Day 16 Burgos
Dear Brothers Marist friends and family,
Greetings from Burgos where I'm still taking it quietly and as far as possible, resting my knee.
Yesterday, a very quiet Sunday mass in the Carthusian monastery up the hill from the brothers. Single priest, a 65 year old Californian, said mass in a slow and very prayerful Spanish. No singing and he did all the readings himself. After mass the church part was opened up for the public. So many astonishing features and works of art. See photos. But I'll only share what I thought was very interesting about a small carving of St James (or Sandiago, at this time my patron). Read on:
In the sanctuary of the church lie two tombs, exquisitely beautiful, hand-carved by a Giles de Silo between 1489-1493. Therein lie the parents of the famous Queen Isabella of Spain who commissioned and financed Christopher Columbus and who also stabilised this region of Spain by offering Moors and Jews a choice: Convert or get out! (Sounds familiar?)
Anyway in 1914, a wealthy aristocrat kindly offered the monks to help restore some of their art works. He was particularly interested in several small alabaster carvings which were removed from the sarcophagus, taken to Madrid whereupon they disappeared. Later, the story goes, this same gentleman, after falling on hard times got them out of Spain and sent them to the States where they were put on sale. The one of St James was sold to a wealthy collector who in turn left it to the Metropolitan Museum of New York where since 1969 it has been on show in 'The Cloisters' section of the museum. In 2011 the World Monuments Fund financed and commissioned a fine replica to be returned to the monastery. I think if I'd been the Abbott I would have gone for the return of the real thing, but that could be seen as poor form for monks!
Anyway the replica indeed is very beautiful. Finally to quote from a description of the statue:
The sculptor, Giles de Silo, settled in Burgos in the latter part the C15
although little is known of his origins which seem to be in northern Europe. This sculpture is an excellent example of his outstanding virtuosity as can be noted in the draping of the robes and in the meticulous detail of the beard and long hair. (My photo doesn't do it justice).
Invoked as patron saint of the Spanish people and protector of their kings, the apostle St James is depicted here in pilgrim attire: tunic, cape and wide -brimmed hat with a seashell which would later be associated with the pilgrim way to Compostela. He wears a pouch over his shoulder and in his left hand carries a walking stick from which hangs a gourd for water. The book that he holds in his other hand indicates he is an important figure in the New Testament.