The alluring Calella de Palafrugell and Josep Pla

When a naive blogger -like me- decides to devote a bunch of posts to one of his favorite writers, a bunch of problems arise.

First and foremost: In order to produce those posts, the blogger usually reads and re-reads tons of books written by the admired writer.

That means:

  1. The naive blogger has no time left to write the posts.
  2. The naive blogger is so overwhelmed by the talent, mastery and IQ of his admired writer, that he feels like a burro whenever he attempts to typewrite just a single phrase. Consequently, he writes slowly whenever he dares to write.

Take this post about Calella de Palafrugell as an example. Drafting its text has taken almost ten months. And what kind of literary thing did I get? An effluvium. A short, light and unsubstantial breeze of quasi-random words.

At least I have been able to take some colorful pictures of Calella and its surroundings in the meanwhile …

Calella de Palafrugell

Josep Pla loved this charming Mediterranean village, so close to his hometown … As a matter of fact, his family owned a house here, facing the sea (in Calella´s “Canadell” beach, to be precise):

Pla´s house

One of Pla´s funniest short stories, named “A frustrated journey” started at that very point (Canadell beach, pic above). It is the account of a sail journey the author took with his friend “l’Hermós” from here to Southern France, during World War I.

But Calella’s heart is its old fishing corner known as “Port Bo”: white houses, charming corridors with arches, colorful boats on the little beach …

Port-Bo

The sea seen through an arch … is there anything more prodigiously beautiful?” (Josep Pla)

arches corridor

A nice plaque (pic below) commemorates the link between Port Bo and Mr. Josep Pla. That plaque and the whole series of plaques devoted to the so-called “Pla Route” in the Costa Brava were designed by Mr. Josep Martinell, painter, writer, great person and arguably the best friend that Mr. Pla had in his whole life.

Martinell Pla route

Look at that girl at Port Bo. She looks happy. I am sure that she is reading something written by Josep Pla:

reading Pla

Calella is the archetypical Mediterranean village because … it has a white church …

Mediterranean church

… and crystal clear waters …

Beach at Calella

… and boats with mythological names …

scuba boat

… and marine creatures …

marine creatures

… and glamorous top models here and there …

calella boutique

… and fishes … and white arches … and colorful boats …

Ses Voltes

… and scuba diving paraphernalia …

learning scuba

… and restaurants with a view …

Restaurant in Calella

… and wild surroundings …

Calella

… and dramatic hiking trails …

Cap Roig

… and relaxing hiking trails …

relaxing path

… plants, scents, colors, castles (this is Cap Roig, a wonderful castle & gardens, South of Calella) …

Cap Roig castle

… and more plants, and more scents  …

Med charm

… and strange pieces of art everywhere …

Art Cap Roig

… and frustrated artists everywhere …

Frustrated artists

… and a healthy Mediterranean diet …

Calella Pla 22

Yes, Calella de Palafrugell and its surroundings compound the archetypical Mediterranean paradise.

Calella panorama

I like Calella very much. I love blogging too. But I’d rather read more Pla now.

I’ll post something in less than ten months.

“A la platja, tocant al mar, un cert nombre de petites embarcacions de pesca, pintades de colors elementals, entre cordes i pals, nanses i xarxes, palangres i armellades, teranyines i llums, acaben de donar a Calella la seva personalíssima gràcia. Últimament, és clar, la importància de la pesca s’ha reduït força a Calella. Les ocupacions derivades del turisme són sempre menys dures, més rendibles.” (Josep Pla)

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Josep Pla and the little town of Palafrugell

I don’t know if Palafrugell is a little town or a big village. Subtleties in the English language are beyond my reach.

What I am sure about is that Palafrugell is a very important location in the world of literature, because Josep Pla was born there.

Apart from this undeniable fact, I like Palafrugell very much.

Palafrugell Plaça Nova

Well, I have to admit that it is not the archetypical tourist destination full of Roman ruins, Medieval houses, Romanesque churches, art nouveau façades, fancy tourist traps … Palafrugell has its share of historical monuments and picturesque corners, of course -it is more than 1000 years old- but it is not a properly “monumental” town.

Old Palafrugell

Palafrugell is simply a livable, easy, agreeable, funny and very charming little town (or big village or whatever).

Palafrugell 3

Another issue is the municipality of Palafrugell. It comprises some of the most beautiful stretches of the whole European Mediterranean coast …

Cap Roig

I’ll deal with that beauty (the coast, its beaches and its charming little villages) in future posts; today we are just visiting the little town or big village or whatever of Palafrugell, with the great writer Josep Pla in mind …

Pla's

“The grand old man of Catalan letters and one of Spain’s most prolific writers” (Chicago Tribune) was born in this house of Carrer Nou (“New Street”) of Palafrugell:

Josep Pla house and Foundation

Today, it is home of the Josep Pla Foundation.

Pla Foundation

Its main mission is to promote, motivate and facilitate the reading and the studying of Josep Pla’s literary and journalistic work.

Josep Pla Foundation

When Josep Pla was born, his parents were renting that provisional house while their definitive sweet home was being built not far away, in carrer del Sol (”Sun Street”), which today is 56, Torres i Jonama Street (pic below).

Pla's house

The Pla family moves to their new house in 1904. Josep Pla lived there for a lot of years, and wrote there wonderful books.   Today it is a very good restaurant with an agreeable patio. I’ll come on this in a future post about Pla and the superb local gastronomy …

Pa i Raïm

Very near from Pla’s house you’ll find Sant Antoni Street, also known as the “Narrow Street” (carrer Estret)…

Sant Antoni Street

It is known as “Narrow Street” due to two clear reasons:

  1. It is narrow

The Narrow Street

  1. Josep Pla wrote a novel about that very same street named “El carrer Estret” (“The Narrow Street”)

“The Narrow Street” is another marvelous work by Mr. Pla. Originally written in Catalan, there is a superb translation into Spanish , “La calle Estrecha” (most of Josep Pla’s works were translated into Spanish under his personal supervision). I am aware that some of my digital English-speaking friends are able to read/understand Spanish … Pla is always easy and delightful to read.

In the Narrow Street there is a plaque honoring Mr. Pla and this book.

Josep Pla Narrow Street

In the Narrow Street there is another stupendous restaurant called “La Xicra”, specialized in the Empordanet cuisine (I’ll talk about this any other day) …

La Xicra

Palafrugell was reputed for its cork manufacturing in the 18th and 19th centuries (cork oaks grow very happy in the wonderful forests of l’Empordà).

Cork Palafrugell

The largest cork factory of Palafrugell was owned by an American company named Armstrong, which employed hundreds of villagers … until relatively recent times (1970’s)

Cork Palafrugell

Today, the old cork factories have been transformed into nice museums.

Palafrugell Museum

Josep Pla had his say about those cork factories, of course …

Josep Pla about cork

The Parish of Sant Martí of Palafrugell has its origins in the 11th century. Its current appearance (mostly Gothic) presents styles from different periods …

Sant Martí Palafrugell

One of its chapels was re-designed very recently by the local artist (although born in Sicily, Italy) Tano Pisano …

Tano Pisano

Another work by Tano Pisano is located at the Fish Market entrance …

Fish Market by Tano Pisano

The Fish Market (Mercat del peix) of Palafrugell is little.

Mercat del Peix Palafrugell

Quality is superb. Mediterranean Sea Kingdom.

Mediterranean fish market

The Meat Market is located just in front of the Fish Market. Quality is superb too.

Meat Market of Palafrugell

The Meat Market has its own piece of art at its doorstep: “La Teresina”, sculpted by the local artist (although born in El Paso, Texas, USA) Rodolfo Candelaria.

La Teresina by Candelaria

Candelaria has inspired even a cake in Palafrugell (Candelaria cake advertisement, pic below)

Serra Palafrugell

The open air market of fruits and veggies blooms everywhere around La Teresina …

Fruit Market 1

Of course, this little town or big village or whatever has traditional bakeries, delicatessen and all kinds of food shops …

Baldiri Palafrugell

Palafrugell 16

At the heart of Palafrugell you’ll find the 125+ years Centre Fraternal

Fraternity Center

Josep Pla was a regular visitor of the Centre Fraternal. He called it “the agora of Palafrugell”

Centre Fraternal

It is a cafeteria, theater, library and more … all in one.

Local artists have contributed to the decoration of this old “agora” donating some of their works.

Pal 38

One of those local artists was Modest Cuixart (Barcelona, 1925, Palafrugell 2007)

Modest Cuixart paintings lead us to other scenes. Sometimes they evoke the atmosphere of festivals and magic, they are recognized as a fascination of the mystery” (Granell and Guigon. “Dau al Set”)

Not only the Centre Fraternal of Palafrugell shows paintings by Cuixart. You’ll find Cuixarts at some important museums of modern art (specially in Europe), like the Tate Gallery or the Reina Sofía Museum of Modern Art.

In 2002, the little town of Palafrugell named this square (pic below) after his adoptive son Modest Cuixart:

Cuixart Palafrugell

Just in front of Modest Cuixart Square it is the (almost) brand new Palafrugell Bus Station:

Sarfa Palafrugell

Palafrugell has no airport, no train station … but it has that bus station. The “SARFA” (an emblematic bus company incorporated in Palafrugell in 1921) serves passengers in Costa Brava, linking the region to the cities of Girona and Barcelona.

Josep Pla used to travel by bus from time to time, and he wrote deliciously about those travels in “Bus journey” (published in 1942, “Viaje en autobús”, originally written in Spanish) ..

Palafrugell’s city hall is located at Cervantes Street 16 …

Palafrugell city hall

… just facing Josep Pla Avenue …

Josep Pla Avenue

This is a somehow magic corner for a blogger like me, who is a devoted fan of both writers, Miguel de Cervantes (I blogged about him in my post “Don Quixote and Don Miguel”) and Josep Pla.

In front of the city hall there is a monument to Josep Pla:

Josep Pla Memorial

Yes, I don’t know if Palafrugell is a little town or a big village; what I am sure about is that this post is getting too long, and I haven’t told a word yet about the Tramuntana Wind or Mr. Josep Martinell … I’ll do it soon.

Pla and Palafrugell

Bye!

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Josep Pla: April 23

Both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died on the very same date: April 23, 1616. This amazing coincidence prompted UNESCO to declare April 23 the “World Book and Copyright Day”.

Today is April 23.

I have not prepared my second post about Josep Pla yet. By “post” I mean a proper post, full of pictures and information related to Mr. Josep Pla. But today is the “World Book and Copyright Day”, and I feel I have to publish urgently something about such a great writer as Josep Pla …

A little something, at least, like a photo and a pair of simple data. Here they are:

Josep Pla was born on 1897.

To be precise, he was born on March 8, 1897, in this house of Palafrugell:

Josep Pla Foundation
Josep Pla died on 1981.

To be precise, he died on April 23, 1981.

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Josep Pla: exordium

This post is just a short introduction, preamble, proem, prelude, prolusion, preface to a series of posts on Josep Pla.

Who?

Josep Pla …

Pla Palafrugell

I am sure that my little bunch of loyal readers knows Mr. Josep Pla. I have mentioned him here and there, in previous posts, like “Aigua Xellida“, “Cadaqués“, “Picasso, Manolo and the Master of Cabestany“, “Salvador Dalí (4)”, “Can Roca”, etc.

l'Hermós

But I am aware that very often Google, Yahoo and all those bewitched abracadabra tools send to this humble blog quite a few lost individuals. Those poor people were searching the web for something named Game of Thrones, or looking for the latest app for socializing, or trying to play bingo online. Don’t get me wrong: web-searching tools are great, but from time to time they commit unbelievable errors. Game of Thrones? Socializing? Bingo? Here?

I don’t watch TV. I don’t socialize. I don’t play bingo. I read Pla.

Chances are that the casual English-speaking visitor (that sent by the abracadabra tool) of this blog has no idea about who Josep Pla was. Moreover, most probably the casual reader of this blog flew away at the very first paragraph …

Mediterranean seagull

Taking into account those facts, and taking into account that, consequently, only my most loyal digital and mythological friends will read these lines …

Mythological readers

… and taking into account that Josep Pla did not publish a book or a single word in English in his whole life (although his “El Quadern Gris” has been very recently translated into English: “The Grey Notebook”) …

… and taking into account that Josep Pla has never been a “best-seller” author even in his own language …

Play writing tool

… and taking into account that the world is almost culturally dead, and taking into account a myriad of other depressing facts, and more, I take for granted that my series of posts on Josep Pla will hardly interest anybody.

But it doesn’t matter to me …

Catalan Donkey

No, it doesn’t matter at all. I simply want to dedicate a series of posts to one of my absolute favorite writers: Don Josep Pla i Casadevall (Palafrugell, 1897- Llofriu, 1981)

This first post is just an exordium, an introduction, a preamble, a proem, a prelude, a prolusion, a preface … to the life, works, friends and landscapes of a genius.

Sant Sebastiá

Don’t expect order, logic, academic data or brainy papers in my next posts; just admiration and gratitude. Yes, expect admiration and gratitude, but expect them patiently, because this is going to be a very slow journey …

Viaje a pie Pla

 

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Discovering Goya in Madrid

Year 1775, Madrid.

A young Goya (28) arrives in Madrid.

Goya at the Prado Museum

He has got a job as a pattern designer for tapestries, at the Real Fábrica de Tapices (Royal Tapestry Workshop)

Royal Tapestry Workshop

Year 2015, Madrid.

Goya reigns at the Prado Museum.

Goya at Prado Museum

The monument to Goya (pic below) is facing the North façade of said outstanding museum (pic above, the so-called Goya’s Door). These days there is an exhibit at the Prado about Goya’s works for the Royal Tapestry Workshop.

Goya's door

But Goya not only designed tapestry models in Madrid. He was a prolific genius and, consequently, the city treasures lots of his easel paintings, drawings, frescoes, drafts …

This post is just a little, poor, disorganized, immethodical, unsystematic and totally unpractical guide to discovering Goya in Madrid.

Follow me through the streets of Madrid if you can, and read at your own risk. Let’s go.

Prado Avenue Madrid

Our walk starts at the Royal Tapestry Workshop.

As I said before, Goya worked for them, and painted 63 “cartones” (tapestry patterns). The Workshop is home to a wonderful collection of tapestries, carpets and paintings of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Artists are still working here today. (www.realfabricadetapices.com)

Royal Tapestry Workshop

Let’s go on.

Not far away from the Royal Tapestry Workshop starts the so-called “Walk of the Arts”. It is a not-to-be-missed itinerary for art lovers. It calls at three awesome museums: The Reina Sofía National Art Centre (www.museoreinasofia.es), the Prado Museum (www.museodelprado.es) and the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum (www.museothyssen.org)

This is (pic below) the Reina Sofía National Art Centre:

Reina Sofía National Art Centre

You will not find Goya paintings here. Modern Art only. This museum houses a very significant permanent collection, including works by Spanish artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Antonio López, Manolo Hugué, etc. Also, foreigner ones, like Rothko, Ernst, Magritte, etc.

Picasso’s masterpiece “Guernica” lives in this museum.

Talking about Dalí … Did you read my groundbreaking and universally unacknowledged series about Salvador Dalí? For instance, if you want to find the authentic inspiration sources of Mr. Salvador Dalí, read my post “Salvador Dalí (Part 2): Inspiration”. I know those sources really well (and my little bunch of loyal readers too)

Let’s go on.

In our way towards the jewel of the crown (the Prado Museum), you´ll stumble upon the very interesting “Caixa Forum” (address: Paseo del Prado, 36). This is Caixa Forum:

Caixa Forum Madrid

There are always interesting art exhibitions within the walls of that strange building …

Let’s go on.

Here it is.

The jewel of the crown.

One of the very best (if not the best) Art museums of the world …

The Prado Museum.

The Prado Museum Madrid

This marvelous museum is great not only because it harbors myriads of masterpieces of European Art… This marvel is great because it strictly FORBIDS taking pictures or videos within its walls! Can you believe it? I love the Prado Museum! This prohibition is bad for me as a blogger (I cannot illustrate this post with paintings), but it is a blessing for me as an art-lover. People should live the “art experience” and capture it within their hearts and minds, rather than bother everyone by clicking and flashing and taking selfies in front of each and every painting.

You won’t find a bigger or better collection of paintings by Goya anywhere else in the world (140 paintings and lots of drawings).

By the way, the main entrance to the Prado Museum is called the “Velázquez’s Door”, after the divine Diego Velázquez. His “Las Meninas”, that absolute masterpiece of universal art, is in the Prado Museum, as well as quite a few other masterpieces painted by this genius .

A lot of years ago, in an interview, a journalist asked Mr Salvador Dalí this question: – “If a fire broke out in the Museo del Prado, what would you save?”

Dalí answered: – “The air”.

The surprised journalist asked again: -“The air?”

– “I would save the air inside Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas” – added Dalí.

Velázquez at the Prado

The Southern door of the Prado Museum is called the “Murillo’s Door”, after Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Murillo at the Prado

Just in front of the Murillo’s Door you’ll find the Royal Botanic Garden.

Royal Botanic Garden Madrid

It is a cute place to refresh your heart and mind after visiting the Prado Museum …

Real Jardín Botánico

The Royal Botanic Garden is a relatively little garden. If your deep emotions (those felt while visiting the Prado Museum) are not dissolved and your existential questions are not resolved while visiting the Royal Botanic Garden, you can prolong your walk and musings at the neighboring El Retiro Park.

El Retiro lake

El Retiro is a huge park (although not as big as the Central Park of New York or the Hyde Park of London) located at the heart of the city of Madrid, very close to the Prado Museum. It belonged to the Kings of Spain from the early 17th century until the late 19th century, when it became a public park.

El Retiro Park

Some premises of the Prado Museum are facing El Retiro Park (here below, El Casón del Buen Retiro)

Casón del Buen Retiro

And very close to it you’ll see the Royal Spanish Academy (www.rae.es). It is the official institution responsible for overseeing the Spanish language.

Spanish Royal Academy

Let’s go on. We are back at the Paseo del Prado (Prado Avenue)

Paseo del Prado 1

A few meters (or yards or whatever) away from the Prado Museum, you’ll see the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum.

Museo Thyssen Madrid

With a myriad of paintings, this museum offers you a walk down the history of European -and American- painting from its early beginnings in the 13th century to the last years of the 20th century. This museum displays four paintings by Goya.

Thyssen Bornemisza Museum

Taking pictures in the Thyssen Bornemisza is forbidden 🙂

Thyssen 3

Let’s go on.

Where do we go on?

Oh, yes, let’s go to the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts. We just need to turn left and take Alcalá Street …

Alcalá Street, Madrid

Here it is …

San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts

The San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts is a very important institution in Spain. Its museum (little known by tourists) has a collection of 1400 paintings, 600 sculptures, 15.000 drawings and a vast array of pieces of decorative arts.

I like the San Fernando Royal Academy very much. (www.realacademiabellasartessanfernando.com)

Royal Academy Museum

In said wonderful museum you can see 13 paintings by Goya.

Let’s go on.

I am afraid that this post is getting too long. I’ll take the “Metro” (subway), which is outstanding in Madrid. We are going to the “Salamanca District”. What station? “Goya”, of course:

Metro Goya

Goya liked “corridas de toros” (bullfighting) very much. He painted a series of drawings called “Tauromaquia”. This plaque (pic below), located at the glamorous Salamanca District, commemorates his visits to an old Plaza de Toros located here in Goya’s time (it doesn’t exist today)

Tauromaquia

The Salamanca District would deserve a specific post, and El Retiro Park another one … but I prefer blogging about sunny beaches and ancient monasteries perched on high mountains (from a Mediterranean cove to the top of a mountain = cove to top), so let’s hurry up.

Lázaro Galdiano Museum

Pic above: The Lázaro Galdiano Museum (www.flg.es), in Serrano Street. It displays an excellent collection of European art (paintings, sculptures and decorative art, spanning from the 4th century BC to the first half of the 20th century). Some pretty interesting Goyas are here. Special mention to two eccentric paintings by Goya: “Aquellarre” (a dark and terrifying ceremony) and “Las Brujas” (the witches)

Let’s go on.

I think I’m going to take the “Metro” (subway) again … Goya Street, Velázquez Station this time …

Metro Velázquez

The Royal Palace of Madrid:

Royal Palace of Madrid

Goya worked here for the kings of Spain, and painted their silly faces (those of Charles IV and Ferdinand VII) quite a few times. Goya painted the portrait of King Charles III too, but he didn’t have a silly face because he was a very wise man and a very good king. This palace is another not-to-be-missed place of Madrid.

I am exhausted and hungry.

This post is getting too long.

You’ll find more works by Goya at the Saint Francis Basilica, not far away from the Royal Palace, and at the Romantic Museum …

Romantic Museum Madrid

Not far away from the city of Madrid, in the very same Province of Madrid, in the little and wonderful town of Chinchón there is another painting by Goya at its Parish Church. And in the suburbs of Madrid, in a town (not as nice as Chinchón) called Valdemoro, there is another one. If you ever visit Valdemoro (not a touristic place at all), do as I did and visit the convent of Las Clarisas de Valdemoro, where the nuns cook (and sell) delicious pastries, following ancient recipes. I got these outstanding “Florecillas” (pic below). Ora et labora at its best:

Florecillas

This post is almost done.

Let’s go to our last destination …

San Antonio de la Florida

San Antonio de la Florida is a wonderful little hermitage located in downtown Madrid …

San Antonio de la Florida Hermitage

A statue of Goya is facing the little hermitage …

Goya at San Antonio

It is a very special place …

Monument to Goya at San Antonio

When you visit this sacred place (free entrance, no pics allowed 🙂 ), you are instantly overwhelmed by the beauty of its colorful, imaginative, intelligent and superbly crafted frescoes. They cover the vaults of the nave, dome and apse.

Goya painted all those frescoes.

Goya is buried beneath them.

I left San Antonio de la Florida deeply thrilled and very moved.

From then on, Goya’s magic has exerted a strong influence on my weak soul.

After visiting San Antonio, I crossed the street in order to have lunch at the neighboring “Casa Mingo”, which is a very old restaurant that apparently hasn’t changed much over the last 120 years …

Mingo Restaurant Madrid

They serve simple and traditional food, of good quality, at very low prices.

Casa Mingo 2

Consequently, Casa Mingo is always crowded …

 

Thanks God, I got a seat. It was a narrow seat just in front of a smiley and friendly couple of old people.

I ordered some Cabrales cheese, a tortilla de patatas and medio pollo, and a bottle of sidra. I devoured it all and, when I averted my gaze from the dish, I definitively realized that Goya’s influence was very strong on me.

The old couple and the entire world had changed for me …

Goya's Black Paintings

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Goya was born in Fuendetodos

Goya plaque in Fuendetodos

To be precise, Goya was born in this humble house:

Goya's house 1

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes chose Fuendetodos as his birthplace when he decided to descend from Heaven to this horrible world of ours. It was March 30, 1746 …

Fuendetodos is a little village located in the province of Zaragoza, Spain.

Fuendetodos Aragón

Fuendetodos has roughly 170 inhabitants. I did not see any of them (almost) when I took these pictures.

Goya Street

Pic above: Goya Street, in Fuendetodos.

Pic below: Goya Square, in Fuendetodos.

Goya Square Fuendetodos

Pic below: monument to Goya, in Fuendetodos

Monument to Goya

As you can see, Fuendetodinians are very proud of his fellow countryman Francisco de Goya.

Horno Goyesco in Fuendetodos

Not only Fuendetodinians are proud of Goya. Zaragozanians (Zaragoza is the capital of the province where Fuendetodos is located) are very proud of Goya too.

Goya in Zaragoza

In the pic below you can see the monument to Goya; it is located at the wonderful El Pilar Square, Zaragoza:

El Pilar Square indications

Can’t you see it? Well, I’ll amplify it for you:

Francisco de Goya, Zaragoza

I blogged about Zaragoza two months ago (see Covetotop’s “Zaragoza” post). When I was taking pics for said post, I met this kind girl …

Goyesca in Zaragoza

We became friends… That’s the inspiring part of blogging.

The uninspiring part of blogging is the so-called “stats page”. Although I blog for the joy of blogging -and for the joy of my little bunch of loyal and lovely readers-, the other day I couldn’t help taking a look at that damned “stats page” of WordPress, and … what did I find there?

Depressing figures …

Yes. Depressing figures. I put a lot of work in my last and loooong post about the Cathar Country and the Holy Grail, but apparently nobody –except my little bunch of loyal and lovely readers- read it.

I am aware that my loyal and lovely and intelligent readers are always looking forward to reading my new posts …

… but I must admit that the rest of net-surfers of the world prefer to spend their time reading other stuff on their tablets …

Blogging is always difficult. Writing in English can be a nightmare for a Mediterranean guy like me (Latin rules) … That means spending hours sat at the table, gazing into infinity, trying to figure out if an error is done or made, and things like that …

Moreover, any interesting post requires an important amount of previous investigation …

But those interested in Goya, or in the history of Art, will find better sources to quench their thirst of knowledge in websites like the Goya webpage in El Prado Museum, or the Daydream Tourist, etc.

No. I can’t make it …

No matter the effort I put in my humble blog, the “stats page” will strike back with its horrible figures. It will devour my hopes just like Saturn devours his children …

This post is done.

PS: I’m kidding. Coming soon –or late-: “Goya in Madrid”.

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The Cathar Country and the legend of the Holy Grail

Matter is evil.

Montségur

Montségur

Emancipation comes through gnosis.

Basilica of Saint-Sernin, Toulouse

Basilica of Saint-Sernin, Toulouse

Gnosis is an esoteric knowledge of spiritual truth held by the Gnostics to be essential to salvation.

“The Last Judgment”, Albi Cathedral

“The Last Judgment”, Albi Cathedral

The Cathars were the last Gnostics of Europe. They lived in the old Languedoc, the Cathar Country …

Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile, Albi

Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile, Albi

From 1209, for some 40 years, on the express orders of Pope Innocent III, an army of 30,000 knights and foot-soldiers pursued and killed almost the entire Cathar population of the old Languedoc region. Why? Because they were heretics.

Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile, Albi

Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile, Albi

That terrible fight was known as the Albigensian Crusade (called “Albigensian” after the city of “Albi”, because it was full of Cathars in the 12th and 13th centuries)

Albi

Albi

By the way, today Albi is a peaceful and really nice city. It has been included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list.

Palais de la Berbie, Albi

Palais de la Berbie, Albi

The Palais de la Berbie, in Albi, is home of the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum (160,000 visitors per year).

It is one of the top French museums outside Paris. Btw, Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi in 1864, and he was not a Cathar.

Palais de la Berbie, Albi

Palais de la Berbie, Albi

Cathars were sincere (they didn’t lie) people who led ascetic lives. For instance, they didn’t eat meat, because they interpreted the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” as referring to all animals.

Cathars

Fromagerie, Albi

Albi is full of charming corners, like the cloister of the Collégiale Saint-Salvi, which is the oldest church in Albi (12th century) …

Collégiale Saint-Salvi, Albi

Collégiale Saint-Salvi, Albi

Covetotop likes Albi very much …

Albi

Covetotop in Albi

In fact, Covetotop likes the whole Cathar Country very much. This mythic territory is entrenched in today’s Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon regions (South of France).

Puilaurens

Puilaurens

It is a land full of wonderful medieval towns …

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

… medieval villages …

Cordes-sur-Ciel

Cordes-sur-Ciel

… tiny villages perched on the rocks …

Cathar rocks

Saint-Cirq Lapopie

… middle-size charming villages …

Lagrasse

Lagrasse

… impressive Romanesque monasteries …

Cathar monastery

Moissac Abbey

… phantom castles …

Château de Foix

Château de Foix

… surprising nature …

water cave

Fontestorbes

… open air markets …

Le marché de plein air de Cahors

Le marché de plein air de Cahors

… boutiques …

medieval shop

Cordes-sur-Ciel

… vineyards (the Languedoc-Roussillon is the single biggest wine-producing region in the world, being responsible for more than a third of France’s total wine production. -AOP: Appellation d’Origine Protégée-) …

Vineyards, A.O.P. Corbieres

Vineyards, A.O.P. Corbieres

The Occitan cross is everywhere in the Cathar Country …

The Occitan cross

The Occitan cross

“Le Pays Cathare” (“The Cathar Country”) sign is also everywhere in the Cathar Country ..

Le Pays Cathare

Le Pays Cathare

The Cathar Country has been selected by National Geographic as one of their “2014 Best of the World List” (21 top destinations for 2014)

The Cathar Country, brochures

The Cathar Country, brochures

But the Cathar Country is not just a nice tourist destination in Southern France. It is an endless source of legends …

Moissac Abbey, tympanum of the south-west portico (detail)

Moissac Abbey, tympanum of the south-west portico (detail)

In an absurd book about a code of Leonardo Da Vinci, the author apparently maintains that the local priest of Rennes-le-Château discovered I don’t know what about Mary Magdalene and a treasure in the surroundings of said village. Thanks to that book, Rennes-le-Château receives tons of confused tourists every year … I didn’t read the book, consequently I cannot add anything more here, except a photo of Rennes-le-Château and its surroundings …

Rennes-le-Château

Rennes-le-Château

Not far away from Rennes-le-Château there is a mountain called Bugarach. It has been a source of inspiration for quite a few works of science fiction, from “A Journey to the Centre of the Earth” (Jules Verne) to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (Steven Spielberg). These days some people say that Bugarach is an alien space station. More about Bugarach in this article from the British newspaper The Telegraph.

But my post is not about Martians. My post is about the Cathars, the Cathar Country and the Cathar legends.

Let’s go on.

Abbey of Saint Hilaire

Abbey of Saint Hilaire

Some experts maintain that the legendary Romanesque sculptor known as Master of Cabestany was a Cathar. He worked in the Cathar Country in Cathar times … I have devoted a lot of posts to said outstanding artist in this blog.

Sarcophagus (detail) by Master of Cabestany (Saint Hilaire Abbey)

Sarcophagus (detail) by Master of Cabestany (Saint Hilaire Abbey)

There was another legendary Cabestany who worked in this very same area at the turn of the 13th century: the troubadour Guillem de Cabestany

As the legend goes, the troubadour was the lover of Soremonda, wife of Raimon of Castel Rossillon. When the angry husband discovered her infidelity, he fed Cabestany’s heart to Soremonda. At the end of that romantic dinner, when he told her what she had eaten, she threw herself from the window to her death. This lovely legend appears later in Boccaccio’s Decameron, in Stendhal’s De l’ amour … The eaten heart can also be found as a poetical metaphor in the sonnet “A ciascun’ alma presa e gentil core”, by Dante Alighieri (Vita Nova, III)

The old legend of Guillem de Cabestany goes on in “Written on Skin”, an opera composed by the British George Benjamin. It was premiered at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2012, and received its British premiere at the Royal Opera House in London, in March 2013.

Poor Guillem de Cabestany!

Talking about Cathar music, there is a stupendous work by Jordi Savall and his fellow musicians, called “The Forgotten Kingdom”. Gramophone magazine (arguably the best magazine of classical music) said about Savall’s “The Forgotten Kingdom”: “This epic project – nearly four hours of music and readings in Latin and Occitan (the Langue d’Oc), chronicling five centuries (c950-1463) – shines fresh light on the Cathars (dissidents calling themselves “good Christian men and woman”), who were hunted down and burnt at the stake – through the words and music of eye-witnesses. Their strophic sirventès, chansons and laments still touch us with their expressive power, authority and poignancy, especially when set alongside contemporary Roman texts.”

By the way, “The Forgotten Kingdom” was recorded at the Fontfroide Abbey. I blogged about Fontfroide in my post “The Fontfroide Abbey (Southern France)

Abbey of Fontfroide

Abbey of Fontfroide

Far away from the Cathar Country, and 250 years after the theoretical “end” of the Cathar heresy, three “neo-Cathars” met in Venice (Italy) …

In her book “The Secret Heresy of Hieronymus Bosch”, author Lynda Harris suggests that Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgione and Hieronymus Bosch were Cathars, and that they could have met in Venice. The graphic account of that astonishing meeting would be this masterpiece: Three Philosophers, 1509, by Giorgione (Kunsthistorisches, Vienna)

(The “official” theory maintains that the three “philosophers” in the painting were Pythagoras (sitting) and his two teachers Pherecydes and Thales)

Lynda Harris argues that Bosch belonged to the Cathar faith. According to the book, while Bosch was carrying out commissions for his wealthy Catholic patrons, he was all the while coding his own inner heretical convictions in the hidden meanings of his paintings, as a record for posterity of the beliefs of the Cathars.

As far as these beautiful territories are concerned (the Cathar Country and the French/Spanish Pyrenees Mountains) my favorite legend of them all is the one that more or less begins this way …

“Scene 1: The Grail-Knight Gurnemanz and his esquires are praying in a forest near Montsalvat, the hidden Temple of the Grail. The countryside resembles the northern mountains of Gothic Spain …” (Parsifal, Act I, Scene 1)

(Btw, “the northern mountains of Gothic Spain” mentioned by Wagner are the Pyrenees Mountains, natural frontier between France and Spain)

In the opera “Parsifal”, Montsalvat is the castle where the Holy Grail is protected.

In Act III of the opera “Lohengrin”, also written and composed by Wagner, Lohengrin sings these words: “In a far-off land, inaccessible to your steps, there is a castle by the name of Montsalvat; a light-filled temple stands within it, more beautiful than anything on earth; therein is a vessel of wondrous blessing that is watched over as a sacred relic

In the English legend of “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table”, Montsalvat is mentioned as the home of the Holy Grail.

Well, at this point of the post, where is exactly Montsalvat?

Montségur

Montségur

Nobody knows … I am still looking for it around here, in Montségur, the last stronghold of the Cathars …

The ruins of the Castle of Montségur

The ruins of the Castle of Montségur

Behind the Castle of Montségur lies the so-called “Field of the Burned”, a peaceful meadow where the last 205 Cathars were burned alive 770 years ago, in March 1244, because they did not renounce to their creed.

Field of the Burned, Montségur

Field of the Burned, Montségur

As the legend tells us, a small group of Cathars could escape from Montségur and took with them their most precious treasure: the Holy Grail, which were never found by the crusaders (nor by the Nazis in the 20th century; for more about their seek of the Holy Grail in these mountains see Otto Rahn)

According to the legend, that little group of Cathars headed South, towards Spain. Today, there is a Long Distance Trail (GR 107) known as “Camí dels Bons Homes” (“Path of the Good Men”)  that can be travelled on foot, by horse or by mountain bike, following in the footsteps of said little group of Cathars (and the Holy Grail) over the Pyrenees. The path starts just at Montségur …

“Camí dels Bons Homes”, sign at Montségur

“Camí dels Bons Homes”, sign at Montségur

There is always a trekker or a romantic traveller looking for the Holy Grail in these wonderful mountains …

Montségur surroundings

Montségur surroundings

The legend of Parsifal and the Holy Grail is still alive. The Prado Museum (Madrid) is holding these days (up to November 23, 2014) a little art exhibition about a Spanish artist named Rogelio de Egusquiza and his obsession with Wagner’s Parsifal.

I am not obsessed with finding the Holy Grail, but I must leave you now. I have seen something shining just over there … in that mysterious castle called Montségur … What can it be? …

Road to Montségur

Road to Montségur

Ps: More in Covetotop’s “Romanesque churches in the Pyrenees

 

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