Postcard from Zaragoza, Spain: Alma Mater and the Countless Martyrs

Above: Reliquaries in the Alma Mater Museum

After Aragon King Alfonso I (1073-1134), the Battler, conquered the Moors (prior post), construction began immediately on a cathedral atop a former Mosque. The king gifted the archbishop with adjacent land for his headquarters.

When Aragon King Alfonso II (1157-1196) ascended to the throne, he had other plans. The Aljaferia Palace was not grand or comfortable enough for him, so he began major remodeling and additions to this prominent location. Upper floors in the Mudejar and later Renaissance traditions reflect the styles favored by subsequent royals of Aragon and Spain.

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Postcard from Zaragoza, Spain: Mandatum novum do vobis….

Maundy Thursday. A holy day of obligation when I was little, but certainly not a holiday universally celebrated in Virginia Beach.

Maundy is derived from the above Latin. Yes, I am of such an early vintage that Mass was still conducted in Latin. That doesn’t mean I understood it. I thought novum do vobis has something to do with Nabisco vanilla wafers, which would have been a welcome substitute for the dry hosts adhered to the roof of your mouth at the Communion rail.

But here in Zaragoza, where we landed on Wednesday, Holy Thursday is big, the launch into a four-day holiday weekend. Thursday is commemorated as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus informed his apostles one amongst them was about to betray him.

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Postcard from Toulouse, France: Church-hopping, so genuflect quickly

Above, Altar for the Privileged in the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Daurade. Is the skull an invitation to enter or a dire warning not to dare trespass within? I elected not to test it.

Time for a final round of visits to churches in Toulouse. First stop is the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Daurade. The Virgin Mary’s “golden” designation came from shimmering mosaics in the original 5th-century church adjacent to this site. The church’s prized statue of the Virgin was stolen during the 15th century and replaced. Particularly revered by pregnant women, the figures of the Virgin and Child became so blackened by the smoke of votive candles lit by supplicants that the Virgin became known as the Black Madonna, or La Vierge Noire, by the 16th century.

Riverside, the Black Madonna’s original home was demolished in 1761 for the construction of wharves. Rebuilt, a new church served as the Virgin’s temple for only a short time before the 1789 outbreak of the French Revolution. Revolutionaries repurposed the church as a tobacco factory and set the icon ablaze in the Place du Capitole, reducing the treasured statue into a pile of ashes.

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