Above, Bells at the Top of the Facade of the Santiago Church in Merida
Under supervision of Spanish architects, Mayan laborers began building the Cathedral of Merida in 1562 with stones pillaged from one of their own temples. The cathedral was finished before the close of the 16th century and dedicated to the new outpost’s patron saint, San Ildefonso of Toledo (607-667).
As Ildefonso was conducting Mass in his role of Bishop of Toledo, Spain, brilliant light suddenly illuminated the entire church. Many of the celebrants fled in fear, but those who remained witnessed the Virgin Mary herself descend and enthrone herself at the altar. Grateful for his devotion and defense of her purity, she even gifted him with a splendid vestment, a chasuble, from her own son’s wardrobe. His association with the miraculous illumination must provide Merida with extra excuses to set off fireworks on his feast day, January 23.
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Street art encountered in Malaga, Spain
Only a decade or so old, but WordPress kept dropping hints that my blog format was outdated and becoming obsolete. The time was approaching that it would no longer function on the platform.
So here it is: the first post with a new look in a format I am trying to master. I promise not to include any of the curse words that my slip out of my mouth as I try to make heads and tails of it.
It happens to be that time of the year, halfway through, for that exciting list of what posts you have clicked on most during the past 12 months. My book has not dropped off the list yet, and I am grateful for that and that you continue to let the blog play boulevardier even though the writer actually is in a state of corona-hibernation.
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Travel is not simply assuming the role of boulevardiers. Journeys this past year lifted some of the weighty worries about religion haunting my childhood. A year ago in Malaga, Spain, I found out Limbo was gone. It was banished by the church and vanished. All those little babies stuck in Limbo have been liberated to flit upward to heaven.
There is still purgatory though, with bazillions of souls trapped in purgatory waiting to be freed by prayers. How could God keep them there, suffering, denied entrance into heaven for sometimes seemingly minor infractions? My memory of religious instruction is rather hazy, but it seems as though we only devoted one day a year, All Souls Day, to try to liberate them.
This past fall, I learned there are Italians looking after them, praying for their release. There is both a church and a cemetery dedicated to this effort year-round in Naples.
And in Monopoli we found Chiesa di Santa Maria del Suffragio detta del Purgatorio. Tucked on a narrow street adjacent to the bell tower at the back of the Cathedral, the church dates from the late 1600s. Symbols of death are carved into stone on the facade, and a pair of skeletons dominate the carvings on the door.
Locals refer to it as “the church of the dead who walk.” But, alas, we found the church closed. We squinted through cloudy, very smudged glass trying to see the reason why. Mummies. With imagination, we kind of could make out maybe four of them.
The bell tower at the back of the Monopoli Cathedral with the facade of Chiesa del Purgatorio on the right
There are a total of eight robed figures – skeletons really – poised erect in glass cases inside the church, founding members and administrators of the church who refuse to retire from their mission. And a young mummified girl somehow made the cut for permanent display as well. Know you are disappointed to have no shots of the mummies, but Atlas Obscura has taken care of that for you.