Sunday, January 15, 2012

Scenes from Toledo, Spain Part VII

Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes

This church and attached monastery were constructed under the auspices of Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in the 15th century, as a future burial place.  As it turned out, they opted to be buried in Granada after the later conquest of that city.  But the Church remains in Toledo, and it is a stunning one!  The courtyard area (cloister?) of the monastery contains a beautiful garden that I remember well from our 2002 visit, but I did not remember the horrid STENCH of cat urine in 2002 that overwhelmed the place in 2012.  PEEEEEEUUUUUUUUWWWWWW!  It absolutely reeked, stank, smelled to High Heaven, and was enough to make a grown man retch.  YECH!  My guess (and it's only a guess) is that due to budget cuts under the "austerity program" imposed on the Spanish government by international lenders, the cats are still roaming about freely (as in the Parque Rentiro in Madrid, where you can't even approach parts of the park because of the stench of cat urine and spray) but the areas the cats frequent are no longer being hosed down on a regular basis.  Too damn bad!  The overwhelming, gag-me stench, was enough to totally put me off this beautiful church.  I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there!

Walking toward the entrance to the Church.

An orange tree in the cloister.  Even I know oranges don't grow in Spain in January; upon closer inspection, it could be seen that the oranges were sere and wrinkled; they'd never been picked when in season!  Still, they made a lovely sight.

Another view of the cloister garden; notice the arch on the second level.  Our guide said it is called a "Seville" arch and is known only in Spain.  You can see the obvious blending of Moorish, Gothic and Spanish elements in the architecture of this church.

One of the few interior shots I was able to get because of how the sun was angled.  The decorative stonework inside the church is simply amazing.  One could spend hours studying its intricacies!  I do not know if the pews are original; they were certainly uncomfortable!

Blurred, booooo!

Swinging around in an arc to get a photo of the altar-piece.   This is oil painted on wood.

A final unfortunately blurred shot toward the highest part of the interior.

Chains!  The outside of the Monasterio/Church.  According to legend, these chains once held prisoners held by the Muslim overlords of the city.  When the city was reconquered by the Christians in c. 1080 CE, evidently they saved the chains (why???).  The chains were added to this church by the Christian monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella some 400 years later - according to our guide, as a reminder to the local people that God had set them free from religious enslavement to the Muslims.  I had been expecting a story about Muslim captives being hung up by the chains to die and then slowly rot away. Was our guide white-washing the history of Toledo for public consumption?  Why would these chains of degradation of the Christians have been saved between c. 1080 and the early 1500's when this complex was built, to be put up on the outside of a church centuries later?  Hmmmm, is there a fishy tale in this somewhere???

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