Saturday, November 23, 2013

60. Saint Eulalia and the Holy Cross

Wandering the labyrinth of laneways in this once walled city, one comes across so many unexpected joys - one such discovery finds me at the front door of the beautiful Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia – Barcelona Cathedral ).

Now this travelling business has taken me into a good number of ancient churches along the way, each one of which seems to have outdone the previous – but I must say that this place fades the rest into insignificance. it certainly has the wow factor like no others …

Once you navigate the Gypsy beggars on the steps, the big wooden doors open into an Aladdin's cave of unbelievable treasures ... and although the church is on the tourist map, the building was practically deserted  when I wandered inside, which made my visit even more special.

The outer inside walls are divided into several chapels dedicated to Christ and and the Virgin Mary plus a few other saints as well - all of which are quite dazzling with their gold and beautiful artworks and life-like statues piously - but with sympathy - gazing down  on us poor miserable sinners ...
The Cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century, and it is dedicated to Saint Eulalia of Barcelona - a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city.
One story says that she was exposed naked in the public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity. The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street (according to tradition, the one now called Baixada de Santa Eulàlia). The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral's crypt.
The choir stalls retain the coats-of-arms of the knights of the ancient Order of the Golden Fleece.


Although construction on the Cathedral commenced in 1298, it was not completed until 1913 !!! … and now the massive building is undergoing further major restoration.
Another little unexpected adventure whilst in the Cathedral – I noticed a small side alcove with a guard sitting there looking very bored and reading his I-pad and a sign on the wall that said “lift” – so I wandered in, greeted him and he opened a door into a room and pressed the lift button for me – the doors opened – in I hopped - and not having a clue whether I was heading up or down !!! pressed the go button - after a brief shakey journey the doors opened and there I am standing with a couple of other equally surprised visitors, literally on top of the building with Barcelona at our feet !!! …

We were able to walk along very wobbly scaffolding and view the structure from a totally different perspective. ... Wonderful.
No guards or signs up here – just us and the scaffolding !!!
Sagrada Familia not too far away ...
Back down into the Cathedral and off to one side there is a secluded Gothic cloister where 13 plump white geese are kept, the number explained by the assertion that Eulalia was 13 when she was martyred.


The cloister, which encloses the Well of the Geese (Font de les Oques) was completed in 1448. What happens to the geese, I am not too sure - hope they don't get fattened up and end up stuffed on the Abbott's table at Christmas time - or even worse still end up Foie Gras !!
The ancient Catalans certainly knew how to decorate their churches and thankfully there remains many fine 'intact and still active'  buildings for us to wonder over.
Next blog I'll take you somewhere very arty and very special ...