Friday, April 26, 2013

La Seu D'Urgell: Interior. Cathar connection, Bishop's Seat

La Seu derives from the Latin for "seat" and means, by derivation, a Cathedral, so, the Cathedral of Urgell. It houses early historical and more current historical memorials, including this for martyrs of the religious persecutions of the Spanish Civil War. It also is revered for its place in the martyrdom of the Cathars in the Pope's Albigensian Crusades in the nearby Languedoc, France, but spilling over boundaries into what is now Spain, see  Religious paintings after that era tout the now unchallenged dogma that the Cathars had opposed so strongly.

Is this representing Saint Ermengol?  He was Bishop of La Seu D'Urgell 1015-1035, and the Cathedral's patron saint.  This is a cenotaph, not an actual burial place, I understand. There are six gilt panels, not all could fit, thus the two photos.

The panel fourth from left, resembles the pillage of Carcassonne, Albigensian Crusade as seen in other paintings, but that may be the result of suggestion, knowing that Cathar sympathizers in clergy and lay tried to find refuge here, and failed.

Josep Tapies Sirvantand six other Priests of the Diocese (Joseph Tàpies Sirvant; Pascal Araguás Guárdia; Silvester Arnau Pasqüet; Joseph Boher Foix; Francis Castells Brenuy; Peter Martret Moles; and Joseph John Perot Juanmartí) were shot for their faith in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, see

The Seven Martyrs of La Seu D'Urgell, killed 1936.

The baptismal font, here with smaller container for convenience?   For a fine overview of Romanesque art and architecture, see this PDF, Discovering Romanesque Art in Catalonia, complete with maps, and discussion about La Seu D'Urgell that includes the font.  There is a lovely low relief around the entire bowl, and it appears to be alabaster, glowing with the light for effect from below.

Display placard, Saint Ermengol, but not sure if it is close enough to the Cenotaph to be the same.

Bishop's seat, La Seu d'Urgell. The literal seat of the See.

Changes in the saints du jour meant that earlier works were protected when overlays for the newly requested saints were imposed.  For example, first Saint Catharine of Alexandria, martyred but whose eloquence converted notable pagans, and who was known as patron saint of scholasticism, see, then Saint Lucy.

Is this reliquary-casket related to her? There is reference to Which is which here I do not know. The dark-light coloration is striking, but could result from a pigment altering upon exposure? For discussion of a mural painting now more visible, not photographed here,  See

Remains were often set in small caskets and set high above reach, affixed to the wall itself.  Who is this?

The stone walls appear to have been covered with decorative frescoes, here well preserved. Click to enlarge.  Were these part of the ornamentations destroyed by the Crusaders against the Cathars, see

Geometric and sunburst carving pattern, interior door. Note door is flat to the wall, no threshhold.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

La Seu D'Urgell, Cathedral of Santa Maria. Facade, entries, interior doors

History of La Seu D'Urgell.  In the middle ages, in 988, the Counts of Urgell gave control of the area we know as the tiny Pyrenees country of Andorra to the Bishops of the See of Urgell;  power from the secular to the religious.  The lovely cathedral in Urgell had been consecrated far earlier, according to the earliest known document, in 839.  See

This town was already a major seat of influence.  The Andorrans, who, it is said, received their rights through a grateful Charlemagne whom they helped, wanted ongoing control of themselves, and did not take to intervention easily. The point is that this area is old, and so well preserved by being off the usual tourist routes, as to make a splendid trip. Today, locations of fine old churches are crowded in with surrounding streets, as perhaps they were then, as well. 

 Santa Maria, Romanesque. Facade, La Seu d'Urgell, Spain

Romanesque as a style is far more approachable than Gothic, with its spear-like spires and overkill on gew-gaws.  In some areas, the bulky Romanesque doubled as a place of refuge against invaders.  In this area, against the Moors.

Here, at the main door, is the simplicity of a few columns, an old door with smaller entry-doors, and graceful rounded arches drawing the eye around and into the door, not up and out somewhere to distract.  The courses break up the flat facade, scaffolding holes still there from the old construction. 

From the inside, the door at Santa Maria is still reinforced with metal plates against invaders.  Is it close to original?  Solid beams bar it from the inside.

Why should a side door be more ornate in its surround, and the columns more numerous, with faces going around the arches?

This entry may well be a later addition, when trinkety Gothic came in, and the old Romanesque was seen as outdated. Could that be? The faces around the arches recall a similar arrangement at the Cathedral at Sibenik, Croatia.  There, we were told that it represented a later time in Gothic where the common person began to take precedence over the old stylized arrangement of saints.  See

Love old doors.  Here, the worn spot below the handle represents what kind of wear?  Multiple reinforcements. 

Love secret doors to where? This one is barred from the inside, and up a little set of stone stairs,  so not even nice tourists can peek.

Often a decorative entry barrier would be constructed with side entries and a center entry, for more flexibility in exit or entrance.  Here, the carvings are simple, geometric.

This takes a professional, a real historical architect, to decipher.  Are our tentative conclusions, from guides here and there and not clear English and our Spanish very sad, close or not?

More interior doors.  See the strong hinges.  Where does this one go?  There were, we understand escape routes out of the church.  This is not in a location where a crypt would normally be accessed, or a mere sacristy. 

Now, here is what we missed. 

There is a 9th Century Beatus, the Urgell Beatus, located at the Cathedral archive, the Cathedral of Santa Maria d'Urgell, but it does not circulate and was not referenced in our guidebooks.  See  These early texts are important in seeing how they, in meaning and illustration, have changed.  There is another uncirculated early Codex in Austria, at Kremsmunster Abbey. 

Cannot the entire Beatus -- as well as thte Austrian Codex -- please be scanned online? Do an Images search for Beatus Urgell and find some there, such bright colors, designs all over the page, and many in Wikimedia Commons.  We would like the entire thing.

More Archives:   look up Google street view and find us waving at the Google car in Seu d"Urgell, and its top camera, on our way back to the parking lot.  We could not locate us, but we did show enthusiasm.

The Parador:  Do treat yourself to a fine lunch, tablecloths, waiters waiting, at the fine Parador here.  Paradors are fine state-run hotels often in very old settings, and quite affordable if not used all the time. This Parador utilizes the cloisters of the old Cathedral, see

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

La Seu d'Urgell - Monastery, Men's Home, Portal Door

Seu d'Urgell.  A seat, or place, of water, according to old words. It is also a crossroads for Andorra, although we crossed through Puigcerda to Bourg Madame, and places from all directions historically.

There is a Home for elderly men near the main Santa Maria, and a Monastery.  Ring at the gate, and you can access the outside.

Homes for the elderly we noticed in Europe are centrally located, and the clients mobile.  We put our folks in wheelchairs for the convenience of the attendants, and to prevent falls; but keeping up muscle strength and mobility may do more for the human being jammed in the chair, is that so? 

Puigcerda, Land of the Cerretani, Ceretans, Cerdania

Puigcerda dates from 1177 as a major town, and had been an early settlement of one of the most powerful Celtic tribes in old Spain, the Cerretani, or Ceretans of Cerdania.  They were conquered by the Romans.  Cerdania, the area of Puigcerta and its broad surrounds, extends over the Pyrenees into France, with a formal partition implemented in 1659.  Ceretans produced excellent ham, even back to Roman times.

This is a thriving town economically, and a lake created back in the 13th Century offers a splendid walk.  Parking is impossible.  Take your sextant and photograph where you are and GPS it, and pray.

There is a hotel in town, but by the time we tried to find our way back there, we already had found this lovely one:  Villa Paulita.  We get no kudos for recommendations, but do recommend this one. The dining and conference center are adjacent.  Hospes Villa Paulita.

Puigcerda, Hotel Villa Paulita, Cerdanya, Spain

The Cerdanya Valley is partially in Spain, partially in France, with historical boundaries fluctuating.  The French town, Bourg-Madame, also known for the Pass from Spain to France, is close.

General sources
History of Puigcerda:
Tourism sites:

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Spain Travel Paratge. Catalan, Occitan. Word roots in history.

 I. Introit

Happenstance juxta
Pose. Brain-catching hotel ad -
La Hotel Malcontenta! *

Palamos! Paratge
Torremirona, Platja
de Castell 12. There.
A passing chuckle:
La Hotel Malcontenta **
Seeks disgruntled guests:

Missed it! An opp lost!
Delayed? We must return. Honk
If you're unhappy.

II.  Backtrack

Surprise. Accommo's
Elegant. Self-flagellate
For first neg impress. **

III. Perspectif

Catalan paratge:
Languedoc's Occitan, word
Roots, in Cathar death.***

Old Malcontenta:
Dissent. Tyrants' target. Killed
Elixir, Paratge.

*  Paratge here as part of an address.  New usage for us.

**  La Hotel Malcontenta, Palamos, street view/; and hotel website at  Lonely Planet gives it 5 stars. Citeslisted here to make up for early chuckle at the name,

**  Now:  Consider Paratge, as it crosses the Pyrenees.

The term "Paratge" is here shown as a Catalan word, part of a postal address.  Paratge meant, in earlier explorations, the concepts of courtesy, inclusion, magnanimity, as among the medieval Christian Cathars in the Languedoc, now France.  Borders and connections over the Pyrenees were fluid. The Cathar-Languedoc language was Occitan. Word now in Catalan.

Paratge - see its appearance even in old warfare, as conducted by more noble humans than we produce today, see Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, and  Paratge.  The duty to do the right.  Common good governance.

Western religion:  astray when it exterminated dissenters.  Perhaps dissenters held more truth. See pudding.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Near Puigcerda. Historic mountain passes in the Pyrenees

The Pyrenees are an older mountain range, with soaring peaks like the Alps only in the High Pyrenees in the central area, for example.  Traditionally, there were three major passes for trade and invasion: one near the Mediterranean, at Perpignan;  one at the Basque country between St. Jean Pied de Port in France and Roncesvalles in Spain, toward the Bay of Biscay; and the Bourg-Madame.   

The Puymorens Pass, a/k/a the Bourg-Madame.  Think Tour de France here.  And recall that in 1930, the Italian cyclist who did so brilliantly through here, suddenly stopped, see  A fierce stage of the Tour is at the Tourmalet Pass.

Also think of Kipling and the Bourg-Madame; among many numbered passes in France and the battle-weary moving along them.  Napoleon's numbering still numbers, so the veriest ass can find his way. Route Nationale No. 20 in France takes one from Paris to Bourg-Madame, and the Spanish frontier; while Route Nationale No. 10 takes to the frontier at Hendaye, at the Bay of Biscay. See

" Now praise the Gods of Time and Chance 
That bring a heart's desire,
And lay the joyous roads of France 
Once more beneath the tyre --
So numbered by Napoleon, 
The veriest ass can spy 
How Twenty takes to Bourg-Madame 
And Ten is for Hendaye. ***** "

The Somport Pass.  Through the Somport went Romans, Visigoths, Muslims, Napoleon's officers and men; and for pilgrims walking the medieval and current Way of St. James, Camino de Santiago, from France into Spain, and ultimately to Santiago de Compostela some 521 miles distant.

This span of central Pyrenees are high and difficult. Highest peak: 11,170 feet.  To place it, think south of Lourdes on the French side.  We did not stop for the cable car at Bigorre; or for the Cirque de Gavarnie.  That is a setting of 3 amphitheaters shaped by natural glacial activity, a UNESCO site.