Thursday, December 03, 2015

Celebration for Francis Xavier, born nearby, patron saint of Navarra

At a Christmas market in the bull ring.
PAMPLONA, Spain -- Today, Dec. 3, is a public holiday in all of the province of Navarra to celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier, who was born in the nearby town of Javier (just another way of spelling Xavier). He has been one of two official patron saints of the province since 1622. The other is San Fermin, whose feast day is connected with that thing they do with the bulls every July.

Francisco Javier (pronounced hah-vee-AIR) was one of the first disciples of St. Ignatius Loyola and the priestly order he founded, the Society of Jesus -- the Jesuits. Francis traveled around Japan, China, and India baptizing and converting thousands.

This year, the newly elected leftists decided to break with tradition and not host a mass honoring the saint in his birthplace, some 40 minutes away by car. That sort of thing should be the job of the church, not the government, said the new president of the provincial partliament. Instead, the secularists stayed home, campaigned for another upcoming election, and gave a medal to a local historian. 

In addition to its famous son, Javier is famous for its castle. It says in Wikipedia that "the name Xavier derives from Basque Etxeberri or 'new house', evolving thereafter into 'Javier' in the local dialect."

The castle of Javier was built in the 10th century. From
There were no classes today, so Cindy and I went to a Christmas market in a big tent inside the Plaza de Toros, the bull ring. I had never been inside. It was built in 1922, just a year before Hemingway came here for the first time. Then it seated 13,000. An upper tier was added in 1966 -- you can see that it is architecturally different -- and now it seats just under 20,000.

There was live music all over the province of Navarra, including in the heart of Pamplona. We heard a bit, walked a bit, and enjoyed the sun.

Lots of men here are named Francisco Javier. In the U.S., it seemed that lots of guys with Irish family names were Francis X.


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Columbus Day story: How he brought me to Spain
20,000-year-old cave art and the north coast of Spain
In Pamplona, they party like it's 1591 
Barcelona's art and architecture make it a favorite
Cordoba's main attraction: mix of Jewish, Moorish, Christian cultures  
Basque language has mysterious origins 

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