Thursday, May 17, 2012

life against death


When i was a student in Granada, my student identity card allowed me to get into the Alhambra for free.

And I could just turn up and do it.

That's impossible now: the few tickets sold at the gate are sold out the minute they go on sale.

There's an incredible demand to see the place: and that means getting in now is immensely difficult.

Online advance tickets were sold out,  and the only way to get them was through my hotel.

I managed to get a time slot for the afternoon of the day after following day. We were to turn up at the booking office at least an hour before the appointed time with credit card, the form from the hotel (with its official stamp) and my passport.

We went off clutching our tickets as if they were gold; and a bit nervous because they said so categorically we’d miss our slot if we weren’t at the entrance at the appointed time.

So there we were, in the huge queue, waiting our turn. 

There is clearly something these buildings have that our culture desperately needs.

Whatever it is, I couldn't even try to analyse it at the time. It was too overwhelming.

Just to be in these structures, in their delicacy, their grace, their exquisite lines, and share that with the person I love...

The next day it all began to fall into place in my mind.

I wanted to see the tomb of the so-called ‘Catholic Kings’, Fernando and Isabela, the Christian kings who took over granada and tried to suppress its Muslim culture for ever.

It was a duty call because a couple of days previously, giggling under an umbrella in the Huerta de San Vicente, I’d had the unexpected sense Isabela might be a character in the play, and i wanted to try to get closer to her.

Their tomb is a vile building.

Constructed to celebrate the so-called triumph of Christianity, and use art to do so, it absolutely vindicates Lorca’s words that “it was a disastrous event, even though they may say the opposite in schools. An admirable civilisation, and a poetry, astronomy, architecture and sensitivity unique in the world - all were lost, to give way to an impoverished, cowed city...”

The day before we had been in these beautiful spaces, open to the world, expressing its beauty.. and standing there in front of the massive altarpiece in this massive space designed to frighten, to cow, to terrify, it was hard to be filled with anything but dismay.

This is a place designed to celebrate death.

A place built to express hatred of the human body, and hatred of the natural world.

it’s devoted to the pornography of suffering - with its endless, horrible images, of Christ’s agony, of John the Baptist’s severed head, of John the Evangelist being boiled alive, all in a strict hierarchy of authority, with God the vile father at the very summit of it all.

The mass murderers, Fernando and Isabela, whose crimes are being celebrated here, have their immensely over elaborate tombs.

And down below you can peer through bars at their lead coffins: as if there to enclose the evil heart of the Christian world.

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