Saturday, 15 November 2014

European Adventures Part III: An Automatonophobe's Nightmare

This week I learned that automatonophobia is the fear of inanimate objects that represent humans.  Thanks, Google!

In part three of the Europe travel notes, we look again at Oviedo Cathedral, and more specifically at a few of the statues around the place.  First, St. Anthony.

We’ve looked at St. Anthony before, and the main reason he’s here is because I still love the adorable pig by his side. 

Adorable but sad, as if he knows he’s just a thought away from being turned into bacon for his master.

I guess saintly animal companions were pretty popular.  This guy has a stoned lion hanging out with him, which doubles as a book stand.

Next up: St. Leocadia. 

The combination of her wild lightning bolts on a plate, combined with her creepy, slightly reptilian eyes, reminds me of one of the weeping angels from Doctor Who crossed with a rogue Pokémon.

Speaking of the Timelord, here is the Eleventh Doctor’s patron saint.

This is apparently the corner for people who crossed St. Leocadia, with shock and seizures being the result.

I am not sure who this guy is, but the demon he is walking over looks more annoyed than conquered.

Of course St. Peter gets a central statue spot.

The jaunty angle of his beehive hat, the gaping mouth, the crazed eyes looking in slightly different directions...he’s holding out the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven as if to say, “PLEASE TAKE THESE KEYS BECAUSE I DON’T REMEMBER WHERE I LIVE.”

Finally for this installment, I present this lovely altar featuring the Holy Family.

There are a lot of statues of Mary holding Baby Jesus, maybe with a dove shooting laser beams over their heads to represent her Baby Daddy.  I like this one, however, because Mary is on her own being glorified on top of a pile of children, while Joseph has been left with babysitting duties overhead. 

He is holding that baby like he is not quite sure which way is up, and he definitely does not want to change the Holy Diaper. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

European Adventures Part II: Oviedo and the Temple of Death

After the Wedding in Bling Abbey, I was off for an assignment in Spain.  There wasn’t much time for sightseeing, but the one thing I did get to check out was Oviedo Cathedral.  And what a cathedral it is.  To give you an idea of the overwhelming visual experience, this is the main altar.

My detail-obsessed brain immediately shut down at this, and I still haven’t had a chance to process it.  This will be at least a two-part entry, so I may come back to it later.  For now, however, we are going to look at what I found to be the most striking art theme of the cathedral: brutal murder.

Before dragging my husband around to photograph 5000 vignettes and drawing suspicious looks from staff, I took the formal tour, which was quite whirlwind (“There is the altar! Here are very old statues of the disciples!  This is a fancy historical jeweled box!  Ok, thanks for coming!”).  One of the details from the guide that stuck with me, though, was that Saint Eulogius, who is buried in the cathedral, had been beheaded by the Moors.  After the tour, the first scene that I noticed was this one.

Sure enough, that is a dude about to be beheaded by a man with a scimitar and a bitchin’ moustache. 

The incoming angel seems unprepared to deal with this situation.  It is hard to balance a wreath on the head when it is a free-range head, not bound by the confines of a body.  Also, what is he planning to do with that palm branch?  Beat off the assailant, or just incapacitate him with hayfever? 

This proved to be the first of several death-in-process vignettes.  In a Catholic place of worship, I expect a certain amount of (Possibly Bleeding) Jesus-On-A-Cross, but this place is like a religious snuff film.  (Snuff mural?) 

I now present to you the Martyr Highlights of Oviedo Cathedral.

Apparently getting whacked from behind was a big problem in medieval Spain.  This time the weapon looks more like a baseball bat, although he seems to have a scimitar at his side.  The victim is just like, “Hey, tree, what did I do??”  

Also note the floating angel head - this theme is making more sense now that I see all the beheadings that went on.

I’m not sure if this one is actually a murder about to happen, but it looks like he’s about to be stabbed in the back on the king’s orders.  Charm point: adorable dwarf with a knife that might leap forward and cut his Achilles tendon.

Of course, the images of saints being beaten with rocks are much more picturesque than the stabbings. 

The guy giving the orders looks so delightfully disinterested – “Oh, just get it over with.  And try not to get any brain splatters on me.”

Here, even though one guy has a pitchfork, the multitude decided that rock-bashing is much more fun.  Also, I like that there is a dedicated rock-fetcher for the mindless murder mob. 

This man seems to be being whipped with bushels of wheat.  That angel coming down with the cross is like, “Hey guys, that looks pretty ineffective, but I’ve got a technique that works here…”

Also, good on the victim for trying to make a break for it while they’re still in the process of binding his feet.

This one gets points for being the most gruesome, with the man being actively flayed alive.  Must be a House Dreadfort job.

I am not entirely sure why those three angry guys are being trampled, but I love that the one in the middle is holding his hand up as if to say, “Excuse me, old chap, might you lend a hand here?”

I always thought that devils were supposed to take your soul and stab you with pitchforks underground, but apparently sky demons are also a concern.  Not quite sure what the dove with laser beams is doing, since it is not engaging in combat with the minions of hell.

Finally, my personal favorite Oviedo Cathedral death: naked man consumed by dragon under an Illuminati pyramid.

So there you have it.  There may have been more, but these were the main ones that caught my eye in the cacophony of imagery.  Because nothing encourages the worship of a loving God like looking at endless images of people, including the faithful, being brutally murdered!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

European Adventures Part I: The Pomp of the Polish Pulpit

Dear readers, you may, or more likely may not, have noticed that I have been AWOL for a little while.  Well, that is because the past few weeks I was gallivanting around Europe attending a wedding, recovering from a wedding, and trying to determine the blood-alcohol content of the average Polish wedding guest.  (Answer: not enough.  More vodka!)

The wedding, at the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec near Krakow, was beautiful.  Definitely the loveliest ceremony I have attended that I could not understand a word of.  Well, I got the names of the bride and groom, and Christ was in there, although I’m pretty sure it was spelled “Krwyzctzyc.”  But besides the joy of being present for two good friends signing a lifetime contract of love and devotion, I got to see this amazing church.


There is a lot of gold in there.  We’ll start with this pulpit, which I sat behind and could not help but gaze upon.


The official explanation is that it is in the shape of a ship, on which Jesus preached.  Personally, my first thought was that it looked like a fancy Victorian ship-shaped bed with tassels and light-blocking curtains.  It turns out that the curtains are a net to catch these terrifying fishes.

Also featured but not showing up very well in this photo: a series of golden tentacles emerging from the rock(?) on top of the boat.

I might observe that the church website explains, “The composition of the pulpit is crowned with a building symbolising the Church with a figure of whorshipped Christ at the top.”  So I guess “whorshipping” goes along with the blingy golden ship-bed of Christ?

Moving on to the altar center stage.


Plenty more gold, but we’ll take a look at the painting in the middle…


Peter and Paul, the patrons of the church, look up in awe at the divine world.  Although frankly even without the holy Trinity up there, there is something unnerving about those angels.

Also, while Peter is usually depicted as pretty svelte, here he looks a bit like Santa Claus in his nightgown.

The last striking thing was this angel wielding an upside-down cross.

This is probably symbolizing Peter again, who was crucified upside-down.  However, the way that angel is holding it is less like he’s supporting a noble symbol, and more like he’s going to fling it down and impale some unsuspecting people below.

In conclusion, congratulations and best wishes to G&K, and Polish churches are awesome!  I now know where to go in case of a global financial meltdown when gold becomes the only acceptable currency.