Seville Cathedral main altar
Photos by C. Petit
What to Do???
I had decided to take a few days to travel around northern Spain to visit a few favourite cities, and I was in a quandary. Time was running out and I needed to make some decisions quickly. Where was I going to head first??? Burgos or León.
I longed to be inside the beautiful León Cathedral again. Bright colorful stained-glass windows, 110 feet tall. The quiet beauty of this “small” cathedral was calling me. The Cloister to the cathedral was just around the corner, and the museum inside was filled with things I needed to see again.
In León, there was also the Basilica de San Isidoro. I paused here before going in to see the resting place of approximately twenty medieval monarchs, surrounded by gothic drawings.
The Cathedral in Burgos had many draws on my memory as well. Papamoscas, the clock that automatically rings the bell on the hour. The crucifix over the altar. . . The tomb of El Cid and his wife Jimena. The ornate ceilings. . .The Golden Staircase . . .
The city of Burgos was founded in 884 as a fortification against the Muslims. It was the birthplace of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, also known as El Cid.
There is a plaque [at the Casa del Cordon] that declares that this is the spot where the Catholic Monarchs, Isabela, and Ferdinand, welcomed Christopher Columbus on his return in 1497 from his second voyage to the Americas.
Other than deciding which city to see first, León or Burgos, I needed to start thinking about how much time to stay in these wonderful cities, to see the sights and still have time in Madrid to finish up there before I was to leave.
Not enough time!!! Not enough time!!!
At last, I was on my way to see Ávila, the highest city on the Iberian Peninsula. On the inside of the modern city is the old fifth century BC walled city of Ávila. The walls are over a mile long, and they average thirty-three feet tall. There are eighty-eight towers and nine fortified gates and I couldn’t wait to see inside. Avila is one of the few remaining towns where the walls are intact all the way around.
As we walked through the city, I found an unusual window overlooking a plaza. Under the window was written, “Donde una puerta se cierra, una ventana se abre,” which translates to: “Where a door closes, a window will open.”
Apparently, the wealthy family that lived there decided they wanted to be able to come and go from the city at any time, and not have to depend on the gates being open. So, they opened a door in the outside wall of their home, which was the wall of the city.
The governors made them seal the doorway closed, because of the potential threat to the city. They closed the door, and opened the window with the writing under it to let the world know they were upset with the orders.
As I walked around old Seville I could see the Giralda in the distance, the beautiful, tall bell tower of the Cathedral, teasing me, letting me know it was just out of reach. Close enough to be seen partially, but I still couldn’t see the whole of it. Later, I would be there later, after a tapas lunch and then I would enjoy seeing it fully.
I was anxious to be inside. It is the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and there are so many things to see inside. Paintings, statues, the monstrance, the side chapels, the huge pillars holding up the roof, and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
Toledo is a magical city. The first place I saw after crossing the Rio Guadalevin was the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes. Built in 1477 by the Catholic Monarchs for their burial place (they were not interred here, but in Granada in the Royal Chapel).
So much history in the Monastery alone. The exterior has the manacles and chains from the Spanish prisoners the Moors held in Granada. Isabel and Ferdinand paid the ransom to free the prisoners and had their manacles placed on the wall of the monastery. Perhaps to show Christianity was stronger than the Moors, or to remind the people how strong the Catholic Monarchs were . . .The freeing of the prisoners was the beginning of the end of the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain.
Capilla Real de Granada
The royal chapel is attached to the Cathedral. Between the altar and the Sarcophagi is an opening in the floor. . .and a stairway nearby leading to down into the crypt.
A walk down the steep steps . . .takes one to the actual resting place of Ferdinand and Isabela, Juana, and Philip and the child of Juana and Philip.
The coffins of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand are specially placed in the crypt as per the Monarchs’ instruction. They wanted to be able to see the altar from their burial place, so the hole in the ceiling was created, and the altar was raised so high, for it to be seen from the crypt.
Walking through the gate up to the entrance I wondered why this monastery was recommended as a must place to visit. The building and the courtyard were plain. . .
There was a sign out in front of the church, “No Pictures Allowed.”
When I opened the church doors, I was so shocked. I had never seen such ornate everything. Pillars, columns, walls, altar, everything was carved, and covered in gold. Stunning. Unbelievable the beauty inside this church. There were people taking flash pictures, and non-flash pictures, even though the sign had said no pictures. To this day, I wish I had taken just one picture.
Coming up: PART III