We marvel at these Spanish late-night dinners, but once you’re here and you experience the rhythms of the natural day, you get it. It just makes sense: it gets quite hot in the mid-to late afternoon, so of course you need to get out of the heat and rest. And then with the extended daylight, why stop?

All that is by way of introduction to my openness to the concept of a 1:15 pm Mass. I generally prefer going either Saturday evening or no later than mid-morning on Sunday. Although the music at our parish reaches its pinnacle at the 11:00 am Mass, it still irritates me to get back home at 12:30 and find half the day “gone” – since I think of productive part of the day ending between 5 and 7. Not that I go to sleep early – far from it – but it’s just that marks the end of doing stuff. Not here! Knowing that Life Will Go On far into the evening, that 1:15 Mass seems … reasonable.

Of course, there are scads of churches within five minutes of our apartment, but I wanted to hear the organ at the Seville Cathedral, so after I figured out which part of the church featured the organ playing (there are Masses in different areas of the massive building at different times), we could settle on a time.

Before Mass, we stopped at the weekly collectibles market at the Plaza del Cabildo – right across the street. Stamp, coin, postcard and other antique vendors are ringed around the courtyard, and in the middle of the courtyard, kids gather with their football cards to trade. It’s a lovely scene:

Then to Mass. The program simply indicates the organ pieces that are being played and by whom over the course of a couple of months. There wasn’t any other music at this Mass – the Cathedral’s web page indicates a choral program, and I’m assuming they sing earlier. There were simply these pieces played at the indicated times, with the rest of Mass being spoken – even the 14 year old noted the disconnect between the grandeur of the space and music with the rushed (although not irreverent) informality of the spoken liturgy.

Some shopping, return to the apartment to drop off purchases, a meal – not easy to find in Seville on a late Sunday afternoon – then my two younger (but 18! and 14!) returned to Las Setas, where we paid the 3 Euros to go to the top and take in the views – then we walked to the Basilica of  the Virgin of Hope of Macarena  , a very important image to Seville:

The Virgin of Hope of Macarena (Spanish: Virgen de la Esperanza de Macarena de Sevilla), popularly known as the Virgin of Macarena or simply La Macarena, is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a pious 17th century wooden image of the Blessed Virgin venerated in Seville, Spain. The Marian title falls under a category of Our Lady of Sorrows commemorating the desolate grievance and piety of the Virgin Mary during Holy Week. The image is widely considered as a national treasure by the Spanish people, primarily because of its religious grandeur during Lenten celebrations.

Then back to the apartment to fetch grandson and daughter-in-law to take in one of the acts of the circus festival that’s been running here over the past few days – it was the last night. The trio performing in Las Setas when we went was…very…European. Somewhat charming in that Artsy-European-symbolic-of-something-sad-clown kind of way, but also mysterious and not super impressive, physically speaking – it was just interesting to consider that their applause moves were really no more challenging than what an American JV cheerleading crew performs.

But! An experience!

Daughter-in-law and grandson back to the apartment – it was only 9:30, though, so who wants to stay in? Not me – off with J and M to wander the city at night. Just about my favorite thing to do while traveling. First was a stop at a Spanish fast food chain I’d been img_20190616_221843.jpginterested in trying – 100 Montaditos – a montadito is a very small sandwich. The menu features (100) different kinds, each a Euro. The ordering process involves you filling out what you want on a piece of paper, turning it in, being served drinks and then waiting for your food. The food was serviceable. It was…fast food. Post-drinking food? Probably. But know that I got five of the montaditos, an order of fries, and order of olives, a beer and a soft drink for 9.50 Euros. Thanks to the tapas culture here, it really is possible to eat more cheaply than it is in the US, I think.

We then made our way, with ice cream stops, of course, down to the Cathedral/Alcazar area. Several street musicians, of course, including a fine young cellist and a guitarist who had claimed the most Instagrammable spot in town. For videos, go to my Instagram stories and posts.

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After a morning walk in which I considered lamb brains at the market (see previous post), the big boys and I went to the Archive of the Indies:

The General Archive of the Indies of Seville was created in 1785 at the request of King Carlos III, in order to centralize in one place all documentation referring to the administration of the Spanish colonies which, until then, had been dispersed in various archives: Simancas, Cádiz, and Seville. La Casa Lonja de Mercaderes in Seville, built during the reign of Felipe II between 1584 and 1598, was chosen for the archives, where it remains to this day. The archive is home to about 43,000 files, with some 80 million pages and 8,000 maps and drawings that mainly derive from the metropolitan agencies in charge of administering the colonies. It was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, together with the Cathedral and the Reales Alcázares.

In the display room, many letters and documents, including handwritten letters from Columbus, Cortez and George Washington:


Then to the Church of El Salvador. Some subtle Spanish Baroque for you:


We then met up with the parents and grandson, took the grandson while the parents went up a bit north of Seville to a Roman site that was also a location for GOT. We headed to the bullfight ring where we took the very good tour. Of course it’s propoganda selling the activity – just as the Football Hall of Fame would be – but it was educational and very well done.

Notes on a  couple of specifics: the statue with the head was apparently used in training exercises. The chapel is the matador’s chapel – it’s their last stop before they enter the ring.

Next up: Sunday

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Since last we spoke….

Actually, a lot, huh? I just looked back and realized I’d hardly posted anything. Huh! So let’s scroll back:

Jesus del Gran Poder – a very important spiritual site. You walk behind the statue and reverence it by touching the heel:


Visit to the Seville Aquarium, which was small but good. Some of the exhibits were centered around the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s voyage to circumnavigate the globe. Building in the second photo is the Colombian consulate.



Then a walk through Maria Louisa park to meet the parents at Plaza de Espana. Stop on the way in the Archaeology Museum, which was basically one floor of finds from the Roman presence in Spain. It only costs 1.50, so…worth the time and money. A stop to feed some birds..


Seville from the Triana Bridge:


Someone will have plenty of clean handkerchiefs:



Random scenes from a morning walk, including (content warning!) lamb brains:



More in the next post…

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