Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Sloth that I am, it’s been weeks since my last posting. However, I do have the excuse of having spent part of that time in Spain, attending a conference of belenistas, that is, Nativity Scene builders and figure makers, in Guadalajara.
During that time, we visited the cathedral, which is not in Guadalajara but in the smaller, older city of Sigüenza, about 60 km distant. And that brings us to today’s topic: Cathedrals, or Catedrales.
This is actually the title of a book that I heard about on Spanish radio and had to get as soon as I arrived in Spain. It’s by an artist/architect named Miguel Sobrino, and is an entertaining and personal but informative and knowledgeable ramble through some 23 cathedrals scattered across the “piel de toro,” aka Spain. It’s a great, big fat book with illustrations, many of them the author’s drawings, and is so hefty I was afraid my luggage was going to go into the overweight category. But I carried it on and read it happily for the 9 hour flight back to the US. It’s only in Spanish, unfortunately, but readers of Spanish will certainly enjoy it. I’ve only gotten as far as Gerona…in alphabetical order.
But back to Sigüenza and its Cathedral. Since we were a large group with a particular interest in religious art and architecture, we got the special tour with one of the canons of the Cathedral. He gave a truly excellent tour that was probably the most thorough tour of any place that I have ever had. But I emerged with a much better understanding of the theory of the cathedral building.
Sigüenza’s cathedral was started in the 12th century, right after the area was reconquered from the Muslims, and much of it is Gothic, although, like any old building, it has layers of later additions, strange gaps where things were removed, odd remodelings, and so forth. And it has lived hard: if you look at the stone around the windows in the tower in this photo, you will see the pitting left by bullets during the Spanish Civil War, when one side holed up in the Cathedral and fired, while the other side fired back from a location higher up on the hillside. A considerable amount of damage was done to the building at that time, but it has healed up in the intervening 70+ years.