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 Segovia, Spain: Saintly mystery, a case of incorruptu disruptus?

San Juan de la Cruz (1542-1591) and Santa Teresa de Avila (1515-1582) figure prominently in churches in this portion of Spain. Disagreements with Moors and pagans represented only a portion of the conflicts facing Roman Catholics.

Juan and Theresa ran counter to many of the early Carmelites for their insistence upon deprivation among the order, promoting the discalced discipline, meaning a shoeless existence, in addition to religious contemplation in isolation. Those other Carmelites thought they deserved shoes, and a few more basic luxuries, in exchange for their devotion.

The complicated politics involving different orders of Catholics are so far beyond comprehension based on the simplistic teaching of Roman Catholicism to children in the United States. We always went barefoot whenever possible and often when impractical in Virginia Beach, but I’m fairly certain that had little to do with where we stood on the discalced argument within the church. And Father Habit certainly would not have let us attend Mass in a shoeless state; he definitely was a no-shoes, no-host kind of priest. Otherwise, Catholic surfers might have caught one last wave and tracked sand all the way up to the altar.

But one quickly senses in Europe, all Roman Catholics are not alike. Religion is more complicated than those Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s we repeated somewhat mechanically following weekly confessionals.

But enough uninformed diversion about those distinctions.

Segovia is filled with Romanesque churches existing in the shadows of the Cathedral.

But I might have to go back to the claim of the plaque at the head of this post. “Incorruptu.” That means San Juan’s body remained intact, miraculously even after burial. However, that proclamation ignores all the harvestings by those who wanted to retain some of his miraculous powers in close geographical proximity.

According to Catholic Online:

The morning after John’s death, huge numbers of the townspeople of Úbeda entered the monastery to view John’s body; in the crush, many were able to take home parts of his habit. He was initially buried at Úbeda, but, at the request of the monastery in Segovia, his body was secretly moved there in 1593.

The people of Úbeda, however, unhappy at this change, sent representatives to petition the pope to move the body back to its original resting place. Pope Clement VIII, impressed by the petition, issued a Brief on 15 October 1596 ordering the return of the body to Ubeda. Eventually, in a compromise, the superiors of the Discalced Carmelites decided that the monastery at Úbeda would receive one leg and one arm of the corpse from Segovia (the monastery at Úbeda had already kept one leg in 1593, and the other arm had been removed as the corpse passed through Madrid in 1593, to form a relic there). A hand and a leg remain visible in a reliquary at the Oratory of San Juan de la Cruz in Úbeda, a monastery built in 1627 though connected to the original Discalced monastery in the town founded in 1587.

The head and torso were retained by the monastery at Segovia. There, they were venerated until 1647, when on orders from Rome designed to prevent the veneration of remains without official approval, the remains were buried in the ground. In the 1930s they were disinterred, and now sit in a side chapel in a marble case above a special altar built in that decade.

Sounds like a major case of incorruptu disruptus.

 

Postcard from Spain: Storks bearing Mother’s Day wishes

Building a house made of sticks might not be wise for a pig warding off a big bad wolf, but these storks in Spain have the engineering down. We encountered an afternoon too windy for even creatures as large as we are to venture out, but not a single twig in their nests appeared out of place the following day.

White storks, with wings dramatically tipped with dark feathers, are partial to nesting atop Romanesque church towers. They seem to prefer man’s architectural accomplishments to nature’s own; nesting in town is fine.

If fertility is what they bring, they might need to go elsewhere. Most of the worshippers we see entering these churches are well beyond child-bearing years. Certainly, I feel safe exploring the altars beneath their perches.

But, while Spain’s birth rates might have been dipped downward for a few years, the storks appear to be correct. We are dodging baby carriages everywhere we walk.

Happy Mother’s Day (albeit this post is a week late for celebrations of the day in Spain).