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Thursday, October 27, 2011

France/Spain 2011 - Day 7, Part 1 - Zaragoza

France/Spain 2011
Day 7 - 23rd March - Zaragoza
(Part 1)

I had a lot to squeeze into less than half a day, so I set out early. Not too early, though, as while the Basilica opened at 6:45am, the earliest the other stuff opened was at 9am (most places only opened at 10am - ahh, these lax Spanish! [don't get me on siestas and no afternoon openings]) so there was no point starting so early (I wasn't crazy enough to go to the Basilica then go back to bed). So I left at 7:45am.

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Cesar Augusto (Caesar Augustus) statue in square.

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Google Maps calls this place Cesar Augusto Plaza S.l.

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Plaza

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Iglesia de San Juan de los Panetes‎ and pigeons

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About Ruta de los Sitios and the church. As with other Third World countries history is heavily politicised - notice how the group opposing the French in the first Siege of Zaragoza are called "patriots", which de-legitimises Spanish patriots who were onthe French side

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Church tower reflected in glass

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Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and overhead pigeons

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Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar without pigeons


Given the large, tempting crowd, I indulged in a favourite hobby of mine

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Photography was disallowed inside the Basilica, along with "Bla Bla Bla"

The interior was like a less-decorated version of that more-famous basilica, St Peter's. It was vast, with a lot of sculpture, gold gilt and side chapels.

Here is the story of the Pillar:

"According to tradition, On January 2, 40 AD, in the early days of the Church, James the Greater, one of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, was evangelizing the Gospel in what was then the pagan land of Caesaraugusta, now Zaragoza. He was disheartened with his mission, making little progress having only few converts who had been traveling with him. In his despair, while praying by the banks of Ebro River, Mother Mary miraculously appeared before him and his group, comforting him and promised to help. Mary gave him a column or pillar as a symbol, being carried by angels with an image of the Mother on top. James was instructed to build a chapel on the spot where Mary left the pillar, a place where she and the pillar would dwell forever; so that by the grace of God, will marvel those who believed and asked in their hour of need. James returned to Jerusalem after establishing the church in Zaragoza and was ordered beheaded in 44 AD by King Herod Agrippa I. The land he left eventually became believers of Christ through the works of his disciples"

Not all the domes inside were decorated. In fact they were mostly plain. Given the importance of this church, I was deeply unimpressed.

What did impress me, though, was a very very impressive relief behind the altar (I was not sure if it was the main or a secondary altar - Mass was being held at a smaller venue):

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If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
If I take a photo and no one sees it...

There was something on the Miracle of Calanda, where an amputee's leg was allegedly restored to him. So God may hate amputees, but he did not always.

The basilica had LED candles, which seemed cheapskate. But then it probably helped with preserving the interior too, especially when it got hot in summer.

Mass was mostly attended by old people. But then the younger people were probably working on Wednesday morning.

There was a sign about not walking about the cathedral during Mass, but it was only in Spanish. So I didn't realise what it meant until I saw that Mass was going on. Too bad.

There were 2 Goyas displayed: Regina Martyrum and sketches for the dome. They were alright, but I didn't really like his style as it was the thumbprint style of painting, resulting in an image that was quite muddy and indistinct.

Amusingly, the basilica put up 2 bombs which fell in 1936 (during the Civil War) but didn't explode. Naturally this was held to be a miracle. I hope they disarmed them before putting them on display. To get to see the bombs I had to mime falling bombs to someone, but it worked!

Ironically one cannot see the original pillar which descended fromthe sky, as it is entombed in a chapel. There's a hole through which one can kiss it, but I didn't wish to catch the Spanish Disease, so I only touched it. It was a really weird column, with streaks (perhaps a chemical reaction with spit and bacteria).

In one confessional booth a priest was reading a newspapr. One must kill the time *somehow*.

Below the organ there was a huge medieval manuscript. Or one that looked medieval anyway.

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Plaza of the Pillar

I found a spot relatively free of pigeon shit and ate my Feuilleté Framboise (Raspberry) from the previous day. It was still crispy!

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Basilica tower

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Basilica side

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This sign was a fraud. I couldn't find any open network.

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Basilica 180 degree auto-stitch from camera

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Manual stitch

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Plaza of the Pillar from the other side

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I then witnessed an eerie spectacle:


Disturbing music played over loudspeaker, with machinery noise
Played at 9am, this was like the Muslim call to prayer

I then went to see some Roman ruins. The first was the port.

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The wall was built by legionnaires. You can see their marks.

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Model of loading/unloading facility
In the distance you can see Spanish schoolkids streaming to watch a 30 minute movie. In Spanish. With no subtitles. Needless to say I didn't stay for it but moved on. Luckily I managed to look around before the lights went off for the movie.

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Amphorae

The port was quite disappointing, but then it was just a small river port and not Ostia. I heard the theatre was the most impressive of the ruins, but I'd seen it the previous night and it'd be a detour from my tightly-planned route since I had last than half a day to do everything. There was a deal to do all 4 of the sites but I passed because I had no time (the last site was the Thermal Baths ["Termas"]).

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Google Street View isn't that powerful so I couldn't identify this intricate church with clearly Muslim-influenced designs (Mudéjar Architecture) in the Plaza de San Bruno
However I'm quite sure it is The Cathedral of the Savior ("La Seo"), part of Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon.

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Plaque on the Plaza de San Bruno

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Art in the Plaza

My next step was the Forum (Foro) Museum.

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Museum exterior. It was a lot more elegantly designed than the exterior of the Port museum.

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Tower, almost certainly of a church

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More foundations

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Representation of the Porticos

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Roman Social Hierarchy

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More ruins

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More description that I couldn't understand

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Casa del Mercado de Epoca de Augusto

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"The Romans and Water". Finally, something I understood!

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Water Pipes

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On Roman religious life. I was amused that the French was better than the English

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Decorative tiles

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On Roman Women: "They preferred to wear their hair long" (but then this describes most women)

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Inside the Cloaca (Sewer)

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Cloaca from outside
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