Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Our Lifestyle Adventures: Visiting 11 Churches in Italy and Spain

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Visiting 11 Churches in Italy and Spain

the largest altarpiece in the world, at the Seville Cathedral
We arrived in Rome on Friday, March 20 after a night’s stopover in Dubai. We met Bill’s daughter Suzanne and her family at an Avis branch, and we all drove to Sorrento for a beautiful night on the coast. After a day in Pompeii, we reached Soriano Nel Cimino, our time-share home in Italy, late at night. Early the next morning, we heard a Latin mass at a little church in town, the first of a total of eight churches we visited in Italy. When we got to Spain, during Holy Week, we visited three more for a total of eleven churches in our 2015 Visita Iglesia.

Sorrento Cathedral
Cathedral Margherite
The (2) Sorrento Cathedral was unique especially with its prayer rooms and little chapels below. At the  city of Civita, dying due to steady erosion, a (3) little church still serves the sixteen residents. We also made a special trip to the nearby town of Montefiascone. There the second largest dome after St, Peter’s Basilica covers the entire octagonally shaped (4) Cathedral Margherite.  At the nearby city of Viterbo, we all trooped to the Palazzo dei Papi. It is situated alongside the Duomo di Viterbo. It remained the papal seat for twenty-four years, from 1257 to 1281. The most famous hall of the palace, the Sala del Conclave was so called because it was home to the first, and longest, conclave held to elect a pope. Three popes are buried in the (5) Duomo.

Duomo di Viterbo
Il Duomo del Firenze
Then, of course, we had to see the (6) Il Duomo in Firenze (Florence), Italy. It was a stunning cathedral with the largest brick dome in the world, visible from anywhere in the city. The Duomo is resplendent with polychrome marble in pink white and blue. Just a few blocks from it was the (7) Cathedral Santa Croce which I admired even more. At this cathedral, great Italian men such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Marconi, Machiavelli, and Dante Alighieri rest in peace under tombs that were so artistically crafted to honor lives that contributed much to civilization.

Cathedral Santa Croce
Santa Maria Maggiore
But the (8) Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome was even more magnificent.  A total of six popes is buried there, with Sixtus V’s body raised above ground for everyone to see. The church was also adorned with the altar and all around with the best preserved fifth-century mosaics in the world. It was too bad, but we ran out of time to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world. Bill and I had been there before when we still did not know each other.

We arrived in Benal Beach, Spain near Malaga where our time-share condo was located on Saturday, March 28. On Palm Sunday, we were supposed to hear Mass at the little church in the resort town of Costa del Sol.  We woke up very late, however, still recovering from a whirlwind tour of Italy. We began our Visita Iglesia in Spain by going up to the white mountain city of Mijas to see the (9) Rock Chapel. It is perched atop a hill and gives a panoramic view of all the white homes in town and the high-rise condos and hotels of a piece of Costa del Sol below.

the Mijas Rock Chapel
the Malaga Cathedral
Then we went to the (10) Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación, a Renaissance church in Malaga, Spain, constructed between 1528 and 1782. That is where all sixty-one Semana Santa processions, seven or eight of them per day from Domingo de Ramos to Domingo de Resurreccion, congregated. Some began as early as 4 pm and some ended as late as 5 am, each one dedicated to something special, like the sick on Lunes Santo. It was a sight to see, both the Cathedral and the throngs of people. The streets were all lined with chairs set up for all the town dignitaries while throngs stood all along the street routes.

the Seville Cathedral
Last, but certainly not the least, we had a tour of the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, better known as Seville Cathedral. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world, behind the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida and St Peter's Basilica. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is also the burial site of Christopher Columbus. It features the largest altarpiece in the world, entirely painted in gold leaf. It tells the story of Jesus with the pictures above slightly bigger than the pictures below to give equal views. Our excellent tour guide told us three interesting stories about the cathedral, and you just have to go there to learn about them!

Eleven churches, big and small, simple and ornate, locally and globally significant, this was our 2015 Visita Iglesia! My phone app told me the story: days of 16,000-32,000 steps per day. My feet took me to eleven places where art and religion mixed in harmony with my heart and soul.

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