Leaving Paris, we are now in the city of Strasbourg, north east of France, at the german border. My hometown.
This is la petite France, the area known as little France, with a gruesome history to its name. There was a hospice in the area, called l’hospice des veroles, built during the 15th century, specially for people suffering of syphilis (most of them prostitutes). Syphilis was better known as the french disease, as it was brought by french soldiers. Therefore the name of the area…
Nowadays, it is the center of the old town, with a lot of very pretty houses, most of them over 500 years old, crossed by the river Ill. No hospice anymore, just lots of good restaurants. And tourists.
Have a look here to see many more weekend reflections.
The oldest church in town, by a mile. St Paul in the Field was founded in 897 AD by the Earl Guiffre Borrell.
And it’s just around the corner, our parish church.
Ritter Johann von Österreich, aka Don Juan de Austria, in English John of Austria, an illegitimate son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, had this gem built here, in the Barcelona Drassanes shipyards. With its 60 meters lenght, the Real was the largest galley of its time, and Don Juan’s flagship in the battle of Lepanto, in 1571, when a fleet of the Holy League, an alliance of Christian powers of the Mediterranean, decisively defeated an Ottoman fleet under Grand Admiral Müezzinzade Ali Pasha.
In 1971, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the battle, a replica of La Real was built and displayed in the Museu Marítim in Barcelona where it can be viewed today. The ship was 60 m long and 6.2 m wide, had two masts, and weighed 237 tons empty. It was equipped with three heavy and six light artillery pieces, was propelled by a total of 290 rowers and, in addition, carried some 400 sailors and soldiers at Lepanto. 50 men were posted on the upper deck of the forecastle, 50 on the midships ramp, another 50 each along the sides at the bow, 50 each on the skiff and oven platforms, 50 on the firing steps along the sides near the stern, and 50 more on the stern platform behind the huge battle flag. To help move and maneuvre the huge ship, it was pushed from the rear during the battle by two other galleys.
Befitting a royal flagship, it was luxuriously ornamented and painted in the red and gold colors of Spain. Its poop was elaborately carved and painted with numerous sculptures, bas-reliefs, paintings and other embellishments, most of them evoking religious and humanistic inspirational themes.
Many stones in our cities tell stories, some more than others. These ones probably show popular conceptions from times long past.
Among the 100 or so museums in Barcelona, there is also a perfume museum, which Mandy visited some time ago. Situated in the back of a … perfume shop on Passeig de Gracia, it must smell quite heavenly.
Photo courtesy of Mandy, of course.
It’s that time of the year again, it’s Caganer time! Above, some players from the Barcelona Football Club, the Barca.
A Caganer is a figurine depicted in the act of defecation appearing in nativity scenes in Catalonia and neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra, Valencia, Northern Catalonia (in southern France) and the Balearic Islands.
In Catalonia, as well as in the rest of Spain and in most of Italy and Southern France, traditional Christmas decorations sometimes consist of a large model of the city of Bethlehem, similar to the Nativity scenes of the English-speaking world but encompassing the entire city rather than just the typical manger scene. In Catalonia, the pessebre or nativity scene is often a reproduction of a pastoral scene with a traditional Catalan masia (farmhouse) as a central setting with the child in a manger, with outlying scenes of a washerwoman by a river, a woman spinning, shepherds walking towards the manger area laden with gifts and herding their sheep, the three wise men approaching on horseback, an annunciation scene with the angel and shepherds, the star pointing the way, etc., all of this usually set on moss to represent grass, with cork used to represent mountains or cliffs. Another variant is to make the setting oriental, with the wise men arriving by camel and the figures dressed accordingly.
The caganer is a particular and highly popular feature of modern Catalan nativity scenes. It is believed to have entered the nativity scene by the late 17th-early 18th century, during the Baroque period. Eminent folklorist Joan Amades called it an essential piece and the most popular figure of the nativity scene. It can also be found in other parts of southwestern Europe, including Murcia, the region just south of the Valencia in Spain (where they are called cagones), Naples (cacone or pastore che caca) and Portugal (cagões). There is a sculpture of a person defecating hidden inside the cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo, Province of Salamanca, though this is not part of a nativity scene. Accompanying Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and company, the caganer is often tucked away in a corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene. A tradition in the Catalan Countries is to have children find the hidden figure.
Possible reasons for placing a figure representing a person in the act of excreting waste in a scene which is widely considered holy include:
- Perceived humour.
- A fun spectacle, especially for children.
- The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth. According to the ethnographer, Joan Amades, it was a “customary figure in pessebres [i.e. nativity scenes] in the 19th century, because people believed that this deposit [symbolically] fertilized the ground of the pessebre, which became fertile and ensured the pessebre for the following year, and with it, the health of body and peace of mind required to make the pessebre, with the joy and happiness brought by Christmas near the hearth. Placing this figurine in the pessebre brought good luck and joy and not doing so brought adversity.”
- The Caganer represents the equality of all people: regardless of status, race, or gender, everyone defecates.
- Increased naturalism of an otherwise archetypal (thus idealised) story, so that it is more believable, more real and can be taken more seriously.
- The idea that God will manifest himself when he is ready, without regard for whether we human beings are ready or not.
- The Caganer reinforces the belief that the infant Jesus is God in human form, with all that being human implies.
- The character introduces a healthy amount of religious doubt to test one’s faith.
- A humorous allusion to the Spanish proverb (in translation), “Dung is no saint, but where it falls it works miracles.”
- “The caganer was the most mischievous and out-of-place character of the pessebre’s [otherwise] idyllic landscape; he was the “Other”, with everything that entails, and as the “Other”, was accepted, in a liberal vein, as long as he did not aim to occupy the foreground. The caganer represented the spoilsport that we all have inside of us, and that’s why it is not surprising that it was the most beloved figure among the children and, above all, the adolescents, who were already beginning to feel a bit like outsiders to the family celebration.” Agustí Pons
- “The caganer is a hidden figure and yet is always sought out like the lost link between transcendence and contingency. Without the caganer, there would be no nativity scene but rather a liturgy, and there would be no real country but just the false landscape of a model.” Joan Barril
- “The caganer seems to provide a counterpoint to so much ornamental hullabaloo, so much emotive treacle, so much contrived beauty.” Josep Murgades
- “The caganer is, like so many other things that have undergone the filtering of a great many generations, a cult object; with the playful, aesthetic and superficial devotion that we feel towards all the silly things that fascinate us deep down.” Jordi Soler
Anyway, here are some people, Kate Middleton, her hubby Will, Prince Charles and his mum, doing their bit for England…
Some others, doing their bit for Gaul…
and for whichever planet they are from…
I went to Santiago de Compostela yesterday, at the other end of Spain, 1100km/770 miles away, as a pilgrimage to my youth. I will come back to the long history of the place, let’s just say for today that it is the place where Saint James is supposed to be buried. And many many people go there on pilgrimage, ideally on foot, from far away. They call it the Way, El Camino.
As for my trip… I am always complaining about the lack of rain in Barcelona… During the 12 hours I spent in Santiago yesterday, the first 2 hours were heavy drizzle, and the last ten torrential downpour. My plane back to BCN was delayed due to the flooded runway… Anyway, I managed a miserly 200 photos, and my camera still works!
This is the main room of our City Hall, called the Saló de Cent, the Hall of the 100. So called after the main government council of Barcelona in ancient times, the council of the 100. The Council was established in the 13th century and lasted until the 18th century.
Its name derives from the number of its members: one hundred (Catalan: cent).
In 1249, James I created the fundamental structure of the municipal government of Barcelona: a board of advice of 4 members, helped by 8 counselors and an assembly of probi homines (leaders), all them members of the mà major (Catalan for senior hand, or the upper class formed by wealthy merchants).
After several modifications, by the year 1265, the municipal organization gained its more permanent structure: the municipal authority rested on 3 counselors elected by a Council of one hundred individuals.
In year 1335, Peter III the Ceremonious permitted the Consell de Cent to use the royal insignia of the four (red) bars.
The importance of the Consell de Cent is supported by many examples. For instance, in year 1464 it proclaimed Peter V of Aragon (known as Peter the Constable of Portugal) as count of Barcelona. Another example is the rejection by the Consell de Cent of Martin the Humane’s foundation on January 10, 1401 of the General Medical School in Barcelona with the same prerogatives as the University of Montpellier, because they felt this encroached on their municipal jurisdiction. This ultimately led to the creation of the University of Barcelona in 1450.
The Consell de Cent was abolished by Philip V of Spain with the Decretos de Nueva Planta upon his occupation of Barcelona after the Siege of Barcelona in 1714.
A main street in the city of Barcelona, the Carrer(street) Consell de Cent (where we used to live), is named after this institution (before 1978 it was known as Calle Consejo de Ciento, in Spanish).
The first meeting was held in this hall on August 17th, 1373.
And here is an interactive panoramic view of it.
Probably the nicest square in the Barri Gotic, the plaza San Filipo Neri.
Back to the cathedral. Some of the sumptuous stalls in the choir, with the emblems of the Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The order held it’s 19th chapter in the cathedral in 1519. More about this order here.
The cathedral’s inside.
Sooo…. After 3 1/2 years in Barcelona, we finally went to the famed maze and garden in Horta. And it immediately became our favorite place in town! Will show you much more in the next few days. For today, suffice to say that it is a right royal place!
And if anyone knows how to get rid of the halo in HDR, please let me know?
Barcelona’s holy patron is Saint Eulalia, also called Laia. She was a geese shepherdess in the village of Sarria, now a part of Barcelona. She was a martyr, was killed for her faith by the Romans, says her hagiography.
Nowadays, the cathedral in the old town is named after her. And in the cloister are living 13 geese. Why 13? Eulalia was 13 when she became a martyr.
Our World Tuesday. Please click here.
Due to some spam comments lately, I had to change the settings a bit. No anonymous comments allowed for the time being, just as a protective measure. And because it’s really annoying.
Our yearly Christmas market, the Fira de Santa Lucia, is 225 years old! Congratulations!
Our World Tuesday, right here.
As my health is ever so slowly, but steadily, improving, I did last Saturday what I’ve been willing to do for 3 years, without it ever coming to it: I went to visit the old Poblenou cemetery.
Well, it is a beautiful place, the mausoleums are an open air museum. Recognized many names of the Barcelona bourgeoisie.
But… Why is this door open/broken???
I couldn’t resist taking a photo, of course, and posting it for Louis la Vache’s excellent Monday Doorways meme.
And of course, being me, I just had to photoshop it a bit!
Here is some more info.
Indios in Barcelona. Not exactly what you might be thinking. Indios, Indians, were people from Catalunya who emigrated to the West Indies, mainly Cuba, during the 19th century, made a fortune there, mainly with cane sugar, rum, and so on. They later came back rich, and built many of the fine buildings in Barcelona. One of them opened this shop in the Raval, where you can still buy good quality sheets, linen, blankets…Many of the rich merchants who helped the struggling modernist architects such as Gaudi at the begining of the 20th century were Indios.
Coming out of his nest now and then: the oldest inhabitant of Barcelona. By far. Kids love him! There is a mammoth in Ciutadella Park as well, but he is obviously at least 70 Mio years younger, duh!
You can find these signs in several streets in the Barri Gotic, the old town. What do they say? Well, my Catalan is far from good, but from what I can understand, they describe what is happening, or what happened in the streets. The first in the second row says that people are celebrating here, the one before that people are “promenading” here from dawn to dusk… You get the general idea.
Well, That’s my World! Click here to see more.
On the Ramblas, you can still find traces of the Porta Ferrissa, or iron gate, one of the gates on Barcelona city’s second wall, once the population was too important to be kept inside the old roman walls. It was built during the 13th century, and was destroyed in 1774 to open some new streets and to build some palaces.
Friday morning. The weekend starts in a few hours, and we will be off to Lourdes. Sabbath also starts today by sundown for some. Which makes it a very good day to show you one of Barcelona’s finest gems, the Sinagoga Mayor, also called Shlomo Ben Adret synagogue. Just happens to be one of the oldest in the world, parts of it dating back to the 3rd century, roman times. It is situated in El Call, the old Jewish quarter. The word Call comes from the Hebrew Kahal, community.
According to historians, there have been Jews in Spain since before the Diaspora, AD 70. In his Letter to the Romans, dated A.D. 54, St. Paul reveals his interest in coming to the Iberian Peninsula to preach .
This below was the Kotel Mizrah, the eastern wall, facing Jerusalem.
On August 5th, 1391, after an uprising in the Old Town, the Sinagoga Mayor and other Jewish property were confiscated by the King of the time. The Synagogue ceased to be, and was forgotten. It was found again in 1996.
Nowadays, you can visit it (2euros donation for the upkeep), and it is like traveling back in time.
Strangely enough, in the same street, literally 10 meters away, there is this sign saying that Saint Domingo de Guzman opened the first Barcelona convent of his Dominican order in 1219, in the building next door.
And Santa Eulalia, Barcelona’s holy patron, was martyred 2 streets away.
More information on the synagogue here.
Well, everybody, have a wonderful weekend, and a good shabbes!
The Lloctinent, or Lieutenant, later called the Viceroy, was the representative of the Kings of Spain in Catalunya. He had his own Palau, palace, just next door to the Royal Castle in Barcelona.
Want to know more? Here is what Wiki has to say. It is in Catalan, please use your usual translation devices if you don’t read Catalan.
And this is the Royal Palace, with King Martin’s watchtower.
Some of the incredible and so organic stonework on the flanks of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. I am almost enclined calling it needlework. Please click on the picture to see the finer details, it’s worth it!
Latest updates on Sagrada Familia and Barcelona. Although the cathedral wont be finished this century, the nave is almost finished and will be inaugurated in October this year by the Pope.
More info about it here, as usual.
Weather: it is absolutely freezing, day temperatures barely above freezing. The snow has gone, almost overnight. A lot of fuss for 2/3 inches of snow. But maybe not for the 70.000 people or so still without electricity, heat and hot water.
The time between 1975 and 1982 in Spain is called the Transition Time. It took the new Spanish government 3 years after General Franco’s death to start rebuilding democracy and to establish a Constitution.
In 2003, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Constitution, 25 Spanish artists created these pictures you see on the wall. And, the same year, an artist, whose name is, I believe, Carlos Lopez Hernandez, created the Niña de la Constitucion, the bronze statue of a little girl you can see looking at the paintings, the daughter of the Constitution.