So much beauty out there

May 4, 2009

Barcelona (4)

Filed under: All,Dear Diary,Travel — Josh @ 6:02 pm
Admittedly there was restoration going on, so I didnt get to see that much of the front.

Admittedly there was restoration going on, so I didn't get to see that much of the front.

Last day in Barcelona, and off to places that were shut yesterday. First is the Catedral, which it was a bit of a surprise to see closed yesterday given the not wholly harmonious history between the Spanish church and organised labour. To be honest, while it is much less eye-catching than the Sagrada Familia,  the regular cathedral is more to my taste. Solemn and contemplative. It even gives the impression of being primarily for worshippers, rather than tourists which is not what I picked up on in the churches in Venice and Toulouse.

Inside, the building is lined with chapels to various saints. Most are unremarkable, but the one for St Sebastian (and some other saint who was martyred in less memorable fashion) is magnificent, and the one for St Mark at least makes up for in ostentatiousness what it lacks in taste.

Each chapel is fronted by “candles” which can be lighted by an offering (financial, I suspect they’d frown on you trying to sacrfice an ox or something). I use quotations because the candles are electric and grotesquely inappropriate for their surroundings. I realise that genuine candles do pose some difficulties, but these obstacles have to be overcome. D-.

The popularity of the saints was graphically indicated by how many illuminated candles they had. Some were lit up like a pinball table, others just had 1 or 2. But all had at least one bulb going, presumably someone has the job of making sure that there is a light that never goes out, which would clearly be devastating for the saint’s ego.


"this is what it sounds like, when doves cry"

Next, I went to the Picasso Museum, but slightly daunted by the length of the queue outside, I detoured into the Barbier-Mueller museum opposite, which exhibits art and artefacts from the American cultures that flourished before Columbus turned up. I was the only person in there, and I suspect that they get much of their custom from overspill from the Picasso queues – particularly given Picasso’s own interest in primitive art.

Not that “primitive” is really the right word to describe the pieces, particularly the Mayan and Teotihuacan works, which were often exceptionally intricate. As well as admiring that, there was potential entertainment in the captions too, and not only because they seemed to have been done via babelfish (I am of course grateful for any translation at all, particularly after nearly getting stuck in the toilet on the train to Valencia due to very complicated and -to me- incomprehensible directions). One described a frog as a symbol of fertility and sterility, which seemed a bit ambiguous. Given that frogs produce about 4000 spawn at a time, I reckon they’d have been bettersticking with just  fertility. There was also a female figurine captioned “probably in advanced stages of pregancy”, which shows that even archaeolgists struggle with the dreaded “is she pregnant or just put on a bit of weight” dilemma.

After that I did go to the Picasso museum. It’s testament to his longevity and productivity that as well as decorating galleries across the globe, Pablo can sustain dedicated and sizeable museums in Paris and Barca as well. Like the Parisian one, it’s quite inconsistent in quality and more interesting in highlighting the trajectory of his career, particularly the early parts, than showcasing its best bits. One interesting aspect was a series of poster designs he did early in his life, including one, Poeta Decadente which seems to have been hugely influential on Prince.

On train to Valencia now, interested to see that bags are now screened on intercity trains now, but not on more local routes. So, there’s a tip for potential jihadists.

That’s probably enough for one post, will talk about Valencia next.

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