Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Terrassa in a Rush, near Barcelona, Spain. And Loss Will Have No Dominion.

Rosario in historic Terrassa, outside Barcelona.  
Rosario.  A Universal Positive Spirit.
Brave it all.

Retain Spirit Against Odds, is the unspoken lesson learned. 
A Sense of Gratitude and Love.
Meet Rosario Who Has Seen It All.
Loss Will Not Prevail. Let There Be Fun!

Terrassa is historic, with old churches, a monastery, fine paintings, frescoes. It also is where Rosario lives. 
Try visiting a special person while on an improvised road trip.  Suddenly we had to find specific places. And our old GPS -- not up to the task of following changes in the now fine European roadways -- left us in the lurch.   

Here is our formula for impossible choices.  As tourists in a car, with leaving and time dwindling, we found ourselves with 
 a) tempus fugit, combined with
 b) an old GPS, whose maps cannot be updated, and 
 c) we suddenly were in wonderland.

On a 4-6 lane EU superhighway in Spain, heading for a real Spanish meal at a dear neighbor's mother's house in Terrasse, 1PM had been promised. 

  •  The GPS, bless its defunct heart, shows that we are floating topography-less, on a blue ground with an arrow floating about looking where to land.  Where is Terrassa! My Queendom for a direction! Will that long sentence ever end! Keep driving until you see a sign, any sign.

Rosario is retired, but tireless. 

The freshest of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, breads, rabbit stew. And jamon, that fine Spanish ham. And -- as is wise in Spain as anywhere, water served alongside the wine glasses.

Rosario fled Spain with her children, as a widow, into France, when Franco came to power.  Then she returned, and, in time, the last child rejoined the family.  One son is now gone. Immigration, fleeing, the unknown. We know little of that. The human side of travel: learning what others have lived through, and came out blooming.

Rushing to our arrival time, we passed sights clamoring to be seen, but Rosario comes first. She has visited in our area and we love her. 

At the end of a fantasy trip, this was a grounding day for us.  What does regular person's home look like, a welcome home-coming literally, even someone else's home, after the immersion in history we love in our touring life.

Dan and I have seen castles and costumes, so much of the marvelous, cruel, class-stratified beautiful, autonomy-killing, deadly places in Europe where rich and poor lived and died.  Visit those places and breathe the drama of feudalism, invasions, Civil Wars (that thrust our Rosario and her children in an escape to France, to Carcassonne, years ago, and back.  Modest, hard-working, now sustaining herself in a pensioner's home as all those who in later years deserve after playing by the rules.  She exerted great effort and resourcefulness and productivity, now with children who adore her, but who span Spain, and the US, by way of Ecuador.

Try this.  Whether or not productive, no elderly and noone who for other reasons is not working  largely because of stacked decks, everyone even, deserves a dignified life, a dignified end.

Our neighbors are at the upper right -- in the US.  Travel.  Ties. Educate, expand your own child.  Go places. Who but you can fill in history and cultures and humanities, when the schools stop. Can we ever meet our human obligations to our elderly, our handicapped. Love capitalism, perhaps, but let it kick in with its exploitation of the unwary, unable, careless, after the safety net is established, not to take from anyone's dignity before.

Lleida. La Seu Vella Cathedral.

This town houses the third oldest university in Spain:  the University of Lleida, founded 1297. Settlements here are traced to the bronze age.  The name comes from an early population, the Llergets, and the area was Llerda under Rome's Caesar Augustus.  In a mountainous area, people fled here for refuge from various invasions, and the town was destroyed-rebuilt-destroyed-rebuilt. Rome, medieval wars, Moorish occupation, the Spanish Civil War.

The city had been conquered by the Moors in the 800's, then reconquered in 1149.

The tower is the Cathedral, La Seu Vella, a/k/a Lleida Castle.  Built in 1203, the tower was completed in 1431.  See it at http://www.inspain.org/en/sites/theoldcathedraloflleidalaseuvella.asp/.  With time, study the doorways there. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Benabarre; Castle at Benabarre, La Seu Vella Cathedral, Lleida

Start the climb to the castle, up the stairs of the town, and look much farther to the top, tower just visible.  This site originally had been Romanesque, then a castle was built by Moors to protect their positions against Christian Counts.  It became a military landmark, see a page translation for http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=fcf710c3-e4ef-460f-a6ff-df3fe5fa08c5.  Some castles in Spain are defensive against Moors, others are defensive against Christians.

The parish church, Santa Maria, is also here, 15th century.  The bell tower is 16th Century, built on the earlier Romanesque church.  Build, destroy, build, destroy.

We were running out of time and breath, and did not go up. Pedro Garcia de Benabarra, renaissance artist, painted a panel of a large altarpiece then installed at Lleida, below, and now at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. See http://www.gardnermuseum.org/collection/browse?filter=artist:3296

Graus. Puente de Abajo; Bridge, Rivers, After hours

Late afternoon. The medieval bridge, over the River Esera.  On a smaller scale here, the pointed arch resembles the bridge at Mostar, Bosnia.

Puente de Abajo was built in the 11th Century, wide enough for a cart to cross.  Repairs were made in the 14th century.

Graus: where the River Isabena meets the River Esera.  This is the Esera.

There is white water rafting on the Esera River, but not here.

Gorge, outside town.  Relax.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Graus. Church of San Miguel. Religion Repurposed?.

Church of San Miguel, Graus, Spain.
Architectural Clues to History.

Religious site.  Romanesque first, then Muslim? Back to Roman Catholic.
Interior of San Miguel.  And the Steeple-Minaret.

Church of San Miguel, Graus, Spain. Minaret / Steeple.

The Church of San Miguel in Graus is on a side street, Romanesque in style, easily overlooked. Romanesque. That does not tell us much about its history. Romanesque as an architectural style covers an era ranging from 600-1000 AD. But Moors occupied Spain, beginning 700 in the south, and moving out and around until they were defeated by the Catholic Isabella and Ferdinand in 1492. Moors occupied the Huesca area, Graus included, since the 800's.  See http://clio.missouristate.edu/chuchiak/HST%20350--Theme%207-Maps_of_the_muslim_conquest_of_s.htm.  Until the Reconquest, that is some 700 years of Muslim rule in the area. What is the earliest date for a construction of a religious structure on this particular site?  The history of Spain: Visigoths were the Christians before the Moors, is that so? See http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=ecs

That presents an issue in identifying origins, or repurposing of buildings.
  • Repurposed buildings.  Moors occupied Spain (700-1492). So, was this building constructed before the Moors arrived in this particular place? Or was it constructed in the older style, after the Moors had prevailed. There are elements of Christian, Jewish, Islam.
  • Is it, instead, an early Romanesque structure, repurposed into a Mosque, then repurposed back. Do parts of it predate or coincide with the occupation? For a primer on Romanesque, see http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Romanesque_architecture.html.  The steeple part looks more like a minaret than a Romanesque steeple. Did a mosque repurpose an old Romanesque Church, or did the church repurpose a mosque?

1.  Could religions really coexist. We don't do well now.  Did earlier groups do better?

We know that Christians and Jews could practice their religions under the Caliphate, the Moorish occupation from 700-800 to1492, give or take, with tax and status restrictions, under that Muslim rule. Interesting. 

Muslims conquered most of the Iberian peninsula, but did not respond against the locals by forcing them to leave, or forcing them to convert to Islam.  Any who did not convert could remain, subject to some but not onerous restrictions, compared to death.  The Muslims did not expel Christians or Jews, but incorporated their talents, again with restrictions if they chose to remain.  See http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/spain_1.shtml.

  • Digression. Who really started persecution against other religions, Christians in Europe, with their heretic persecutions and killings; or Muslim, who offered choices, including remaining and practicing one's own religion, but with taxation and status restrictions. Or leave.
  •   It was only with Spain's Catholic Ferdinand and Isabella, and the reconquest in 1492, that Christian approved history adopted formal forced expulsion of Jews from Spain, those who would not convert to Catholicism. Nice. Who is more "Christian" - the coexisting Muslims over 600 years; or the Christian persecutors forcing their ways on others.  And, confiscating their property.  Leave, but with nothing.

2.  Dates. So, what is the date of this Church?  It has undergone several periods of change.  The exterior remains simple and Romanesque, see http://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres/ciudades-pueblos/otros-destinos/graus.html

Wait for the baptism to conclude, and then explore further. The interior worship area at the front, the apse-end, is not Romanesque in appearance, except for the rounded arches. It looks traditional Christian. This rite is totally Roman Christian.  We sat through it. This section looks like any Catholic Church anywhere.  Fungible.

The altar panels are Gothic, and date from 1450-1500.  The crucifix was donated in honor of Graus' patron saint, San Vicente Ferrer, in the year 1415.  San Vicente Ferrer:  Big festivities bubble and dance up the town, with the town's signature sausage, annually, see September fiesta that we missed.  Overviews at http://articulos.altoaragon.org/i_osca87.htm
San Miguel, Graus, Spain. Mural.  Dedication. Details?

3.  History shows not in the apse, at the altar area, but in the "cross beam" of the cruciform structure now in place for the shape of the church, and in the lower upright beam of that kind of structure. Rounder churches from earlier days were forcibly recreated to look like crosses after the Roman system prevailed.  
Cruciform churches had not been the rule before the rise of Rome's version. In earlier times, there were round churches in Christendom.  Mostly.  Charlemagne's chapel is round, so are many others.  See Egalitarian.  The priest equally accessible, all sides, all people.  No secrets. The cruciform imposition came with dogma and hierarchy.

Older dates. The more interesting elements of San Miguel are the older traces of times past:

Were the pointed arches because the building was originally a Mosque?  It is claimed to be Romanesque, so these would not have been Gothic structures.  Both Muslim and Gothic used pointed arches. And Muslim and Romanesque used rounded.  This is why we go to less-travelled sites. Find traces without agenda added.

3.  Look up, at the apex of converging arches. Whose symbolism visually, if not struturally, anchors the arches?

Is that a pilgrim hat, for the Way of Saint James, one of the medieval (and contemporary) pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. at the Portuguese end of Spain, north, west.

Keep your eyes off the glitz of the Gothic, there at the Baptism area, and instead focus more on the older areas for roots.Then look up again.

 This apex symbol, again where Romanesque-Muslim arches converge, the contact point looks dogmatic; looks Celtic, even Irish.  There is a central Crucifix form, then the heraldic-shaped shields, with target in two, shield triangle in one, and cross in another. This looks old, but that assessment would take an expert. What are those symbols?

Showing the old history of changes, the arches seen from inside are off-kilter, suggesting repurposing, rebuilding, reconstruction. From what? Which came first?  All the changes at The San Miguel Church, cannot all be reconciled.  See how the arches here do not meet at the same point.  which is before, which is later.

Then look agaom at eye level.  Find different symbolism at a side area:

First, the Ten Commandments, and then a coat of arms.  The Ten Commandments.  Both Jewish and Christian.  What is the Koran position? No idea. So, was this Jewish-Christian tradition. When was this circular apse on the side constructed?  See the Ten Commandments, and then, below, another representation.

The lower symbol:  It looks like a coat of arms. Which?

Now: Peer at the shape on top of that lower symbol.  Is that the large-brimmed hat worn by pilgrims on the Way of Saint James?  If so, we would expect a scallop shell to firm up the identification.  Coat of arms is in four quadrants, check the elements.

This is the Coat of Arms of Alonso of Aragon, Archbishop of Zaragoza and Valencia, and Lieutenant General of Aragon  looks like the symbol in San Miguel, Graus, found at Wikimedia Commons.  Tassles, not scales, not bells. Now, what cross displays the double bar?  Recall that in early "Christian" expansion days, popes and clergy went off to war and killed like anybody else. See Roncesvalles, Song of Roland (Charlemagne era).
Coat of Arms, Alonzo of Aragon, ArchbishopCoat of Arms of Archbishop Alonso of AragonWikimedia Commons


This may be Saint James, scallop shell suspended on the shaft, large brimmed hat.  Graus, as other towns in the Province of Huesca, is on the route of the Way of Saint James, all finally converging after Pamplona.  The Way itself is many routes.  The Spanish consider the Pyrenees to be the real beginning, those arriving from France being preliminaries.  On the way: to Santiago as El Camino de Santiago 

What is this coat of arms?

Monday, August 05, 2013

Graus. Old, Ordinary Purpose Structures Survive.

A fascination in Graus is the riches of old structures, especially ones used by ordinary people, or for routine purposes such as warehousing, storage.  How were these buildings constructed, how did they stabilize arches, lintels, why does the wood still hold. Look at the ingenuity of construction.

Look at the number of courses of rubble, rock, worked stone, all mix.  Moorish round arches, the rounded arch = Qoos ( قوس ) are found in the main square and look just like the Romanesque or Roman round arch, but for lesser folk, did the simple lintel, as used here, suffice. 

Old row house. Or storehouse? Graus, Spain

Do these log ends mean a floor inside is propped by these as floorboards?