Ourense: Rest Day

It’s funny how even our most simplistic plans of sleeping in were spoiled by the internal clock. In fact, we had to purposefully go back to sleep twice and finally resorted to putting on the television to pass time before a nearby laundromat opened at 9 am.

So as not to air the proverbial dirty laundry, we shall abstain from posting pictures of said chores. Rather, this was one of the wonderful coffees we enjoyed at a café some doors down from the laundromat. (If you’re wondering, Mikey has no qualms leaving his hiking clothes unattended. Let’s face it, would someone really steal those mud-stained socks?!)

OK, this was a real laugh which we noticed between washing and drying cycles. It’s basically an automated betting machine. While it did have options concerning upcoming NBA games, this particular screen allowed the gambler to bet on men’s tennis in Turkey, Hungary, and the Czech Republic alongside 2nd Division Vietnamese soccer matches. Although Mikey does spit out some pretty random knowledge from time to time, he decided not to place any bets other than whether 19 minutes on a medium-high cycle would properly dry his synthetic clothes. (It did.)

Even if unattended laundry and automated sports betting machines aren’t concerning enough, check out the “Mary Poppins Daycare.” Copyright infringements aside, would you really want to send your children to Mary Poppins? Like, childhood diabetes is on the rise and there were lots of other really dark parts in that script. (Oh, and Mikey thinks that Julie Andrews is pretty neurotic at any rate.) So, no gracias, Escuela Infantile de Mary Poppins.

So where were we? Oh, yes – didn’t we promise you a tour of the Cathedral of St. Martin yesterday? Well, by now you know how paparazzi-like our pilgrim Mikey gets, so hang on as we walk you through this 12th-century Galician jewel.

As we entered the cathedral via the southern transept (in a Lateran layout, that’s the right arm of the🎚), we saw an amazing view of the ornamented top of the altar’s gate with the central dome above.

You already know how much Mikey likes his geometric designs. This late Romanesque to early Gothic design was quite impressive. (Yes, it also features some Baroque embellishments for you architecture nerds out there.) But, check out this shot:

Mikey also loves sneaking up behind the altar to capture the view mostly reserved for just one participant in the mass – the celebrant. Since there were few other visitors at the time, he tried to shoot from a low perspective to convey that which a priest must feel approaching the “business end” of the altar.

A common problem we face in photographing spaces like this cathedral is trying to capture the sheer immensity of the subject matter. Now, we’re not even talking lighting woes or the inability to use a flash in a dimly lit space. Rather, what should the frame and focus be in order to convey that which we are so fortunate to see firsthand?

Likewise, in observing the altar, one is stricken by its immensity and sheer glory. Biblical tableaux convey the Church’s gilded message to a largely illiterate mass of believers.

Similarly, the holy throne-like appearance of the golden pulpit must have swayed even the most noncommittal congregant. Like a light from heaven anointing the speaker, this would have played well in the Late Middle Ages.

Yes, the main altar was clearly equipped with symbolism, but so was the rest of the cathedral. For instance, one would assuredly recognize the saint “Santiago Matamoros” high above the doors when leaving mass. Given Ourense’s proximity to Santiago de Compostela, this allusion is expected. Still, few non-Spaniards are familiar with this particular interpretation of Saint James.

Santiago Matamoros (or Saint James the Moor-Slayer) was a 10th-century invention of a Catholic Church mired in the ongoing and financially draining crusades both at home and abroad. As per church lore, during the 9th-century Christian vs Muslim Battle of Clavijo, Saint James appeared on the field and proceeded to slay all enemies of Christendom. The battle, along with the appearance of a saint who had been martyred some 800 years prior, is now considered purely apocryphal, but the personification (and renaissance action figure) has remained.

Yeah, the almost lackadaisical (and perhaps – in this instance – slightly cross-eyed) Saint James the pilgrim is a much more relatable image for our happy go lucky Pilgrim Mikey.

All jokes aside concerning the above art, this Baroque chapel dedicated to the Holy Christ was insanely ornate and completely beautiful. Well over the top when juxtaposed with other parts of the simple and functional Romanesque cathedral, the layers of gilded adornment were intoxicating.

Oh, and this was the back altar which was added for good measure. Just look at the carved angels who support the top of the altar.

But, there is one rather freaky part. This 13th-century crucifix was intended to appear more lifelike with the inclusion of real human hair, skin, and fingernails. Yeah – some medieval Hannibal Lector went a bit off and nobody’s said anything about it for about 800 years?! Mr. Van Gogh, you are now totally exonerated.

On the side of normalcy, these are the original choir stalls from the main altar. Yes, just like Mikey, the Catholic Church is a hoarder and can always find a way to repurpose things during stylistic renovations.

Oh, here’s a fun one. This is a beautifully carved altar depicting the Assumption of Mary. Although the first prayers to Mary date back to about 250 CE and the idea of her perpetual virginity and absence of sin would be hashed out over the coming centuries, the Church’s declaration that the Virgin’s body and soul had been assumed into heaven was a 20th-century dogmatic revelation made official in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. Well, this altar dates to the 13th-century, so Spanish artists weren’t waiting around for the bureaucracy to act.

By juxtaposition, we also offer this crucifix from a similar period. Much more eastern in design, it interestingly incorporates a 4 nail crucifixion theory in which the feet are separately affixed to the cross. Also of note is the long hair falling over the front of the shoulders and the seemingly Coptic – or at least eastern – proportions of Christ’s body.

Oh, how could we forget the Puerta de la Gloria (Door of Glory)?! This 12th-century set of carvings was inspired by the similarly named entrance to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Rich in color and craftsmanship, its almost cartoonish appearance is quite offsetting. The above is comprised of the heavenly hosts who play instruments during the nonstop worship of God in Heaven. Most are from the 12th-century, but updates concerning music making have been addressed as needed repairs were carried out.

These figures are so lifelike that it is hard to imagine their creation some 700 years ago.

Of particular note was this armed pilgrim version of Santiago. Almost a hybrid of the cockle-shelled wanderer and Christian warrior, this 13th-century sculpture is unique in its early embrace of the conquering saint.

Mikey got really excited about seeing this peregrina. With the number of male pilgrims vastly outweighing their female counterparts even today, it was refreshing to see this 18th-century female representation. (By the way, the statue on the right is just of Saint James.)

Also pretty rad was seeing the first book printed in Galicia. Yes, it was a religious missal, but it was printed in 1494! (If you’re keeping track at home, that’s a little over 500 years ago.)

Well, we still had to check on some train and bus tickets for post-Camino plans. Ergo, we walked across the Roman Bridge to the new part of town.

Yes, it’s called the Roman Bridge because it was just that. However, it was destroyed and rebuilt enough times that no one really remembers how old it is. As best as can be determined, the current rendition dates back to the 18th-century … or so.

On view from the Roman Bridge is the Millennium Bridge. Unlike its neighbor, we can be sure that it was built in 2001 CE and is pretty rad in its design.

OK – pretty rad for Mikey is a full plate of pulpo. Since we had to cross those bridges and go to the newer part of town to check on post-Camino bus tickets, we decided to make an afternoon of it and try one of the top-rated pulpo joints in Ourense. Surprisingly close to the train station, Pulpería Asador A Feira did not disappoint. Let’s just say that Mikey has (at times) eaten octopus 3+ times in a single day. He has lived along Spain’s northern coast. He’s also bit mad. Still, this was among the best of the best pulpo he has ever tried. Complete kudos here.

As per the rest of the evening, there were certainly some late nights haunts and other adventures, but this dinner was a highlight and we choose to leave you with its good taste in your mouth, dear reader. Cuídate y hablamos muy pronto.

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