Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Sacred & the Sacred Profane

This past Feast of the Assumption-long weekend I found myself - possibly like many Spaniards - dangling from the horns of a very Spanish dilemma. Do I sing hosannas to the Virgin Mary or not do much of anything at all? Look skyward envisioning Our Lady ascending to the heavens or offer up a prayer of thanksgiving to the night sky that it's still bright out at 10:00? Sit quietly in church fumbling with my rosary or lie on the beach with a very cold tinto de verano in my hand? Decisions, decisions.

Spain being a secular country and the Virgin Mary purportedly being nice and all, I think she probably didn't condemn me for the fact that I eschewed the dreariness of church for the sparkling water of the pool ... although I'm pretty sure I did raise a glass to her. Always good to hedge your bets.

In truth, like myself,
Spaniards seem to have few problems distinguishing the sacred from the profane - at least when it comes to long weekends in August. Sociologist Émile Durkheim once postulated that what is deemed sacred in the world is not necessarily good and what is profane is equally not necessarily evil. Ergo, there are no hard and fast rules - and nowhere is this more evident than in Spain.

Permit me to illustrate:

I mentioned in my previous post that
Señor Gato Gringo and I recently visited Sanlúcar de Barrameda in order to consolidate our positions as World Class Sherry Aficionados. While waiting for the bodeda to open beetling about the town, we popped into the 16th century iglesia of San Francisco, built by Henry VIII as a hospital for English sailors. One can only imagine that funding for the church took a serious tumble after he banished his then-wife Catherine of Aragon from court but that's for another blog, a historical romance and possibly a mini series.

It was very pretty although the articulated statue of Christ on the Cross was a little over-the-top.

just outside the church, celebrating the glory of God and the ingenuity of humankind, is a resplendent pyramid of manzanilla barrels from the Bodegas Pedro Romero. This is the sacred and the sacred! How clever is that? So how is it that I've never seen beer kegs arranged o-so-prettily outside any church back home? Have the Spaniards figured out something that we in North America have yet to? (Yes).

Later that day, while waiting for the Mexican restaurant to open beetling about Spain's windy city Tarifa (yes, the t-shirts are right: Tarifa does blow) we popped into the iglesia San Mateo. And although I could have spent a little more time admiring the 16th century Gothic architecture of the church's interior, it was its 17th century Baroque facade set off to full advantage by the lottery ticket vendor at its entrance that caught my eye.

After all, it's never to early to buy my El Gordo lottery ticket - the draw, after all, is only 4 months away.

And although I appreciate the fact that bingo has long been a popular source of revenue for the Catholic Church deemed a morally acceptable alternative to gambling (why exactly I've yet to figure out), I've never noticed lottery ticket hawkers at church doors before. Perhaps I'm not terribly observant or perhaps the fact that San Mateo is the patron saint of bankers has something to do with it ...

Let me quickly add that a portion of my ticket will go to church renovations, so by financially assisting a historical church, my big fat el gordo win is a shoe in. (Of course, Tarifa's 20,000-some inhabitants probably feel much the same way). After all, nothing in Spain goes together better than religion, booze and gambling. And to that I say amen - or better yet, olé.


Bluestreak said...

speaking of mixing sacred and profane (or is it sacred and sacred?) you have to check out this Church/Bar in Seville if you are ever in town: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alvarocarnicero/11017678/

Bar Garlochi it´s called and it is freaky. I think they would probably serve you holy water if you really wanted some.

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