Kingdom of Spain 2014

12 April, Teruel 21 April, Sevilla
13 April, Teruel 22 April, Sevilla
14 April, Albarracín, Valencia 23 April, Sevilla, Baeza
15 April, Valencia 24 April, Baeza, Úbeda
16 April, Valencia, Elche 25 April, Baeza, Toledo
17 April, Murcia 26 April, Toledo
18 April, Cabo de Gata 27 April, Toledo
19 April, Cabo de Gata, Níjar Economic data of the trip
20 April, Sevilla

12 April, saturday

    It is really hard to park in the old town of Teruel hence the owner of the Mudayyan hotel recommends us to leave the car in the parking lot of the train station, where seven hundred cars fit —a little exaggerated, doesn't it?— and it is free!.
    The steep slope of about twenty meters between the station and the old town is saved with a couple of lifts or also, if you keep fit, through a very striking and monumental staircase called "Escalinata", strange mixture of Moorish and modernism, serving since 1921. This staircase was made by José Torán de la Rad (1888-1932), civil engineer, son of banker who became mayor of Teruel. Almost crowning the steps of the oval, a high relief of sculptor Aniceto Marinas (1866-1953) reminds The Lovers of Teruel. Above, the shield of the city with the bull and the star that represents the founding of the city, the four sticks of gules on gold field of the flag of Aragon and, in the bottom of the shield, the cannon and two crossed bullets.
Modernist house in Teruel
Just when we are checking in, we hear the unmistakable sound of a bugles and drums band, passing in front of our hotel. The musicians are very young; generational change seems guaranteed, we will have Easter processions for a long time.
    As we walk to El Torico square the white balcony of the Ferrán house draws our attention. Still more bizarre is El Torico house in the square itself. Both are modernist buildings that the catalonian Pablo Monguió, disciple of Gaudi, built between 1910 and 1912 for the vigorous bourgeoisie of the time.
    In the Torico square plenty of people are already waiting for the parade of the bands that often accompany the Confraternities and Brotherhoods in the processions of Holy Week. I have only seen one procession in my life, in my hometown Portugalete, I was maybe five or six years old; I remember the Nazarenes parading barefoot on the wet ground with torches and faces hidden behind a ghostly capirote as they descended la Cuesta de las Maderas street. The beating of the drums is still ringing in my ears. And the bearded dummy with a crown of thorns on his bloodied head, carrying the cross. So solemn everything, so terrifying. And to top it all, by night. How scary it was! Never again. The last procession took place in 1967. I do not know the reasons for the disappearance of this tradition in most of the municipalities of the Basque Country; I do not think it was for lack of interest of citizens, it was a well-attended event.
    In Teruel however the tradition keeps alive: from tomorrow Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, Teruel will count with fifteen processions, two retreats and a devotional Way of the Cross. Right now, as an appetiser, it is scheduled an "Exaltation of Holy Week instruments" by bands of bugles and drums from fraternities and brotherhoods of Teruel.
    And what is the difference between fraternities and a brotherhoods? In olden days, fraternities gathered people with similar interests, for example: the brotherhood of the railwaymen, fishermen, students, etc. On the contrary, brotherhoods fitted all kinds of people. Nowadays there is no longer any social or legal difference between fraternity and brotherhood, everyone is welcome.
    The origin of processions is previous to Christianity, although the specific processions of Holy Week emerged at the end of the thirteenth century and are linked to the Mendicant orders of Dominicans and Franciscans. At first processions were composed only of penitents who self-flagellated until bleeding, as the "picaos" (pitted) of San Vicente de la Sonsierra in La Rioja still do. The adoption of religious imagery, as it is conceived now, did not arrive until the XVII century and it had a didactic purpose since the people was largely illiterate. The musical accompaniment also arrived at that time: it is said that on Good Friday of 1678 a priest of Alcañiz had the occurrence of accompanying the procession with drums probably to give more solemnity to the parade as it was done with the prisoners condemned to the scaffold. This novelty settled down and spread throughout the country.

Brotherhood "The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden" marching through the Torico square.

    In the Torico square everything is ready for the "tamborrada" (drumming procession): the authorities already rest their buttocks on vinyl chairs in a cordoned off area and after a brief opening speech the parades begin. Mudéjar City Association is the first one to play later followed by nine more bands. We see the first three and then we head to the church of San Pedro. The price of admission includes the mausoleum of the Lovers of Teruel, the cloister, the apse, the Mudejar tower and ándito. We know we do not have time to see everything, no matter, we will see the rest tomorrow.
    We gather a bunch of tourists, all Spaniards. Watch what the guide says: "The church of San Pedro is the most complete ensemble of Mudejar architecture in the city. The works of the church began in 1196 but what you see today is mostly from the fourteenth and fifteenth century, nothing more remains of the old temple. Mudejar elements are revealed primarily on the façade, the bricks, the green and white ceramics of the apse and, above all, the tower. There are also many gothic elements because it was the fashionable style when the church was built. The main altarpiece was not painted for economical reasons; they were in crisis, as now. In spite of this, look at the concave and convex surfaces of the folds of the robes, they give a sense of movement and dynamism. However, the altarpiece of the medical saints Cosme and Damián dates from the same period as the main altarpiece and is painted, unusual in a work by Gabriel Yoly. In 1876 a lightning struck the tower and there were many damages. It started with a small repair and ended up redecorating most of it; in fact, most of the inside dates back to the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The decoration looks very oriental, don't you think? What material do you think is the bottom of the walls made from? It looks like marble, right? Well, not really, it's concrete mixed with paint. It seems real, doesn't it? Notice also the wrought iron gate of the choir, truly a masterpiece. The wrought irons are very representative of Teruel, you will see them all over the city, mainly in the balconies of the modernist buildings like the Bayo house, the Escalinata and the cathedral. Many of these jobs were made in the workshop of Matías Abad Civera; he received many commissions, not only from Teruel but throughout Spain".
Inside the church of St. Pedro
    At half height of the church, we and our guide leave to an outdoor terrace and then climb the narrow stairs of the tower. We enjoy a fantastic view from the bell tower. Our guide goes on with the explanations: "The oldest and shortest of the four towers of Teruel belong to the churches of St. Martín and El Salvador. The leaning of the St. Martín tower is explained by this legend: The secular town hall of Teruel approved the construction of the towers and commissioned its design and execution to young alarifes (master builders) Omar and Abdalá. Just by chance both fell in love with the same woman, the beautiful Zoraida. To resolve the conflict, the father decided that he would give his daughter to the one that finished the tower first and also were the most beautiful. Omar managed the challenge by forcing his workers to work day and night and Abdalá increased the shifts to continue working during the meals. They both hid the towers under huge cloths to protect their design from being copied. Omar finished the tower of St. Martín sooner but when he removed the cloth he saw in horror that the tower was tilted, probably due to work at night, in low light. Failed and desperate, he jumped from the tower and killed himself. In fact, the inclination of the tower is explained by the different thermal expansion between the faces of the tower as a result of sunshine and weather variables that affected the mortar between the bricks".
    We dinner at Yain, a flashy restaurant on the Jewish Quarter square. As starters: Cabrales cheese croquettes, scallops with bacon and bread with Iberian ham. A codfish to the two sauces as main course and cheesecake as dessert and we end up with a small glass of Pedro Ximénez for free. Too many calories. How difficult is to maintain a balanced diet away from home! So many temptations on the way!

Copyright © 2014 - MRB

The intellectual property of texts and photos belongs to the author. Full or partial reproduction of this website is expressly prohibited without the express written authorisation of the author.