Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Discovering a church’s “changing tower”

Holy banner of the Virgin Mary paying a call on Santuario de la Victoria

Judging from the silvered coach transporting the banner of the Virgin Mary on a traffic-snarling journey through the streets of Malaga to visit some of city’s other prominent figures of Mary – of which there are many, all elegantly attired and crowned – the banner must be highly regarded by the supporting brotherhood. A team of well-groomed oxen pulled her ahead of a fleet of flatbed tented trailers bearing a host of traditionally costumed followers, refueling themselves periodically from kegs of beer or wine.

We caught up with the procession after its visit to Santuario de la Victoria. The basilica dedicated to Saint Mary of Victory stands on the site of the encampment of King Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452-1516) when he laid siege to recapture Malaga from the Moors in 1487. The original church built soon after was replaced by a grander edifice completed in 1700.

What makes this church one of my favorites in Spain is the most spectacular chamber we almost missed. Up high behind the altar, accessed by a stairway tucked away behind doors off to the side of the altar, is what is referred to as a camarin torre, a changing tower. I am still unsure what that means, but inside a beautifully carved Virgin and Child are held aloft under a most ornate snowy white and gold dome.

The basilica might have risen to be my favorite anywhere if we had been allowed into the crypt down below. Inside are the sculptured tombs of the Counts of Buenavista, accompanied by a host of carved skeletons. Alas, the crypt was closed for restoration, perhaps completed by now.

Including a few final remaining shots of other Malaga churches and Marias in this post as well.

Postcard from Cordoba, Spain: The ‘popular religiousity’ of Santa Maria

“Popular Religiousity” is the heading applied to the figures of Jesus and Mary venerated in Cordoba in the brochure for Ruta de las Iglesias Fernandinas. The route includes a series of temples founded by Ferdinand III (1199-1252), King of Castile, following his conquest of Cordoba in 1236.

While figures of Jesus seem to play a larger role than they did in the churches of Seville, Mary is always a show-stopper with her regal brocaded gowns and impressive glittering crowns. Most of the statues of Mary have devoted brotherhoods or cofradias to see that their Marias are always elegantly attired and prepared to be borne aloft in parades, primarily during Semana Santa.

The ticket to La Mezquita Catedral provides you with access during the opening hours of these churches.

Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: Lush park ringed with handsome leftovers from 1929 world’s fair

Infanta Maria Luisa Fernanda (1832-1897) was the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand VII (1784-1833) and his fourth wife. Following the death of her father, her older sister, herself but an infant, assumed the throne. The right of Queen Isabella II (1830-1904) to the throne was oft-disputed by other would-be kings.

The sisters suffered the same fate as many a royal princess – marriages arranged for political purpose. King Louis Philippe (1773-1850) of France managed to arrange a double wedding for the sisters, with 16-year-old Isabella marrying the Duke of Cadiz who was presumed to be homosexual and unlikely to conceive heirs and 14-year-old Maria Luisa wedding one of his sons who the king believed would provide heirs who would eventually inherit the Spanish throne.

Things did not turn out as King Louis Philippe schemed, but this post is not going to delve into paternity debates because the topic at hand is the result of the will of Maria Luisa, the Duchess of Montpensier. Upon her death, Seville’s Palace of San Telmo was left to the Archdiocese (Today it is the seat of the government of Andalusia). She left the extensive grounds of the palace to the city of Seville for use as a public park. The park was landscaped lushly and filled with fountains and benches.

Eager to celebrate its glory days of exploration and rich cultural heritage, Spain and the city of Seville spent 19 years planning a world’s fair, the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929-1930, utilizing portions of the immense park. Certainly the dominant structure built for the fair is Plaza de Espana, echoing the region’s Renaissance-Mudejar architectural traditions. The plaza fronting the structure is more than 12 acres in size. Forty-eight tiled alcoves around it represent the provinces of Spain.

The United States built three pavilions for the fair; llamas grazed outside the Peruvian pavilion filled with pre-Columbian artifacts; Brazil’s pavilion including coffee cultivation; Chile’s centered around replicas of a nitrate mine and copper plant. A replica of Christopher Columbus’ “Santa Maria” was docked on the Guadalquivir River. Things were looking bright for visitation at the fair until an unpredicted event out of the organizers’ control occurred – Black Tuesday. The stock market crash of 1929.

Some of the handsome leftover international pavilions now accommodate museums, including the Museum of Archaeology and the Museum of Art and Popular Costume. Plaza de Espana houses government offices but appears underutilized. Found myself wishing it would be rehabilitated into apartments so the plaza would be filled with locals enjoying the space instead of mainly tourists snapping selfies on the colorful azulejos benches. The gorgeous park and buildings seem removed from the fabric of daily life in Seville.