Thursday, Gabi and I discover, is called Maundy Thursday during Holy Week. Maundy, coming from the Latin word for mandate, mandatum, the first words in the biblical phrase, “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” This was said by Jesus to his apostles during a feet washing ceremony. Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday, and so is celebrated to commemorate the Last Supper.
I thought this was a good day to find Jesus.
Like I said before, all over Madrid are religious processions every day of Holy Week and sometimes multiple ones. For every day that was super significant, I thought the chances of me being successful at finding Jesus (essentially finding the biggest religious float of Jesus I could find) would be higher. Maundy Thursday was one of those special days, and for Maundy Thursday the silent procession was the most important.
Gabi and I set forth to find where the procession is, using the vaguest of blog entries to help us on our way.
The crowds were so thick, families and people old and young. The crowd was peppered with cameramen and religious officials. Floats are put together and displayed within cathedrals, then slowwwwwwly and gently brought out into streets. The floats are as big as the giant doors to some of these cathedrals, so getting them out is a feat. I patiently waited for cheers for when the first float left the cathedral, and when I heard them, the crowd went silent.
Men dressed in tall, pointy hoods with their eyes covered (that yes, everybody acknowledges look really familiar to Americans). They carry lanterns of pleasant smelling incense and stop every minute or so to pray silently. The mood shifts from exuberance to solemnity as everyone bows their heads and makes the shape of the cross over their bodies, some of them clutching rosaries.
After maybe 15 or 20 minutes of waiting, one of the larger floats comes by. It’s a statue of Jesus bearing the cross and surrounded by swinging lanterns of incense. The crowd is quiet, but then there’s a break in the silence.
After Jesus passed us, Gabi and I exchanged glances of, “Okay our feet hurt, let’s go.” And so we went.
Friday and Saturday go by without too much fanfare. I attempted the Japanese Cheesecake (it was a fail, the yolk separated from the meringue immediately, causing a cake/omelette hybrid that I most definitely still ate), and I handled some errands. Same ole, same ole.
On Easter Sunday though, Gabi and I decided to go to Church.
Monasterio y Sitio de El Escorial en Madrid, otherwise called El Escorial, is one of the former homes of the Spanish monarchy and current monastery located wayyyy at the top of a mountain. As such, a great deal of it is open to tourists, and a great deal of it is still held in extremely high regard by worshippers. The underground crypt housing royalty is exempt from photography, and the giant Catholic church inside is also photography prohibited.
But I swear I went inside and was amazed.
Every Catholic church has the same impressive, “I CAN’T FOCUS OR HEAR ANYTHING CAUSE IT’S SO LARGE AND BEAUTIFUL’ vibe about it.
I’m fascinated by it all. This one was so large and empty on the inside, with the pews dwarfed by the high ceilings. There was even an area on the side with urns and boxes with the body parts of saints… so yeah, that.
Lastly, Gabi and I toured some more of the interior, marvelling at the beautiful library and interior paintings, many of the featuring the Hapsburg family.
You know the Hapsburgs, the royal family that inbred itself out of existence, leaving it’s final descendant so deformed that he didn’t live to see 50?
El Escorial also has wondeful views (it’s so isolated in the mountains that the climb there will put you in tip-top shape.
Eventually, Gabi and I tire out, walk back to the train and ride back home. Our Easter Sunday was well spent soaking up history and reverence.
Now back to the debauchery.