Spain is largely a Catholic country. Being Catholic, I found some solace in the familiarity, and also thrown by the universal devoutness. I’m what you’d call a Dane Cook Catholic, in that I grew up Catholic, subscribe to 85% of the major beliefs, and attend mass on the Sundays I’m not racing (which, from March – November, is basically every Sunday).
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the beauty and ornateness of each church – even the “small” ones. The intricate carvings, the delicate and complicated designs in the altars – even the cathedrals I’ve been to in the states can’t hold a candle to these places. The Spanish take their religion seriously, and the churches are a gorgeous indication of that.
When I was leaving, my mom called me, and asked me to find a church and go inside, and say a prayer. On my first day there, I wandered around until I found one, and to my surprise, it happened to be a basilica.
I had wandered around the whole morning, and stumbled upon the Basílica de Nuestro Padre Jesús de Medinaceli, on the Plaza de Jesus. Upon entering, I did what any good Catholic would do, and knelt at a pew. After a good thirty minutes of heartfelt prayer, I lifted my head and looked around. This was a truly spectacular church.
When Simone (blog here!) took me to the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes in Toledo (entry here!), I was completely floored. This was, by far, the most extravagant, most amazing church of any kind I’d ever seen. The carvings, the paintings, the sculptures, oh my! I saw a whole new side to ancient Catholic monk living that I never would have imagined. It really did render me speechless. And though we weren’t able to go inside the cathedral, it’s probably for the better. I think I would have destroyed my phone in taking photos, but I suppose there’s always next time, hopefully with a D7000.
On my last day, I wandered extensively – I wanted to try and discover parts of Madrid that I had missed in the last five. Because this trip had a definitive purpose (to make peace with my decision), and as the patron saint of the Philippines is San Lorenzo (my very-soon-to-be-ex-husband is Filipino), I found it serendipitous that I stumbled (nearly literally) on Nuestra Parroquia de San Lorenzo. I found it from the side entrance, and wouldn’t have even known what it was if I hadn’t seen a mass schedule inside the open door. Though I’m not typically one for signs, I figured it was some sort of divine providence, and so I went inside. Again, I knelt and prayed for a considerable amount of time, especially for one’s last day in a city to which she might never get the opportunity to return, but this time I was joined by several other young people. I lit a candle, and then took a gander at my surroundings.
The Spanish certainly do know how to make a gorgeous house of worship. I was lucky enough to find these churches at times that they were open to the public, and while I only managed to visit three while I was there, I felt it was enough to convey how seriously Spaniards take their faith.