Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Failed again to spy the Holy Grail

Two years ago, we missed the clues secreted in the cup of the 12th angel over the 12th gate in the Cathedral in Cuenca.

But wait. Maybe Cuenca is not where the chalice was at Jesus’ place during his Last Supper was hidden away by the Knights Templar. Some claim it to be sitting right there in plain view in a chapel in Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Valencia where all can visit it.

An entrance fee replaced the mystery surrounding the Holy Grail hidden in Cuenca. We paid, but once again were as deprived in our quest as the knights of King Arthur. The chapel was closed temporarily.

Consecrated in 1238, the cathedral was built upon the remains of a Visigoth church that had been turned into a mosque. Although primarily Gothic in design, lengthy construction and additions led to portions spanning styles from Romanesque to Neoclassical.

While much of the interior is somewhat plain, the church does include two paintings by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), including the pictured one of an exorcism in progress.

Oh, and then there is an arm. The arm purportedly was attached at one time to Saint Vincent, Martyr, the patron saint of Valencia. Imprisoned in Valencia, the archdeacon of Saragossa faced his test of faith in 304. After stretching him on a rack, Vincent’s tormenters were frustrated by his calm and even joyful countenance despite the pain they inflicted. His flesh was torn by hooks, and he was tied to a red-hot iron grate. As if that was not enough, they rubbed salt in his wounds before he succumbed to the multitude of his injuries. His mangled body was thrown in the sea but washed ashore where his relics were guarded by a raven until retrieved by the faithful.

Two-hundred and seven stairs ascend the interior of the tower of the cathedral. Two family members elected to climb, while one volunteered to stay at the base in case they needed her for scale in photos.

So, maybe are destined to never find a trail to the Holy Grail. That is, unless we travel to Leon in northern Spain and pay the entrance fee to the museum in the Basilica of San Isidoro, where another “real” grail is housed.

Postcard from Cuenca, Spain: Nature distracts from the abstract

The historic center of Cuenca seems an unlikely hub for viewing contemporary art. Barely making more sense than the remote outpost of Marfa, Texas.

But it’s here.

The Fundacion Antonio Perez is an incredibly entertaining jumble of contemporary art packed into a rambling maze of rooms in the former Convent of San Clemente.

Perched on a cliff in the “hanging houses” of Cuenca, the collection of Museo de Arte Abstracto Espanol is presented in unexpectedly sleek, contemporary rooms.

Both collections are worth visiting, but the art has so much competition from the spectacular views offered from their windows and patios.

The art scarcely stands a chance. The setting triumphs.

Postcard from Cuenca, Spain: On the trail of the Holy Grail?

This place probably was pretty crowded in 2012 when some anticipated a cataclysmic end to most of us.

The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Gracia in Cuenca is entangled in the mystery of the secret location of the Holy Grail. Some believe the 12 gates lorded over by 12 angels represent an architectural code indicating the grail can be found within the cathedral, making it the safest place in the world to be when the doom prophesied by Nostradamus strikes.

The architecture – Gothic-Anglo Norman – of the cathedral reflects the marital union of the royalty commissioning it in 1196. Twenty years after gaining Cuenca back from the Moors, King Alfonso VIII (1158-1214) and Eleanor (1177-1214), the daughter of Henry II of England, had the monumental cathedral underway.

Ignorant during our visit, we failed to look for the 12th angel holding a cupful of clues or any symbols left by Knights Templar to mark a trail to the grail.

But we did find treasures, amazing grilles.

The grillwork fronting the chapels is exquisite, but extremely difficult to photograph without flash. It’s wonderful it will be spared destruction when doomsday arrives.