Postcard from Valladolid, Spain: Iglesias and a maligned queen

Above, Iglesia de San Pablo

Valladolid was flourishing in the 15th century when Isabella I, Queen of Castile, married King Ferdinand of Aragon in the city – an elopement with private ceremonies, as they were second cousins. With the city a favored spot for the Catholic royal family members to hold court, Pope Clement VIII elevated it to a bishopric, the center of an archdiocese.

Bolstered by this recognition, city fathers launched efforts to build a suitable cathedral, the largest in Europe. Architect Juan de Herrera (1530-1597) was commissioned for the design of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion. Despite Herrera’s death, completion appeared possible with the official establishment of Valladolid as the capital of Spain by King Philip III (1578-1621) in 1601.

The rosy future dissipated as a royal advisor standing to personally benefit through his real estate holdings persuaded Philip of the need to move the capital back to Madrid in 1606. The cathedral budget was slashed – about 60 percent.

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Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Cathedral home to royal weddings and horsefeed

Above, Cathedrale-Primatiale Saint-Andre de Bordeaux

It seems as though almost a dozen streets lead directly to the grand plaza surrounding Saint Andre Cathedral, and all are rewarded with stunning views of its portals, the spires topping its bell towers or the adjacent Pey-Berland Tower. Now well disguised by later French Gothic transformations, the original Romanesque church dates to around the year 1000.

This church was the site of the wedding of 13-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) and the man who not long after their nuptials became king of France, King Louis VII (1120-1180) – making her queen. That marriage wasn’t a happy-ever-after story, and its failure led her to wed a much younger man, Henry of Anjou (1152-1189), who also would make her a queen, but of England. Will not distract you from the cathedral with the fascinating history of how her marriage to Henry II made the Aquitaine region of France part of England for three centuries.

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Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Home of the first cathedral finished in the Americas

santiago church merida yucatan mexico

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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