Sunday, April 05, 2015

Holy Week in Spain: a religious tradition and tourist spectacle

Our Lady of the Pillar Church, Zaragoza, on the Ebro River
ZARAGOZA, Spain -- For those of you who like anniversary celebrations, this one is the oldest I know of: the 1,975th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of the Pillar to the Apostle James, and it occurred here in Zaragoza in 40 A.D.

James was discouraged about how hard it was to convert to Christianity the residents of what we now call Spain. The Virgin Mary appeared to him on a pillar and encouraged him to keep at it. Which he did. Today there is an amazing Baroque church dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar in the heart of the city.

Holy Week processions

Zaragoza has dozens of cofradías that are known for their drum corps. Each of these groups has hundreds of members who participate in the Holy Week processions and observances. Each has a slightly different rhythm to their playing, but all beat the big bass drums hard.

Each has its own floats depicting religious scenes. Acolytes with censers fill the air with the smell of incense to create a visual, audio, and olfactory experience.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Barcelona's art and architecture make it a favorite

In the Gothic Quarter, 1996. Christine is a freshman at Kenyon College. Patrick is 12.
BARCELONA, Spain -- We were here 19 years ago with the whole family, and at that time Cindy pronounced Barcelona her favorite city. She has always loved Art Deco architecture and its Barcelona cousin, Modernisme. Gaudi is its best known practitioner.

Gothic Quarter, same fountain 2015
The Moorish architecture of southern Spain made her think that maybe Barcelona was just a passing fancy. Manchester, England, wooed her with its Victorian brick.

But no. After visiting Barcelona again in March, she said that now she is sure. Barcelona and its curving, vegetable facades, its wrought iron balconies, and its geometric tiles are her favorite. Along the tree-lined streets, artistic touches are everywhere, from the sgraffito plaster facades to the decorative manhole covers.

Actually, Barcelona has a couple thousand years of architecture on display. You can tour large sections of the old Roman city in the City Museum.

The Gothic quarter preserves the cathedral and religious buildings. There are Renaissance palaces converted into schools.

Invasion of the Anglo Saxons

Barcelona made huge upgrades to its transportation systems and tourist facilities for the 1992 Olympics. As a reporter and editor, I did some stories about all of the investment. It has paid off in attracting foreign investment and visitors. In the process, the city has lost some of its charm.

Sgraffito facade. Layers of plaster of different colors create the effect.