Two kings and two queens

It is easy to forget how closely linked England and Spain have been throughout the years. Especially in today’s political climate when the UK has left the EU, when many people may be feeling that we have less in common with Europe than ever before. However, things change constantly throughout history and a longer perspective is often helpful.

I remember watching the Michael Palin series, and reading his book, ‘New Europe’, about all of the changes in both membership of the EU at that time and the changes in countries such as the former Yugoslavia. I was reminded of this again during my new writing course this week as we were reading an extract from a book written about memories of that country by a former citizen living in Germany. The course is all about writing about place and identity and we have started with thinking about our own identity.

At the weekend I was out with a French friend, who now lives here in Spain, and a Dutch friend of hers. We were talking about all sorts of topics, including our own identity, empire, and how we had all ended up here, in a little bar halfway down the Spanish Costas. I love the very multicultural nature of my new life. Yorkshire was also very multicultural, but in a different way, and I like the fact that I am spending time with people from lots of other parts of Europe as well as Spain. It is so nice to meet lots of different people here as well as on my travels.

Our recent visit to Granada really brought home how closely England and Spain were connected, and in particular, for me, the very fascinating period of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and their daughter Catherine of Aragon and Henry the Eighth. You will know if you have read some of my previous posts that Catherine is someone I am very interested in, both from a historical viewpoint and from a textile one as she is credited with bringing blackwork to England.

I know less about Ferdinand and Isabella and need to read more, but Granada is so important to their story, with their reconquest of Southern Spain in 1492, when they captured the city from the Moors. The ‘Reconquista’ is celebrated every year in Spain in many places and we have been lucky enough to visit several of the spectacular fiestas that celebrate it.

Our final day in Granada was all about catholic heritage, with a visit to a monastery, the cathedral and the chapel where Ferdinand and Isabella are buried. The chapel is so beautiful, an amazing testament to the stonemasons who built it.

No photos were allowed in the chapel but I have managed to find some information and pictures from various sources. This blog has some additional information and a copy of this painting which was at the entrance to the tomb.

It shows a glorious depiction of Isabella and Ferdinand as they have the city surrendered to them by Bobadil, the Muslim ruler. The first day of our visit we went to Bobadil’s mother’s palace and the Alhambra visit and the chapel tour completed the story. I think it is a wonderful piece of art, so full of detail, from Isabella’s gown to the Alhambra and the Albaicin in the background.

The chapel itself is wonderful, the tombs are very impressive, as to be expected but there is also a very good interpretation and a wonderful collection of medieval art there as well, which we loved. There is lots more information and pictures on the chapel web site.

The most amazing thing for us was that underneath the marble tomb there is a crypt with the coffins inside, picture from Pinterest. There are also the coffins of their other daughter Joanna and Philip and the Prince of Asturias. I think this was the most amazing thing about that day for all of us, the tombs and the gold altars were all stunning but this was very poignant and something that I have not seen with other memorials.

The monastery, Cartuja de Granada contained many paintings detailing what happened to Catholic monks in England after Henry’s split from the church while trying to divorce Catherine. I didn’t take pictures of them as it was rather gory but the architecture of the monastery was beautiful. I loved the simplicity of the cloisters and the refectory buildings.

The chapel there was just unbelievably ornate. I don’t think that we have ever seen anything like it and we have seen a lot of Catholic churches! There was a main larger chapel area and then behind the mirrored altar a smaller chapel.

Our other visit, to the cathedral, was also stunning, as much for the many books of music on display with their gorgeously illustrated pages, as for the altar, organs and other grandeur.

I loved the ceiling of the cathedral altar space, not my best ever Spanish cathedral ceiling, as that honour goes to the one in Valencia with its musical angels, but still very beautiful.

My next post will be about the Alhambra itself, once I have decided which of the many pictures I took to include! So much wonderful architecture and decoration in the place it is a difficult decision.

We have also just been on a couple more day trips, to a wonderful garden on a lovely sunny day, and to another fiesta, so will post about those soon as well. The weather has been variable, so one of our trips has not been able to take place, due to the event being cancelled, but we still have one more to come this week.

We are then going to be having a quieter few weeks, which gives me chance to get out on the bike and visit the outdoor pool when its sunny. If it does rain there is the opportunity for more sewing days, watching the clouds!

I hope that you have all had a good week. Whatever you are doing have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.