Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Churches, saints and bones for All Saints and Souls

Above, a carving of Saint Michel slaying the dragon tops the baldaquin in the Basilica dedicated to the Archangel.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Book of Revelation, Chapter 12

This part-time boulevardier does not just spend her time “going cafe to cabaret,” as Joni Mitchell sang, she goes to church. Well, sort of. That part of Mass, communion and particularly confession are all avoided. But I do visit tons of churches, appreciative of their architecture, art, role in history and stories of saints and miracles.

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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 Malaga, Spain: All the saints and those Limbo babies, too

Gothic altar in the Chapel of Santa Barbara in the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de le Encarnacion in Malaga

Layers upon layers of of saints climb the numerous gilded altars found in the Malaga Cathedral. Saints carved in wood by Pedro de Mena (1628-1688) grace the choir stalls. Today is all of their days. November 1. All Saints Day, and, for Catholics, a Holy Day of Obligation.

When I was young, the thrill of a night of trick-or-treating with its late night sugar high always was followed the next day by attendance at Mass. Unlike many holidays, it was particularly hard to comprehend why almost none of my friends had to go to church on November 1.

My godmother, Aunt Gen (Genevieve Louise Brennan Savage, 1907-2004), tried her best to explain things, but the nuns really never talked to us much about saints. Like Santa Barbara, whose own father carried out her martyrdom for her belief in the Holy Trinity. Although he was struck by lightening and consumed by fire on his way home after the act.

But the major impact for me was November 2, All Souls’ Day. You might not know this, but there are all of these bazillions of poor souls stuck in Purgatory – not so evil that they were condemned to hell but instead hanging around in an uncomfortable state trying to slip through the gates to heaven. Our prayers were supposed to free some of them and send them soaring above the clouds.

Even more concerning for me was Limbo. Limbo was where the little babies throughout the world who died unbaptized were supposed to go. Through no fault of their own, they were sentenced to remain suspended, constantly fluttering their wings in some mysterious twilight zone.

Those little poor souls were the ones for whom I would join my hands, palms sweating in those uncomfortable white gloves, squeeze my eyes tightly together and plead. God took a while to process my prayers from almost 60 years ago. In 2007, the Catholic Church finally liberated them all, burying the whole Limbo concept.

Sorry for the detour. Back to Malaga and its Cathedral. After all it’s a Holy Day of Obligation.

The foundation for the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de le Encarnacion was laid in 1530 atop the Almohad Mosque. Taking more than a century to complete, the church is viewed as a chronicle of the transition of religious Gothic architecture into the Renaissance. The facades reflect extensive Baroque updating.

In addition to photos taken in the Cathedral, this post includes images from the Parroquia de los Santos Martires Ciriaco y Paula. The two were executed, with great difficulty requiring several attempts, for their Christian beliefs at the dawn of the 4th century. While their executioners set their remains ablaze, an unexpected torrential rain quenched the flames and faithful carted them off for more respectful last rites. It is believed the two somehow resurfaced to miraculously help expel the Moors about a millennium later, so they were proclaimed the patron saints of Malaga.

My prayers have lapsed, but I trust there are a multitude of people inclined to remember as many saints as possible today. Tomorrow, please pray doubly hard, just in case any little babies somehow remained stuck in Limbo.