Monday, May 12, 2008

Grail Quest

Day 60

After a few hours of sleep I was feeling awake enough to check out Valencia as soon as I arrived. It didn't take me long to drop my things off at the hostel and start exploring. Nothing was opened yet and I grabbed some tea while I read my guidebook and planned out what I would do for the next few days. Eventually I found the tourist office and then an internet cafe. By the time I had done all of this I could check into the hostel. I was definitely greatful for a short nap and shower.

Not wanting to be a bum for the entire day I decided to check out the cathedral. Something major was going on by I had no idea what. There were chairs lined up and a large stage. What I thought was the cathedral was loaded with people praying at the various chapels. It was really standing room only. I didn't want to deal with the crowd, and couldn't see what I was looking for anyway so I moved on.

This was when I found the actual Valencia Cathedral, what I had found before was a Basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary. I didn't want to run, I'm a traveler not a tourist you know, but I still decided to do the free audio tour geographically rather than numerically. For some reason the program they had laid out had visitors seeing the things nearest the door last instead of first.

Like many churches in Spain the building had originally been a mosque. When it was refitted as a cathedral only low cost materials were used and they declined to have an overabundance of frescoes or sculptures. This gave the place a more austere look than most cathedrals have. Before I hit 'the' chapel I passed a decrepit painting of St. Sebastian, it was the first renaissance painting created in Spain.

Soon I was there, in the chapel of the holy grail. Valencia's grail is said to be the cup that Christ drank out of at the last supper. The cup does date to the 1 century B.C., however, ornate handles and feet were added at some point during the medieval ages. The grail has been in the cathedrals possession since the 15th century. The grail was small and behind glass and then behind a rope. It was rather hard to see.

There is so much grail lore in Europe that there is no way I could seek out each lead. On top of that I have no desire to really do something like that. Still, whenever there is a bit of grail lore nearby I will be sure to check it out.

After I had finished with the grail I moved on to the rest of the church. There was a small museum with some excellent sculpture and artwork from the long history of the cathedral. Well, the works themselves were not that great, but how they had them displayed was. They were arranged by time and the guide discussed how styles and techniques evolved over the centuries.

A few relics were hanging out in some of the chapels. There was the skull of St. Thomas and one of St. Vincents well preserved arms to check out. Most of the chapels were dedicated to the Virgin and much of the artwork was quite similar.

One I had left the chapel I spent some time browsing a nearby market. I don't really want to buy anything, I just want to look. Back at the hostel I had all the makings for pasta and had a quiet dinner. Later on, while I was writing, I met some of the other people at the hostel and I spent the rest of the evening chatting with them.

No comments: