Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Spain in Early December - I - Montserrat II

In the last post we covered Montserrat (literally, 'serrated mountain') and the Church's exterior.  We now step inside.  For some reason they recommend visiting the Church in an anti-clockwise direction.  Therefore we enter from the right.

The painting depicts Simeon receiving Jesus on the day of Jesus' consecreation ceremony.  This ceremony originates in Judaism wherein the first-born male must be redeemed back from God by payment to a priest.  The Holy Ghost had promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen Jesus.

Jesus' Consecration Ceremony: Now that Simeon has seen Jesus he utters "Nunc Dimittis Servum Tuum in Pace", or in English, "Now let your servant depart in peace" (in reality he is far more likely to have spoken liturgical Hebrew but let us put reality aside ...).

This statue depicts some Pope.  That it is a pope is easily recognized by the 'two key' insignia.  In Roman Catholic Church the Pope is believed to have keys to two separate kingdoms, of Heaven and of Earth.  Just a conjecture - one would probably not see keys in Churches belonging to other sects wherein the Pope is not recognized as 'God's representative on Earth'.  An alternative give away that the statue depicts the Pope is if you understand Latin and know that Peter is recognized as the first Pope in Roman Catholic Church (read the writing on the pedestal).

Peter the 1st Pope: "Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam" - "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church"

No Comments: If you know about this relief then let me know.  It would be nice to put a caption here.

Arch of Angels: This staircase leads to another chamber, which leads you to yet another until you eventually reach the Black Madonna.  The angels are easily recognized as they are depicted with wings in supplicating poses or encircling an important figure. 

The stained-glass window in one of the sequential chambers leading to the Black Madonna was beautiful, and interesting.  It perhaps symbolizes the apparent opposites of darkness and light arising out of the same underlying unity, i.e.,the window.  I find this odd in a Church or any Semitic place of worship as in Semitic ideologies the forces of darkness are not part of a universal balance but arise out of conscious choice of some (wo)men to disobey God's command. In any case, this window is particularly stunning as it stands out rather well in a chamber which is otherwise devoid of art.

Ying Yang: A Glass-stained window with only one half of the window with a lit-up background.

The mosaic depicts Mother Mary.  The eagle represents many things in Christian iconography.  It is interesting that the eagle is up side down.  This perhaps is symbolic of the idea that it is sent down from heaven with the word of God imprinted on its wings.  Or perhaps it represents a ravenous bird that is sent down by God to destroy and sweep clean what is decadent.  At present, I can only speculate ... 

"Mater Ecclesiae" - or in English, "Mother of Church", is name given to Mary.

I reached the statue of Black Madonna. I had no idea what Black Madonna was when I saw it first.  Therefore I did not take a frontal.  I have not found a convincing reason so far as to why Madonna is depicted black - see here for some theories.  With Black Madonna just about a foot behind me, I tucked down as much as I could in order to avoid the line-of-sight of worshippers (not all in a Church are tourists or students of religious iconography!).  Here is what I clicked.  The stained-glass art depicts Coronation of Mary - a depiction that originated in Italy in (probably) the early Renaissance period.  On the left of Mary is God the Son, on the right, God the Father and the dove, right on the top of her head symbolizes the Holy Spirit.  You know that the art form is representative of latter styles as during the early Renaissance the coronation would typically have earthly subjects and court members instead.  These have been entirely replaced by angels here.  The style of the Church ceiling is very different from what you see in Milan, Florence or Rome.

"Mater Ecclesiae" - or in English, "Mother of Church", is name given to Mary.

What you see below I find rather strange - a congregation area behind the (main) altar. If you sit in this mini congregation area you would face the back of Black Madonna and perhaps infinitely worse, the face of worshippers in the main congregation area.  A wall separating the two areas would probably redeem what may, in some Christian thought, be considered blasphemy (worshippers facing each other).
Congregation are behind the Altar: I was not expecting a congregation area behind the main altar.  Probably because I have not seen enough churches?
The stained glass themes are centered around Mary while the statue appears to be that of a crusader.

Mini congregation area facing the back of Black Madonna: Worshippers that would take seats in the last picture would see this.
You can see Black Madonna draped in golden cloth, facing her back to you.  At the mini altar you have another depiction of Coronation of Madonna. 

Below you see a close-up of the right end of the wall in the picture above.  You never see this sort of architecture in Italian churches.  Probably it is influenced by Islam?

Distorted Circles: The Italians drew inspiration about geometric patterns from the Greeks.  The Greeks liked their circles round and their lines straight.  Archimedes reportedly told soldiers of the invading army 'Don't spoil my circles.'.  I conjecture therefore this part of the church architecture is influenced by Muslims from North African Moors that ruled much of what is today Portugal and Spain for 750 years prior to reconquista.

Another depiction of Coronation of Mary - note here you see a combination of both early Renaissance depiction with its Earthly imageries (musicians, court attendees and worshippers and angels.  I am not sure I understand the iconography of smoke emerging from the bottom.

Ceiling Painting: This painting adorns the ceiling of the mini congregation area.  It (yet again) depicts the Coronation of Mary.  The painting is in need of restoration.  I had to enhance the original image to bring out features that were not even visible to the eye.

We started the Church with Jesus' Consecration Ceremony.  We have now gone past the half way mark and are now turning back.  I do not know what this statue depicts.  If you do then please drop me a note.

A Church is a place to light candles.  They do this a lot more in Spain and I conjecture, Portugal (never been to/read about Portuguese churches).  My conjecture is based on similar practises ref candle burning I have seen in churches in India.  Religions expand and ebb with geopolitical or geoeconomic power.  Spaniards never colonized India.  The Portuguese did (mainly Goa).  

Light a candle.  It brings peace.  At least that is the idea.

You can see Black Madonna with Black Jesus in the mosaic.  A few comments are in order: Black Madonna is depicted brown instead.  This is quite common in Mexico.  Towards the bottom is the name of the church.  In the right hand Madonna is holding a sphere (not the Greek kind!) which symbolizes the universe.  Jesus is pointing his right index finger upwards and his left palm to himself.  Together these show that Jesus claims he is the redeemer who will lead his followers to heaven.  Towards the bottom, just above where it says 'Montserrat', you can see Montserrat, i.e., the serrated mountain, painted.  The church is built on Montserrat.

Black Madonna, Black Jesus (actually depicted brown)

This picture was pretty much the last before I exited back into the church's courtyard.  It was late evening and you can see the bluish tinge.  This is partly a result of might dispersion in the mist and partly a result of a blue-saturated exposure. 

Montserrat Church with Montserrat in the background.  Where is the dome?  Or is the exterior architecture also influenced by the Muslims - the Moors from North Africa?

That is pretty much it.  We will head back to Barcelona in the next post.  More churches and yes, Gaudi awaits you!

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