Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Assaults on the Senses in Seville

As well Paris, we spent some months in Spain in 2003: Madrid mostly but also Granada, Seville, and Cordoba. This journey as much as anything seemed an attack on all the senses: visual, olfactory, auditory, taste and tactile. Let me explain.

Seville was for Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter Sunday in which religious icons are solemnly and ominously processed about the streets of the barrios (suburbs) where they usually live. Before they journey to and squeeze into the La Giralda Cathedral. This main church of Seville stands on the site of the Grand Almohad Mosque, with Moorish influences being strong- past and present - all across the southern part of the country.

Much of Semana Santa we experienced from the balcony off our hotel room:

But we were inexorably lead into the streets to better be part of the spectacle:

During these processions, the olfactory and auditory senses are assaulted. The scent of burning candles and incense, The sound of solemn march music. And the roar of clapping and cheering, when the heavy icon floats, cunningly secreted with big strong men, were perilously and tembulously (new word) lifted to shoulder height, accompanied by dramatic drum-rolls. It now occurs to me that this exemplifies the Catholic notion of reaching spiritual experience through exciting the physical senses rather than by conscious introspection.

The Spooks or nazarenos with each icon wear pointed or cone shaped hoods, symbolizing repentance and grief. The color (black, purple, and so on) indicates the Order of Spook.

And this is all on into the night:

All over the city, there are monasteries of the various religious orders, which again assault the senses - visual, auditory and olfactory. This time through highly ordered, manicured and fountained pleasure gardens:

Food of course is the ultimate sensory experience, at least for me. And for the Spanish, as window displays only hint at ...

... with the major Iberian obsession being cured ham, sold tellingly in 'ham museums' or 'museo del jamon':

One visceral experience I was not so sure about was bull-fighting:

But perhaps our most profound sensory experience was on the bus back to Madrid. This super cutie sat beside us, pleasantly and disconcertingly distracting us from the passing countryside.

I only realized recently that he was giving himself a tactile experience in the second photo! Which now gives me a very nice visual experience. Or is it a hot sensual experience? Whatever!

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