Saturday, March 21, 2015

Crucifixes and a monastery

Hello, everyone.

I looked at the crucifix in my parish church the other day and realized that, since we toured the monastery Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales in Madrid, I look at them differently.

How many crosses can you find on the monastery building?

Crucifixes are not all identical, you see. Some have three nails, and some have four. (Depends on how the feet are placed.) Some depict Christ alive, and looking up to heaven, beseeching His Father for mercy on us. Some depict Him alive, and looking at His mother, Mary.
Crucifix in Pamplona, Spain
Crucifix in Leon, Spain. Blessed Virgin on left,
St. John on right, both dressed in
clothing approximating the Middle Ages style of dress.

Crucifix in Cathedral of Pamplona, Spain

Crucifix in Pamplona, Spain--Christ looking up to heaven--centerpiece of an elaborate retablo.
Crucifix is an integral part of the painting behind it.

Crucifix in St. Paul's Church  in Mission, Texas. (Photo by Shane James Photography)
Note there are 4 nails, and Christ is looking at His mother. The figure on our right is the apostle St. John.
Clothing approximates ancient clothing styles of the 1st century.

Some depict Him after His death, with slumped head and sagging body.

This leaves aside the “Christ Triumphant” variety, showing Him with royal robes (and crown?) suspended in front of the Cross.

These differences were pointed out to us on the tour of the monastery. The tour guide was very informative. (Tour is in Spanish only, but it’s very worth it to go!) She not only told us about the beautiful artworks hanging on the walls, but also the various frescoes, which dated to before the building was donated for a monastery, and showed us one of the very first Nativities in Spain. She also told us about the difference between Mexican depictions of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Spanish ones.

The guide also told us a little bit about the cloistered nuns that live in the convent. They have opened major areas of their house to the public for tours, which supports their living and allows many people to be edified by the art, even though it inconveniences their life to be staying out of the way of the tours. This monastery is very old. Many ladies who came here were from noble families, already educated at home, and a large proportion of the abbesses of Spain were sisters who had begun their religious life in this monastery.

This is one of the few exhibitions we saw in Spain which was really serious about the no-cameras rule. Thus we didn't take any photos of the tapestries, paintings, carvings, and frescoes inside the building. (It's simply courteous to abide by their rules!)