A Tale of Two Cities.
A Tale of Two Cities.
A Tale of Two Cities. Article by Malcolm Thompson BEd (Hons). ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. No, seriously folks, back to art. The simple fact is if you live in a Catholic country you would expect most of the very best art to be in the churches. Take the Vatican for example and the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo, (or was it Charlton Heston)? Catholic countries are full to the brim of this kind of work. Here in Spain we are lucky to have two world class and utterly exceptional works of Baroque and Renaissance church decoration. One of them is right on your doorstep the other is a little further away. So let’s begin with the nearest one in Orihuela. Contained in this sleepy backwater is the most jaw dropping place of worship you are ever likely to see; ‘The Colegio Santo Domingo’ on the Calle Adolfo Claravana. Once you’ve been to Tourist Info and located the place, take your courage in both hands and boldly walk in through the ornate main front door. Go straight ahead across the vestibule and through a pair of glazed wooden doors and you might find the custodian sitting at a simple wooden table and chair reading his morning newspaper. As you enter he looks up and in your very best Spanish you ask him if it is possible to look at the church por favour? There will be a jangling of keys and a flick of the head that indicates you must follow him. You all walk along the cloister and on your left he opens a pair of giant iron studded oak doors and signals you to follow him. Inside you are confronted with walls and ceilings crusted and covered in gold and paint. Even if you’ve been in lots of Catholic churches in the past you won’t have seen anything quite like this before in Spain or maybe ever. Look up; there is a lot to take in, this is very far from your average Baroque church. It was built in the 17thC as part of Orihuela University. But I’m going to let the nice Tourist Info people give you all the bumf you need. (Ask about the ‘Cultural Walkway’ while you’re in there). If you decide to go my advice is park at the Centro Comercial Ociopia, a short distance from the N-340 and well signposted. Walk into town. It’s not too far. Church number two is Toledo Cathedral. Last month my wife and I went to the Museo Del Prado in Madrid to see the ‘Turner’ exhibition. We stayed in Toledo for a few days on the way home. The whole town of Toledo is a monument and we certainly had our fill of El Greco but the Cathedral is definitely something special. The main chapel houses the most sumptuous work of the Spanish Renaissance; a huge carved and painted screen called ‘El Transparente’. This densely decorated screen is ornate beyond ornate and crammed with saints, coloured and gilded and rising all the way to the roof. If you ever wondered what happened to all the Spanish gold from South America I might be able to give you a clue. It went to the Catholic Church. This kind of highly decorated work is impossible to take in at one glance; one can only form an impression of the overall effect. Lit from above with saints and angels looking down, ones sense of drama is heightened. Moving on, the rest of the church equals any other in Europe including Notre Dame du Paris. The audio guide was very good and in English. Having said all of that, the thing I like best about churches is that there is no shortage of seating. Phew! (Pun intended).