Wednesday, January 28, 2015

La Mezquita - Catedral de Córdoba prt 1

In the middle of December we had another Senior Missionary ¨Conference¨, this time in Córdoba. The plan was to meet at the Mezquita, so the Coombs and I set off with the Frosts behind us, trusting in Tim, our faithful TomTom to get us to the Mezquita (Mosque)/Cathedral in that beautiful city.
Sure enough he got us there, but we could NOT find the public parking that was supposed to be there. Finally Hermana Coombs got out and hired a taxi to take her to the proper entrance, our two cars trailing behind. We had to go back over the bridge, then around to another bridge to get to the right side. And it only cost a few euros.
This time everyone (except of course my companion, Hermana Chantrill, who is just not into travel) made it, and it was GREAT to see all the other ¨seniors¨!  (I keep putting it in quotations, because we are NOT old!)
Well, we met up with a couple of other couples at the parking garage and headed for the Mezquita. Above is a picture of part of the wall which surrounded the whole complex. It took a bit of wandering, but we finally found the entrance into the grounds (I'll show you a picture of the beautiful grounds that featured orange trees later), and entered the Mezquita itself. Just inside the entrance is some plexiglass on the ground that lets you see into what I'm pretty sure was the mosque built on the site before the magnificent building that is there now. It has quite a religious history. First there was a Roman temple dedicated to Janus built there. Then a Visigothic cathedral. When the area was converted to Islam the building was divided between the Muslims and Christians (around 710). Then in 784 the emir of Córdobo bought the Christian half and constructed a magnificent mosque (mezquita) which took over 250 years to finish and was remodeled many times later. At one point it held an arm bone of the prophet Mohammad and an original copy of the Koran and Muslims would come on pilgrimage.  Then in 1236 King Ferdinand switched the area back to Christianity, and the mezquita was consecrated, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and used as it was. Then in 1523 the Córdoba church leaders asked King Charles V if they could build their own church inside. So a huge Renaissance cathedral was built right in the middle of the huge mosque!
When Charles came to see it, legend has it that he said, ¨You have built what you or others might have built anywhere, but you have destroyed something that was unique in the world¨.  A bit melodramatic, although they did take out over 400 of the beautiful columns (856 are still there though). The ¨Forest of Columns¨ was really beautiful and many were ¨repurposed¨ from the Roman temple that had been there before, and from other Roman ruins. They are made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite and are topped with piers and 2 tiers of the red and white striped arches.

 This was a new architectural design that let the ceiling be much higher than previous buildings of that type. It was quite magnificent and HUGE! Once again I spent much of my time looking up. Each area had it´s own ceiling design, and they were all very beautiful. This ceiling over the cathedral area.

There were a whole bunch (37) of ¨capillas¨ (little chapels) around the outside walls. There were all kinds of beautiful pieces like this in the capillas.
 One good thing the cathedral conversion may have done was to preserve the whole building when the Spanish Inquisition came along and all the Jews and Muslims had to convert, leave, or die.

There were some rooms where they kept the treasures, and this huge piece was in the middle of one of those rooms.

Art work, sculpture, and more treasures.

This was in the treasure room. I wish I could remember what exactly it was. I think it was someone's crypt?  Not sure. It looks like it may have been commemorating the plague, but that's just my fancy.

A display of the tile work that has been found here.

This is the Capella Real (Royal Chapel) which was a room just stuck in the middle of the mosque (along with some others and the main cathedral). It had really cool stuco work, and was the burial chapel of Ferdinand IV and Alfonso XI.
I love the scalloping!

Muslims didn't believe in making any artwork that depicted living creatures that might be worshiped, including people and animals. Here you can see the intricate geometric and floral patterns and Arabic script (usually verses of the Koran) that they used in their decorations. Beautiful!

There was a lot of statuary of various sizes.

And other works of art.

This is a misc. monument in Córdoba we walked by on our way out that I thought was kind of cool, and I had room for it here :). I'll write more about our visit next time. Another great trip in Spain!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Of Bread and Disney

It's been a while since I've written - long enough that it took a bit to remember how to get to my blog...  so it made me think, why a blog? It's definitely not for the "fame" - I know relatively few people read this, or really care much if I do it or not. And that's not what I care about anyway. A better reason might be as a record of my mission - but I have my journal for that. One good thing about a blog is that hopefully it strengthens the connection between me and my family and friends. And just perhaps, it might encourage someone to take a look at serving a senior mission themselves.  Besides, I find writing and taking pictures rather fun! It can just be a challenge finding the time to do it sometimes! Enough of my "excuses" :)
Today I'm going to focus on some of the "perks" of serving a mission. First and foremost, it seems like the Spirit is just there, without me having to do anything special, and often without me even realizing anything is "special" or "different". For example, the other day it was my companion's week to cook our main meal of the day, "mediodia" (which we usually eat around 3 or so).
I didn't really need anything, but I was getting a bit low on bread (I usually buy a 5 pack of thin loaves, then cut it up into smallish pieces and freeze), and thought I needed a few other things, but when I got to the store I couldn't think of anything I really needed, and they didn't have any of the whole-ish wheat bread I like (as close as they come here to whole wheat). Most people here are really spoiled and picky about their bread and like it hot out of the oven, so they don't make a whole lot at a time so they can bring small hot lots out probably a couple times a day. Anyway, they DID have some very hot, fresh, "old fashioned" round loaf so I couldn't resist grabbing some, thinking if the lines were too long I'd just run it back. Well, I found a nice short line and so ended up getting it. I also stopped by the fruit and vegetable store to get some stuff, and threw in a couple potatoes. When I got home, I found out that Hna Chantrill had gone shopping for mediodia, but was distracted because of her lost debit card, and while she had gotten sandwich fixings, she had forgotten the bread AND the potatoes she needed for her soup.  It's cool how the Lord helps out, even in the small things! There have been quite a few other times I've found the urge to do misc. things, like ask a missionary about a certain person (a referral) who it turns out had been forgotten somehow and really wanted and needed to be contacted, or look  a certain place where I find something that had been left that really was needed right then, or make a needed comment to someone. And it really doesn't feel like anything particularly significant, just something that would be a good idea to do. It's been pretty neat :)
Zone conference (3 zones, in Málaga)

Another "perk" is being able to associate with such wonderful people - both young and not-so-young. Today was transfers and we got 21 brand new missionaries in. That makes for a very long, but very wonderful day! And I knew many of the trainers from either being here when they came in, or from concillio (Mission leadership council I think in the states), or whatever. It's hard to believe I've been here almost 9 months already!  It has gone by SO fast!
And of course there is the beach and other delights associated with serving here in Spain. Speaking of which, I guess I'll write a bit about the holidays here.
A couple weeks before Christmas we started hearing very loud firecrackers, which continued well into the new year. Sometimes in the middle of the night!  Christmas is cool - they don't give more than 1 or 2 presents for Christmas, so it is easier to focus on the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. And they don't have school from before Christmas until after Jan 6, which is "Kings Day".
 That is the day they give gifts to each other, celebrating the coming of the 3 wise men / Kings to give gifts to the Christ child. And the night before they have a big parade, which went down the street right next to our little street. The parade consisted of mostly Disney-themed floats plus one for each of three kings (Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior).
Balthasar - a crowd favorite

There were bunches of kids on each who were made up and costumed to go along with the float and were supplied huge amounts of candy to throw at the watchers. EVERYONE (young and old) was scrambling to get their share, and there was so much, all the kids got tons, so nobody felt bad. I spent most of my time taking pictures and several times got pelted with bunches of candy, so I got a couple pockets full to (mostly) bring into the office. It was a lot of fun!
So now Christmas and King´s Day are over and it´s time to settle back down to the routine of the office. Which is rarely routine. Mission life is awesome!