Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Graus. The Bishop's Palace. Palacio del Obispo, and Hotel Palacio del Obispo

Graus had been the capital of the region, and old opulence in buildings remains.  This fine hotel, Hotel Del Palacio Obispo, Palace of the Bishop, is at the historic district, and offers glimpses of the past in its 15th Century structure.

Inside is sleek, modern.

With echoes of the old.

A town landmark is the Basilica of the Virgin of the Rock (Virgen de la Pena) clinging to the cliff just outside town.  See it from the hotel room.

Wait for the sunrise to catch the summit, Basilica de la Virgen del Pena, Graus, Spain, from the hotel window.

Look down.  There is a small courtyard, with a mural of the Basilica.
Then take a closer look at the Basilica.

The concierge and his wife may even take you to the basement, what would the Renaissance palace-builders have called it?  Rustication was in vogue -- stonecutters cutting masonry blocks, beveling edges deeply, and leaving the central area, the face, in a rough condition.  See http://www.answers.com/topic/rusticate.  With those skills, what is mere walling with masonry, and what is the result of rustication?

Now, to the basement.

Down the steps.

Tried to do a closeup of the coat of arms. Color is not orange.  Must go back and adjust. Camera is old and I, amateur. 

Still, parse the quadrants of the coat of arms. Top left, unclear.  Top right, looks like a rearing elephant. Bottom left, profile, bottom right, 8-pointed star -- or a compass, same configuration; or representation of the sun. Tassles and roping, three heads, look alike with mustaches, caps, and we speculate that is the Bishop Himself. Who was he? Or was he just a secular noble?

The elephant may refer to Hannibal who, in the Second Punic War, led his elephants across Hispania to get to Rome, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_Spain/. Is that a turbaned head, lower left?  that could refer to the era of Moorish occupation. The official coat of arms for Aragon also shows a turbaned head, with side ties hanging down. Do search in Images for Aragon or Huesca or Graus coats of arms.

This appears to be rustication as well as original rubble and rock and mortar, but an expert would have to examine.


Now, back to our room.  Elegant.

Rusticated walls? Original wall? Note that we travel light.


We have seen many wall mountings.  This, at the hotel, caught every change in the light.

Applaud the repurposing of this historic 15th Century structure, the Bishop's Palace, Palacio del Obispo. For road trippers, the added advantage to having such fine accommodations, is the parking.  Right across the street.

There are other hotels, including the Hotel Lleida, but we wanted to be closer to the old parts, away from busses.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Graus, Plaza Major, Around Town. Joaquin Costa, El Cid

Graus.  A city of arches, pointed or rounded, both reflecting the Moorish period, and it is hard to determine which was originally Romanesque, which influence absorbed whom.  Find in Graus famous people:  find Joaquin Costa, an intellectual who was interested and skilled in so much, and find, we think, or is it legend, El Cid also here, medieval nobleman and military leader.

Graus has preserved its heraldry. Heraldry. Coats of arms. This is the head of a knight above the shield, shield with two zigzag horizontal stripes, curlicues surround.  Meaning? Where to find a comprehensive heraldry catalogue for families of the area.  This is from house #27, Plaza Major, Graus.

Ancestral houses included the Mur, and the Solanas of the 165th Century.  Stonework shows elegant shields.  Can we possibly identify any of these?  House of Mur.  Hose of Solanas.  Experts, to your clickings. 

At the battle of Graus, 1062, Aragon (under Sancho Ramiro I) lost to the Moors from Zaragoza (under al-Muktadir).  El Cid is said to have fought under Sancho, see http://www.heritage-history.com/www/heritage.php?Dir=wars&FileName=wars_castilian.php.  Moorish designs remain.

Find the Moor on all sides.

Change happens fast now. One day, note the ruin half destroyed between two finely renovated home structures in the main square.

Next day, find repair work already beginning.

And what is this bit of heraldry?  This heraldry looks like a winged dragon with bird feet above a chivalric helmet, plain shield with five vertical partitions.

Doorways show great variation.

Who came and went.  This shows a scallop shell (apparently) theme above the double door, symbol usually of pilgrims on the Way of St. James, to Santiago de Compostela.

Streets are narrow.

Enjoy the square.  No need to find a hotel that does dinner, because dinners in fine restaurants are everywhere.  Here, children were playing soccer in the square, nearly empty because the time to dine is well after sundown.

Dinner begins at 9PM, and all is quiet in the late afternoon. 

Houses on the square are each different.

On an opposite side, the theme may be colors rather than architectural difference.

And frescoes -- Casa Pintada.

Some doorways are below the sidewalk level, showing great age.

Passageways and passageways.

Is this the same as the square of Coreche, where there is a door of the old enclosure wall, dating from 1569.   

Now, find the individuals, some of them, who made this place memorable. And, for a meal early, the famous Graus sausage at a tapas place on the market street beyond the passageway. Longaniza sausage: with its own special day annually -- the endless sausage.  Dry, natural cure. 

1.  Joaquin Costa, 1846-1911, was born in Graus, and died here.  He was self-educated, and rose from his peasant background to become a distinguished intellectual, a lawyer, a politician, a historian and an economist. He sought social and educational reforms.

We chose Graus because we understood there was a great battle here, the Battle of Graus 1063, and that El Cid saved the day.

El Cid:  Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. The birthplace is also spelled Bivar.

El Cid, Vivar, Spain. Birthplace. He went on to fight at Graus, so they sayl.

 We visited Vivar, El Cid's birthplace, during an earlier trip.  See his many battles at http://perso.wanadoo.es/ibg3/med/cid.html/  The tourist helper in Graus said that any number of towns claim El Cid, and we found no tribute to him at Graus.  Surely here is a gap to be filled.  A figure who played both sides from time to time, in an era where that was the way to survive.  See Spain Road Ways, Bivar 

El Cid.  No statue that we could find in Graus, but the stories absolutely must be believed: that he nobly fought here.  Then look no further.

Outside the square are other displays, of early production of what?  A grinding wheel?  A press?

Overview: http://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres/ciudades-pueblos/otros-destinos/graus.html

Graus, Basilica de la Virgen de la Pena. Rock of Morral.

Cliffside Religious Houses: Defense
Graus -- Basilica de la Virgen de la Pena
a/k/a Basilica of Nuestra Senora de la Pena

The first structure here dates to the 13th Century.  Sites disagree on who was responsible and when.  Some say the first structure dates to the time when Sancho Ramirez, King of Aragon and Navarre (who succeeded Sancho IV),  conquered the town.  Where is that site, because it is inconsistent information with vetting. 

That 13th Century marker sounds odd, since Sancho Ramirez lived 1042-1094? Checking.  The story -- A light was seen to shine on the rock above (the pena), and that would probably be the Morral Crag, under which and beside and in the Basilica is constructed.  People followed that and saw an image of the virgin.  And how could it have been Sancho Ramirez who built a chapel?

Graus was one of the most northerly points of Moorish domination.

The current structure reflects the 1538 Renaissance elements, atrium, cloister other buildings. See an 1803 date (!) for Sancho Ramirez at http://www.turismoribagorza.org/en/que-ver-y-que-hacer/ribagorza-is-culture/religious/basilica-virgen-de-la-pena

Regardless of its history, it does dominate the town.

This was taken from our hotel window.  And downstairs, find the trompe l'oeil decor, with the Basilica depicted.

The crag, the cliff with the cross on top, is the Rock of Morral, the Morral Crag.

Huesca. Coffee in Huesca, Cathedral. Misleada Mosque

 Huesca is still known for its motivational factor in the Spanish Civil War. It is said that the militiamen rallied time and again with the slogan -- Tomorrow, we will have coffee in Huesca. That is a great reason to go there and do it.

George Orwell fought near here.  He had joined the POUM Militia, against the falangists (Franco's Fascist party, 1930's) who held Huesca at the time. Orwell was stationed near there.  See http://www.hotelsclick.com/hotels/Spain/HUES/Huesca-COFFEE_IN_HUESCA-1.html 

George Orwell and the militia:  See overview and photo at http://libcom.org/history/international-volunteers-poum-militias
Coffee in Huesca. Today.

Huesca, Spain. Coffee in Huesca.  

Coffee, and a little ham and melon, and some macaroni.  And macaroons.

Time clocks.  All was closed from 2-5PM-- long siesta -- so see what you can and enjoy the ambiance.

Immediately behind the cafe area is the Cathedral of St. Mary, Huesca; also known as the Mary Church, or the Holy Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Lord -- two separate events-people memorialized.  To many guidebooks, it is simply the Huesca Cathedral.  A mosque predated it on this site, the Misleida Mosque.  This one dates from the end of the 13th Century, Gothic.

The right tower, here on the left, looks like it is part of the old Misleida Mosque.  The Gothic of the central facade does not extend to the rest of the exterior.  The tower looks Moorish and is defensive: small-windowed, simple, not soaring, not fancy.  

Or is it part of an old San Miguel Romanesque Tower?  Which came first, after the mosque?

Huesca long predates the Moors, who invaded in the 8th Century and called this Wasqah, back to the Romans (Urbs Vitrix Osca), and before that, the Iberians known as Bolskan.  Look up Wikipedia. 

Origins. Patchworks of researchers-musers suggest migrations of people from the areas of the Tribes of Israel, see http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/irish-scots-gaelic-egyptian-connection/; a topic I also enjoyed exploring, see http://irelandroadways.blogspot.com/2010/03/tralee-queen-scotia-and-slieve-mish.html.
On the Christian end, Saint Lawrence was from Huesca, 268 AD.  He was martyred violently, roasted on a grill, see grill motif on the breastplate at the painting at http://denmarkroadways.blogspot.com/2011/07/bjernede-inside-round-church-rundkirke.html 
And, who is making that fine cup of coffee and side dish delicious? As anywhere, one of The Angels of the Kitchen.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Montearagon. Sancho Ramirez. Mallos de Riglos.

King Sancho Ramirez, 1045-1094, built a castle on this high site, making a fortress from which to attack Wasqah, the city nearby we know as Huesca, then occupied by the Moors. He was killed by a stray arrow, however, and the venture abandoned.  He was king of Aragon and Pamplona-Navarre.

The castle then was given to an Augustinian order of monks, who remained there for centuries until, in the19th century -- it was confiscated and became a powder magazine that then exploded. Some restorations are going on now, we understand.

 Clifftop, hilltop monasteries and villages tell of the need for defense or a place to fight against invading Moors and others. All were ultimately unsuccessful against the Moors on this side of the Pyrenees. There was no place to run.

This monastery is unidentified.  No notes on it, but its place on the card puts it soon after Huesca.

The land is formidable.   The area, known as Mallos de Riglos, draws climbers as well as drivers.  See http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4614