Leyends

  • The Holy Shroud of Jerez de la Frontera.

    Authenticated copy of the Shroud of Turin. Basilica of La Merced. Jerez de la Frontera.

    This is undoubtedly one of the topics that most captivate the attention when it comes up during the guided tours I do in my city. Even today, there are many mysteries surrounding this relic, carefully preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of La Merced. Let’s start unraveling the details of this enigmatic Shroud.

    The relic.

    It belongs to one of the few authenticated copies in our country.

    It is a drawing with a sort of orange paste on it, believed to serve the purpose of protecting it from abrasion.

    This copy may be somewhat coarser than the others, a sign that could indicate greater age than the rest. Its dimensions are similar to those of the original from Turin:

    • One meter and twenty centimeters wide.
    • Over four meters in length.

    In one of its corners, there is the authenticity proof in Italian writing: ‘D. Girolamo Nasy. Custodian (…) I bear witness to the Holy Shroud, having made a touch (…) with my own hand from the original Shroud. Turin, August 20, 1682.’

    Nevertheless, there are those who believe that the copy may have been made in the French city of Chambéry, where the original was located, around 1532. And others assert that it could have been created earlier, starting from 1506 when Pope Julius II granted permission to copy it.

    How does it arrive to Jerez de la Frontera?

    We go back to 1571 when it is said that Father Francisco de Hinestrosa, born in Jerez de la Frontera, traveled to Flanders in search of relics for the Mercedarian temple. This Father was the Procurator General of the order, Vicar General of the Italian provinces, and also in the Curia of Rome.

    In the late 18th century, the historian Bartolomé Gutiérrez tells us that the copy arrived in Jerez by order of a bishop the following year, but it was intended for the Indies. It seems that the bishop passed away shortly after arriving in Jerez with the relics, including the Shroud, so ultimately everything remained in the Basilica of La Merced.

    The ritual.

    From the 19th century until the 1930s, the Jerez Shroud was displayed to the faithful at specific moments during the year, such as Good Friday, Holy Thursday, and August 15th (the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin).

    In the sanctuary, deacons and acolytes would unfold the shroud held by two rods. When the time came, the faithful would approach to venerate it, often passing objects over it to receive blessings.

    Later, the Shroud was placed in an exquisite reliquary, crafted in the 17th century. To open it, three keys were required, held by three different individuals. It rested there without public exposure for 80 years.

    The last time the relic was displayed to the public was in 2018, on the occasion of commemorating the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Mercedarian Order.

    An interesting fact…

    We have already mentioned the authenticity seal that confirms the writing in one of its corners. Well, in that same corner, another piece of fabric is sewn on top, the origin of which is unknown, although some speculate that it might be a fragment of the original.

    As you can see, a truly astounding mystery…

    Don’t forget to comment and share if you’ve enjoyed this. Unfortunately, I can’t show you this relic, but I can show you the Basilica, the city, the province of Cadiz, and its surroundings… Get in touch!

    THANKS!

  • Our lady of Mercy, patroness of Jerez.

    Our Lady of Mercy Crowned. Jerez de la Frontera.

    The day has arrived when the city of Jerez dresses up in celebration of its patroness, so I have set out to dedicate a post to share with you her history, origins, and interesting facts about this widely revered Marian statue.

    Where does the Marian devotion of Our Lady of Mercy come from?

    In the 13th century, the Moors, taking advantage of coastal raids, captured many Christians to be enslaved in Africa, living in deplorable conditions.

    It was then that the merchant Pedro Nolasco decided to use his wealth to embark on the mission of liberating them, with the help of others who shared the same vision and values.

    These men managed to free many captives, but as resources dwindled for their mission, they decided to form fraternities to raise funds.

    Although this worked for a while, eventually, the funds ran out, and Pedro Nolasco had no choice but to seek the favor of God. Legend has it that it was the Virgin Mary who appeared to him and inspired him to establish a congregation dedicated to the redemption of captives. And thus, the order of the Mercedarians was born, knights in the service of Mary’s redemptive work.

    Devotion and Attributes.

    The Mercedarian devotion provides relief to faithful Christians in their most severe tribulations.

    The grace of the Virgin is a reflection of the great devotion she is revered with in different places around the world:

    • Europe: Spain and Italy.
    • America: Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, and Brazil.
    • Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Central America, and the United States.

    The name itself, Merced, means mercy, and its day is marked on the calendar on September 24th.

    The Virgin and the city of Jerez.

    The legend goes that the Most Holy Mary of La Merced was acclaimed as the Patroness in 1272, and the city swore allegiance to her in 1300.

    According to the chronicles, the wooden statue was found unharmed and uncorrupted during the excavation of the foundations of the Merced convent, inside a brick and tile oven.

    Analysis of the image.

    The Virgin is crafted from dark wood.

    The raised carving depicts the Virgin holding the Child Jesus, also with a dark complexion, portrayed standing at her side. Her right hand blesses the people, and her left hand holds a globe.

    The original Child Jesus is not part of this image; it is housed in the sacristy of the Basilica.

    From the original Virgin, only the head remains, displaying a frontal rigidity, a sharp profile, and an archaic smile, all characteristic elements of Gothic sculptures. The rest of the carving was later covered with silver for its preservation.

    The Miraculous Virgin

    Tile of the Virgin of Mercy and her Miracles. Jerez de la Frontera.

    The devotion to La Merced became deeply rooted in the 16th century when the city entrusted itself to her divine intercession to end the drought that was plaguing the city in the late 16th century. The Virgin answered their pleas with abundant rains for the dry fields.

    The efforts of the Mercedarian order helped strengthen the devotion to the patroness. So much so that in 1410, the municipal council began making donations to support the order in its work, a campaign supported by the city’s knights who joined in the effort.

    The devotion endured, as evidenced by the occasions when the image was paraded in procession to seek her help during droughts, famines, or epidemics, despite the prohibition against taking her out of the temple. Furthermore, she was also carried in processions for other reasons, such as during the illness and death of Queen Isabella the Catholic.

    Throughout the 16th century, various miracles were recorded during these processions, including the healing of a plague epidemic in 1569, the recovery of the infirm, and in 1589, when the image remained in the Jerez Cathedral for 9 days to pray for rain. Interestingly, on the third day of her stay, it rained in the city.

    The celebration and the temples.

    Procession of the Virgin of Mercy through the streets of the city. Jerez de la Frontera.

    Initially, her feast was celebrated on April 30th. Later on August 15th, a day of the Virgin par excellence. Finally, it was moved to the current date, September 24th.

    As for the temples, she was venerated for a time in the church of Santiago on two occasions, due to the French invasion and the expulsion of the friars of the order resulting from the Mendizábal confiscations.

    The Virgin returned to her Basilica after three years. However, the friars did not return until 1940.

    The beloved Patroness receives the veneration of numerous devotees year after year, first during her novena, then in the preceding solemn mass to renew the 1300 vow, and finally in the procession that fills the streets and squares of Jerez with the scent of tuberoses.

    A beautiful procession in which traditionally, the flamenco singers from the San Miguel and Santiago neighborhoods sang “bulerías”: «¿A dónde va usté? / ¿A dónde va usté? / ¡A vé a la Virgen de la Mercé!» (‘Where are you going? / Where are you going? / To see the Virgin of Mercy!’)

    Our crowned Lady of Mercy.

    Coronation of the Virgin of Mercy. Jerez de la Frontera. 1960.

    On May 28, 1961, the long-awaited Canonical Coronation of the Patroness took place in the city.

    Years earlier, triduums were celebrated in different temples throughout the city in preparation for the grand solemnity held at the Minor Basilica of the Virgin of Mercy.

    Our Lady arrived at Alameda Vieja to be welcomed by the youngest Jerezanos, and then she was transported to the Cathedral, which was still a Collegiate Church at the time. On May 28, following the Pontifical Mass officiated by Cardinal José María Bueno Monreal of Seville, as evening fell, the Canonical Coronation took place in the same Alameda, in the presence of moved citizens.

    Curiosities.

    A Coronation that gave rise to a Jerez neighborhood

    As per the Mercedarian fathers’ wishes, all secular events related to the grand occasion were canceled.

    The funds initially allocated for these events were instead used to provide housing for those in need.

    Cardinal Bueno Monreal laid the foundation stone for the new neighborhood, which was named ‘La Coronación.'”

    Patroness of Jerez de la Frontera...

    It is generally assumed that the Virgin of La Merced has been the Patroness of the city since the 13th century, sworn in by a vow of the City Council.

    Furthermore, there are official records in the Cabildo minutes indicating that the City Council already attended her festivities and procession in 1410.

    However, the patronage did not become official until it was declared by Pope Pius XII on June 27, 1949.

    The other theory regarding the arrival of the sculpture…

    In 1369, during the conquest of the Benimerines of Algeciras, a Christian soldier managed to escape from the city with the sculpture of the Virgin to keep it safe.

    The man eventually left it in a monastery in Jerez, that of La Merced, promising to return for it.

    The monks in the monastery would talk among themselves, asserting that the image emitted flashes of light at night, leading them to believe that, thanks to divine providence, the image had appeared in their monastery.

    However, the soldier never returned, and the image, considered as the Virgin of La Merced, led to the construction of the current temple.

    And this tribute to the Patroness of my city comes to an end. As always, if you liked it, please comment and share. If you want to attend the beautiful procession and get to know the city a bit more, I’ll be happy to guide you. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

    THAKS!

  • Monuments to Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    Monument to Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in Houston, Texas, United States.

    After the five entries I have dedicated to my fellow countryman, in which I have briefly covered his life, it seemed to me that as a final touch, I should speak about some of the monuments erected in his honor across the face of the Earth.

    Let’s start with the one in the image that opens this entry…

    Monument installed in the centenary gardens of Hermann Park’s McGovern in Houston, Texas.

    Acquired by the City of Houston in 1986, the work of Pilar Cortella de Rubin.

    It’s a bronze bust of the explorer, depicted wearing chest armor and a helmet atop his head. He is portrayed as a bearded man with long hair flowing down his shoulders.

    On the granite base, it reads in Spanish and English: “Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1490-1560). Modern Texas history begins with this Spanish explorer, who lived here from 1528 to 1536. This sculpture has been donated for the occasion of the visit of Their Majesties King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía of Spain.”

    Commemorative plaque of the discovery of the Iguazu Falls.

    On it, it reads: “To Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Tribute from the General Administration of National Parks and Tourism. In memory of the discoverer of these waterfalls, Mr. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who after fierce struggles with nature and the unknown, in his daring journey from the Atlantic Brazilian jungles in search of a route to the Rio de la Plata, discovered this wonder of the world in the year 1541.”

    Monument in Ciudad Juárez.

    In it, we can see on a mound the slender figure of the explorer, dressed in loincloth where he carries a dagger, with his left hand on his forehead in an attitude of scanning the landscape, and his right hand holds a stick resembling a staff, which ends in a cross shape. He appears to carry a sort of bag slung across his chest and a pendant.

    The monument was erected by Juan Carlos Canfield Zapata on April 24, 2001.

    And in Jerez de la Frontera, his hometown…
    Monument to Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Jerez de la Frontera. Cádiz.

    In his hometown, in addition to a street and one of the best institutes, where I had the privilege of studying half of ESO and Bachillerato (high school levels), we find this beautiful fountain with his monument.

    Located on Calle Ancha, in Santiago Square and in front of a section of the old Arab wall that once surrounded Sherish Saduna, stands the figure of the explorer on foot. He is depicted in bronze, cutting through the dense jungle that covers his nudity, except for his left leg, as he is represented wearing only his helmet and holding an axe in his right hand.

    Behind him, as a backdrop, four indigenous figures are also represented in bronze, dressed with bows and arrows.

    The fountain, resembling a pond, receives water from two sources, one on each side, with the one on the left closest to the front corner and the one on the right towards the back. Under the indigenous figures, a waterfall is formed, which may remind us of his discovery of the Iguazu Falls.

    On the commemorative plaque, it reads: “Jerez to Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, explorer of Florida. Adelantado of the Río de la Plata. April 27, 1991.”

    With this, I consider the review of my daring fellow countryman’s life concluded, although I don’t rule out writing again about some of his adventures in the future…

    And if…

    1 You know of other monuments, recognitions, and tributes to this native of Jerez, leave them in the comments!

    2 You feel like visiting it in person, get in touch with me, and we’ll organize your visit.

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  • A citizen of Jerez, explorer of La Florida (One)

    Ponce de León’s Expedition to Florida. Engraving 1885.

    Continuing from the previous entry… “And on July 17, 1527, Narváez departs with the fleet for Florida from the Port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda towards Santo Domingo…”


    Well, right from the start, during the course of the voyage to Santo Domingo, the fleet encounters a storm that causes the loss of 60 men and a ship. As a result, upon arrival, 140 men decide not to continue the expedition… Given the circumstances, the fleet decides to spend the winter in Cuba and take the opportunity to resupply.

    Months later, in April 1528, they begin the route towards Florida.

    It’s important to note that Pánfilo Narváez had incorrect calculations, the distances weren’t accurate. So, when they set off from Santo Domingo, they again face a challenging voyage. Despite this, they manage to spot the bay of Tampa, not quite sure where to head.

    From the ships, they spot some structures on a hill by present-day San Petersburgo, and Narváez assumes it must be an important village. Driven by impatience, he orders a swift disembarkation.

    Florida expedition with Cabeza de Vaca and Narváez.

    Venturing Inland…


    When Narváez and his men arrive at the village, they are peacefully welcomed by the natives. They set up camp there and venture to explore the surroundings. As night falls and they return, they are astonished to find that the indigenous people had left.

    The next day, after taking possession of the land for King Charles V, they continued their search, finding another village with no riches or food. It’s here that the natives advise the Spaniards to continue northward to reach the lands of the Apalachees, lands rumored to have gold and food.

    Returning to the camp, Narváez organizes the march in the style of Cortés, splitting the expedition by sea and by land, with the idea of reuniting in the north.

    The patience of the explorers was wearing thin, including Álvar’s, as he feared that with the incorrect maritime calculations and the uncertainty of the terrain, the endeavor was headed for disaster.

    The 100 men who began the expedition by sea were searching for the next inlet of the Tampa Bay, but the reality was that it was located to the south. Meanwhile, by land, Narváez, along with Álvar and the other men, trekked for 15 days through dense vegetation with unfamiliar wildlife and waterlogged swamps. Finally, in a village north of the Vitalcoche River, they were able to eat maize.

    They continued through the lands of the Timucua people, making contact with them, until they reached the Apalachee lands in the summer, but… the “promised land” from the earlier indigenous accounts turned out to be a humble village with around 40 poorly constructed huts, inhabited by fierce warriors.

    Narváez and Cabeza de Vaca exploring the land on horseback.

    Three unbearable weeks passed in the territory of the Apalachees, but despite their efforts aided by three hostages, they found nothing more than the skill of those natives’ bows and arrows. Their effective attacks depleted Narváez’s army, which could do little against the heavy crossbows and muskets.

    At the end of the third expedition, Narváez had no choice but to give up, reaching this decision in the area that corresponds to present-day Georgia. He ordered a retreat to the coast, enduring the harsh attacks of the natives in the marshy lands.

    On the coast, near present-day Tallahassee, they stopped in a village where they could nourish themselves with maize, beans, and squashes. With supplies replenished, they resumed their march following the course of the river they named San Marcos, now known as “Saint Marks,” until they reached the coast.

    Finally, our protagonist takes the reins…

    Cabeza de Vaca and Narváez arrival to the coast.

    The dreadful conditions they arrived in, including Narváez who was gravely injured, prompted our man from Jerez to take command. Álvar ordered the construction of 5 barges, about 8 to 12 meters in length, using the weapons and armor, as well as natural resources.

    During the time it took to design them, they survived on maize, fishing, and finally their horses. To honor their valuable horses, they named the bay “Bay of the Horses.”

    In September, with the barges ready, the 242 men divided into groups of 50 and followed the westward coast in search of what is now Tampico, believing it wasn’t too far away… The truth is, they spent many days enduring storms, hunger, thirst, and the pain of their wounds. Finally, a hurricane caused them to shipwreck two days before reaching the Mississippi River.

    The ships separated, some sank, like the one piloted by Narváez; and others were violently thrown against the shore. The barge that Álvar was on had better luck and was carried to what is now Galveston.

    By November 1528, the Florida fleet that initially set out with 600 men was reduced to 80. Upon reaching the island, they coincidentally referred to it as “ill fate,” because if something was definitely not on their side, it was good fortune.

    And that concludes the first part. What will become of our protagonist now? TO BE CONTINUED…

  • A Jerezan explorer in Florida, (two)

    Arrival at Malhado island.

    Álvar Núñez and his solo journey.


    Little or nothing remained of Pánfilo Narváez’s ambitious expedition, which lay in the sea alongside his dreams of glory and riches…

    At this point, our man from Jerez begins his own expedition, this time on his own.

    Injured and sick, he is taken care of by indigenous people who had a settlement on the coast where the ships wrecked. As his health improved, he quickly realized he had to learn something within the tribe to avoid being their slave.

    Álvar set his sights on the tribe’s shamans, thinking that with his medical knowledge gained during his training as a soldier, he might be able to heal.

    And thus, combining his medical know-how with the laying on of hands and prayers, he healed some of the villagers.

    His reputation quickly spread to the nearby settlements, and it wasn’t long before the sick arrived seeking this new healer.

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    Strengthened in his health, Álvar decides to venture inland, to the Charrucos, to engage in trading seashells, leather, flint, reeds… He first traded with the nearest villages and gradually moved towards more distant areas. This is how he survived for six years.

    During this time, he sought news of his companions and managed to reunite with three other survivors in the southern United States.

    These were:

    • Andrés Orantes de Carranza, originally from Béjar.
    • Alonso Castillo Maldonado, from Salamanca.
    • Esteban, a Berber and slave of Alonso, better known as “Estebanico,” the first African man in the Americas.


    Once reunited, over a period of ten months, they devised a plan to escape, during which Álvar taught them everything he had learned as a shaman.

    In the summer of 1535, the four explorers crossed Texas and the Sonora region. There, they encountered indigenous people who had houses made of grass and cultivated beans and squash.

    However, not all the tribes they encountered were civilized. In the Sierra Madre, they encountered one that subsisted on deer hearts, a village they baptized as the “Village of Hearts.”

    Open-heart surgery performed by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    One of the most astonishing feats…


    While passing through Arizona, Álvar successfully performed an open-heart surgery on a Native American who had been wounded by an arrow. Some claim that this was the first recorded instance of open-heart surgery in history.

    The beginning of the journey back to Spain…


    The adventure of these four intrepid men was coming to an end in 1537.

    Following their planned route, they encountered a Native American equipped with a talid, and the horse he was riding wore horseshoes, unmistakable signs that the presence of Spaniards was nearby.

    Indeed, as they ventured southwest into Sinaloa, they came across Diego de Alcaraz, a Spaniard leading a group dedicated to capturing slaves. The pleasant reunion between Spaniards turned into a confrontation when Alcaraz’s men attempted to enslave the indigenous people in the group following the four explorers.

    Continuing their journey, around mid-year, they managed to reach Culiacán and from there to Compostelas, covering a distance of 300 miles.

    Back in Mexico, it was Hernán Cortés himself who received these four fearless survivors of the Florida expedition.

    Before long, they all traveled back to Spain from Veracruz, except for Estebanico, who decided to stay with Cortés.

    The journey to Spain…


    Our man from Jerez set course for the Peninsula from Havana in 1537, ten years after joining Narváez’s expedition.

    And as if ten years of adventures weren’t enough, while sailing near the Azores islands, some French corsairs attempted to seize his ship… Álvar disembarked with the help and escort of several Portuguese vessels in Lisbon.

    Upon returning to Spain, he met with Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo in Madrid to seek explanations for what had happened during those 10 years.

    It was then that Álvar composed a written account of his exploits to provide evidence to the Royal Audiencia of the Council of the Indies, a narrative that he later expanded, giving rise to his work “Naufragios” (“Shipwrecks”).

    And thus concludes the conquest adventure of Florida, but fear not, for the one of the Río de la Plata follows next… TO BE CONTINUED…

  • A Jerezan explorer in Florida (into)

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca portrait.

    I’ve been wanting to write about this fascinating fellow from my hometown for quite some time now, but the truth is that no matter how much I think about it, I don’t know how to approach Álvar’s life and convey everything he experienced in just a simple blog entry.

    A little bit of research is enough to realize that each source adds more and more information. I must confess, this fact only makes me more engrossed.

    With that said, I’ve considered that breaking it down into parts is the best option for both the reader and myself. So, humbly, I’m going to try to do my best.

    Let’s start then with the first stage of Álvar’s life and the background of his adventure to the New World, prior to the grand journey of the renowned Florida expedition.

    Origins, Youth, and First Feats

    Origins

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, a native of Jerez de la Frontera, was born in the late 15th century into the midst of two powerful families.

    (as a curiosity, there’s an old manor house on Cabezas Street, located between the ancient neighborhoods of San Mateo and San Lucas in Jerez, whose courtyard features columns with cow head capitals… perhaps the family residence?)

    The great conqueror and governor of Gran Canaria, Pedro de Vera, was Álvar’s paternal grandfather. His father, Francisco de Vera, was a recognized knight of Jerez.

    His mother, Teresa Cabeza de Vaca, came from a noble family. As the story goes, the shepherd who guided the Christian knights by marking the path with a cow head to surprise the enemy in the Battle of Tolosa was an ancestor of his (hence the surname).

    And if that weren’t enough, Álvar’s maternal aunt, Beatriz Cabeza de Vaca, married the conqueror of Melilla, Pedro de Estopiñán.

    Youth

    I don’t lie when I say that difficulties in our protagonist’s life were constant.

    From a very young age, Álvar became an orphan and was under the care of his relatives.

    It’s known that Álvar deeply admired his uncle Pedro de Estopiñán, who took it upon himself to a great extent to educate his nephew.

    Estopiñán took advantage of the good relationship he had with the Medina Sidonia family, a powerful noble family in the province of Cadiz, and placed his nephew as a page and chamberlain in the service of Alfonso Pérez de Guzmán, the third Duke of Medina Sidonia.

    First feats

    It is in the service of this family that in 1511, Álvar takes part in the Holy League that confronted Italians and French. Later, with King Charles V’s troops, he will fight in the uprising of the comuneros and the French invasion of Navarre.

    Upon his return to Seville, where he resided in the service of the duke, he married María Marmolejo, whose family belonged to the Seville bourgeoisie.

    The influence of the Medina Sidonia family undoubtedly granted him the opportunity to join the expedition led by Pánfilo Narváez to Florida, holding the position of chief constable and treasurer of the expedition.

    The Expedition to Florida, Background.

    Juan Ponce de León y Figueroa, born in Valladolid in 1460.

    Linked to the descendants of Pedro Ponce de Cabrera, husband of Infanta Aldonza, the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso IX of León.

    His education was overseen by his relative Ramiro Núñez, in Seville.

    As a page of King Ferdinand the Catholic, he took part in the conquest of Granada alongside his uncle Rodrigo Ponce de León.

    There is uncertainty about whether he encountered the New World with Columbus on his second voyage or later with Nicolás de Ovando.

    Thanks to the intervention of Bartolomé Colón, he managed to obtain a title from King Ferdinand the Catholic to explore the lands north of Cuba.

    In 1513, he set sail with three ships from San Germán, navigating through the Bahamas to reach the island of San Salvador.

    On the feast day of Pascua Florida (Easter), he arrived at a peninsula that he named in honor of the holiday, La Florida.

    Pánfilo de Narváez, possibly born in Segovia in 1470.

    We know he served in Jamaica.

    In 1510, he was promoted to lieutenant under the general governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuellar. He actively assisted in its conquest.

    He carried out expeditions to the westernmost region around the year 1514.

    Faced with the disobedience of Hernán Cortés, the general governor of Cuba once again placed his trust in Narváez and sent him to capture Cortés, either alive or dead. The outcome of the mission was disastrous, as not only was Narváez defeated, but he was also captured in a battle in which he lost an eye, in addition to his honor.

    Once liberated, he managed to obtain from King Charles V the title of Adelantado of Florida, with permission to explore and govern any land he discovered starting from the Las Palmas River.

    Narváez organized an expedition, securing 5 ships and 600 men, among whom was our Jerezan protagonist.

    On July 17, 1527, Narváez departs with the Florida fleet from the Port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda towards Santo Domingo… TO BE CONTINUED

  • A Jerezan explorer in the River Plate (third)

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    As you probably already know from the previous entries, the Jerez-born Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who was part of the expedition to Florida led by Pánfilo Narváez, spent 10 years exploring the northern parts of America.

    During that decade, he learned a great deal about the native tribes, earned a good reputation as a shaman, and made a living as a trader among the coastal tribes initially, and later among those inland.

    In 1537, he returns to Spain and writes an account of what happened for the Audience of the Council of the Indies, which he later expanded into his first work, “Shipwrecks” (Naufragios).

    The Recognition

    King Charles V decided to grant the Jerez native the position of General Captain, the governorship, and the title of Adelantado of La Plata.

    These titles were perfectly suited for another expedition that the king was already considering granting him, related to that place…

    Background

    First circumnavigation. Magallanes and Elcano.

    Since the discovery of the New World, the goal was to find the passage that connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean towards the Moluccas, the spice islands.

    Between 1515 and 1516, Ferdinand the Catholic orders an expedition led by Juan Díez de Solís.

    During this expedition, the discovery of the Río de la Plata was accurately documented, and it was baptized as the River of Solís.

    It was there that the explorer met his demise, without achieving the objective of the expedition, which had to return to Spain.

    According to the Treaty of Tordesillas, Solís was the first to take possession of the territories to the south of Portuguese Brazil.

    Following Magellan and Elcano’s first circumnavigation and the discovery of the long-awaited passage between the two seas (Strait of Magellan) in 1535, another expedition, led by Pedro de Mendoza, set out for the Río Solís with eleven ships.

    Pedro de Mendoza in the River Plate.

    This expedition also did not end well for Pedro Mendoza, who, like Solís, fell ill and met the same fate, this time while sailing back to Spain.

    The eleven ships of Mendoza’s expedition were scattered by a storm, with some reaching Rio de Janeiro and others the Río de la Plata. Once regrouped, they founded the “Port of Our Lady of Good Air,” an extremely hostile area where attacks were constant.

    Before departing for Spain, Pedro de Mendoza appointed Juan de Ayolas as his lieutenant to assume his position.

    Álvar Núñez departed for the Americas for a second time.


    Due to the desperate situation in the Río de la Plata region, where Juan de Ayolas was exercising his power in an abusive manner without respecting the natives or the Spanish, King Charles V considered Cabeza de Vaca to be the suitable candidate to come to the aid of the unfinished expedition due to Mendoza’s death.

    The Agreement for the Expedition to the Río de la Plata.


    Surprisingly, Álvar was obligated to finance it, having to disburse 8,000 ducats stipulated for weapons, ships, crew, and all necessary supplies. The upside was that the Jerez native would retain one-twelfth of all the profits yielded from the expedition.

    Heading to the Americas for the second time.


    Gathering in Seville two ships and one caravel, along with 400 soldiers and their pilots, along with 40 horses, the expedition set off at the end of 1540 towards the port of Cádiz, and from here to the Canary Islands to proceed to Cape Verde in Africa, as the flagship needed repairs.

    Finally, by early 1541, they set sail with four ships to Santa Catalina, where they arrived five months later.

    In Rio de Janeiro.


    Upon arrival, two friars rushed towards the men on the ships, seeking help, followed by other Spaniards who were suffering from attacks by the natives and the unbearable situation they were enduring.

    Álvar managed to bring peace among the indigenous people and sent the friars to evangelize them. As for the Spaniards, he welcomed them among his men because they possessed good nautical and ship piloting knowledge.

    Towards Asunción

    The expedition along the Río de la Plata by canoe.

    To reach the north, to Asunción, Álvar decides to divide the expedition by land and by sea. Our Jerez native, ignoring the natives who urged them to return to the sea to avoid the fierceness of the Indians in that area, ventured inland for the adventure.

    Discovery of the Iguazu Falls

    Iguazu falls.

    Continuing the journey with the Guarani Indians and equipped with canoes, they navigate the Paraná River, baptized as the River of Solís or the Silver River.

    Upon reaching a certain point, they notice how the navigation becomes much faster, a sign of a potential waterfall. Continuing on foot, they discovered that waterfall, an impressive cascade that they named “Salto de Santa María.”

    Arrival in Asunción.


    The scene that Cabeza de Vaca encountered was truly chaotic due to the abusive mistreatment by Governor Domingo Martínez de Irala.

    Finally, in 1542, Álvar took up his position and attempted to bring peace to the entire region.

    The natives, who already held him in high regard, were pleased to have someone who understood and treated them as equals. Someone who actually upheld the laws given by the Catholic Monarchs to treat the natives as equal to the Spanish.

    However, this displeased Irala’s supporters. These were unscrupulous men, blinded by the pursuit of wealth and fame. And the fair treatment the natives received was a significant obstacle to the realization of their plans.

    Through tricks and schemes, Irala and his followers revolted against Cabeza de Vaca, who ended up being captured and accused of trying to strip them of all their rights and desiring more power than the king, declaring himself as such in the region.

    There was little that the supporters of the Jerez native could do, and even less the natives, who couldn’t provide assistance.

    They held him in prison for eleven months until, in 1545, severely ill, he was sent back to Spain in shackles to stand trial.

    The Shaman Who Calmed Storms.


    As could not be otherwise, the return journey experienced a terrible tempest that terrified every last crew member aboard the ship where Álvar was.

    Amidst the storm, Cabeza de Vaca stood up, without hesitation, and raised his voice proclaiming that if they set him free, he would calm the tempest… We don’t know if this cry was due to his own ill health, but what is certain is that, although he didn’t achieve his goal, the storm subsided instantly.

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    As you probably already know from the previous entries, the Jerez-born Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who was part of the expedition to Florida led by Pánfilo Narváez, spent 10 years exploring the northern parts of America.

    During that decade, he learned a great deal about the native tribes, earned a good reputation as a shaman, and made a living as a trader among the coastal tribes initially, and later among those inland.

    In 1537, he returns to Spain and writes an account of what happened for the Audience of the Council of the Indies, which he later expanded into his first work, “Shipwrecks” (Naufragios).

    The Recognition

    King Charles V decided to grant the Jerez native the position of General Captain, the governorship, and the title of Adelantado of La Plata.

    These titles were perfectly suited for another expedition that the king was already considering granting him, related to that place…

    Background

    First circumnavigation. Magallanes and Elcano.

    Since the discovery of the New World, the goal was to find the passage that connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean towards the Moluccas, the spice islands.

    Between 1515 and 1516, Ferdinand the Catholic orders an expedition led by Juan Díez de Solís.

    During this expedition, the discovery of the Río de la Plata was accurately documented, and it was baptized as the River of Solís.

    It was there that the explorer met his demise, without achieving the objective of the expedition, which had to return to Spain.

    According to the Treaty of Tordesillas, Solís was the first to take possession of the territories to the south of Portuguese Brazil.

    Following Magellan and Elcano’s first circumnavigation and the discovery of the long-awaited passage between the two seas (Strait of Magellan) in 1535, another expedition, led by Pedro de Mendoza, set out for the Río Solís with eleven ships.

    Pedro de Mendoza in the River Plate.

    This expedition also did not end well for Pedro Mendoza, who, like Solís, fell ill and met the same fate, this time while sailing back to Spain.

    The eleven ships of Mendoza’s expedition were scattered by a storm, with some reaching Rio de Janeiro and others the Río de la Plata. Once regrouped, they founded the “Port of Our Lady of Good Air,” an extremely hostile area where attacks were constant.

    Before departing for Spain, Pedro de Mendoza appointed Juan de Ayolas as his lieutenant to assume his position.

    Álvar Núñez departed for the Americas for a second time.


    Due to the desperate situation in the Río de la Plata region, where Juan de Ayolas was exercising his power in an abusive manner without respecting the natives or the Spanish, King Charles V considered Cabeza de Vaca to be the suitable candidate to come to the aid of the unfinished expedition due to Mendoza’s death.

    The Agreement for the Expedition to the Río de la Plata.


    Surprisingly, Álvar was obligated to finance it, having to disburse 8,000 ducats stipulated for weapons, ships, crew, and all necessary supplies. The upside was that the Jerez native would retain one-twelfth of all the profits yielded from the expedition.

    Heading to the Americas for the second time.


    Gathering in Seville two ships and one caravel, along with 400 soldiers and their pilots, along with 40 horses, the expedition set off at the end of 1540 towards the port of Cádiz, and from here to the Canary Islands to proceed to Cape Verde in Africa, as the flagship needed repairs.

    Finally, by early 1541, they set sail with four ships to Santa Catalina, where they arrived five months later.

    In Rio de Janeiro.


    Upon arrival, two friars rushed towards the men on the ships, seeking help, followed by other Spaniards who were suffering from attacks by the natives and the unbearable situation they were enduring.

    Álvar managed to bring peace among the indigenous people and sent the friars to evangelize them. As for the Spaniards, he welcomed them among his men because they possessed good nautical and ship piloting knowledge.

    Towards Asunción

    The expedition along the Río de la Plata by canoe.

    To reach the north, to Asunción, Álvar decides to divide the expedition by land and by sea. Our Jerez native, ignoring the natives who urged them to return to the sea to avoid the fierceness of the Indians in that area, ventured inland for the adventure.

    Discovery of the Iguazu Falls

    Iguazu falls.

    Continuing the journey with the Guarani Indians and equipped with canoes, they navigate the Paraná River, baptized as the River of Solís or the Silver River.

    Upon reaching a certain point, they notice how the navigation becomes much faster, a sign of a potential waterfall. Continuing on foot, they discovered that waterfall, an impressive cascade that they named “Salto de Santa María.”

    Arrival in Asunción.


    The scene that Cabeza de Vaca encountered was truly chaotic due to the abusive mistreatment by Governor Domingo Martínez de Irala.

    Finally, in 1542, Álvar took up his position and attempted to bring peace to the entire region.

    The natives, who already held him in high regard, were pleased to have someone who understood and treated them as equals. Someone who actually upheld the laws given by the Catholic Monarchs to treat the natives as equal to the Spanish.

    However, this displeased Irala’s supporters. These were unscrupulous men, blinded by the pursuit of wealth and fame. And the fair treatment the natives received was a significant obstacle to the realization of their plans.

    Through tricks and schemes, Irala and his followers revolted against Cabeza de Vaca, who ended up being captured and accused of trying to strip them of all their rights and desiring more power than the king, declaring himself as such in the region.

    There was little that the supporters of the Jerez native could do, and even less the natives, who couldn’t provide assistance.

    They held him in prison for eleven months until, in 1545, severely ill, he was sent back to Spain in shackles to stand trial.

    The Shaman Who Calmed Storms.


    As could not be otherwise, the return journey experienced a terrible tempest that terrified every last crew member aboard the ship where Álvar was.

    Amidst the storm, Cabeza de Vaca stood up, without hesitation, and raised his voice proclaiming that if they set him free, he would calm the tempest… We don’t know if this cry was due to his own ill health, but what is certain is that, although he didn’t achieve his goal, the storm subsided instantly.

    In Spain.

    As he was already aware that he would be summoned to testify before the Audience of the Council of the Indies, Álvar drafted the report during the return journey to present upon his arrival. This time, he also had to present his defense effectively.

    The Council of the Indies initially sentenced him to exile from the Americas and to serve in Oran. However, Cabeza de Vaca was not willing to accept either, so he appealed the sentence.

    In 1552, the Council issued a final verdict, now favorable to the Jerez native, granting him an annual stipend of 2,000 ducats and the position of supreme judge of the court in Seville. Nevertheless, he was entirely prohibited from setting foot on American soil again.

    The last years.


    Unable to fulfill his desires of returning, Álvar settled again in Seville and decided to take holy orders. He became a prior in one of the numerous convents in the city, where he likely passed away years later, in 1558.

    And now my review of the life of this courageous fellow countryman of mine truly comes to an end, a mere fraction of what he actually experienced, I’m afraid…

    If you’ve enjoyed it, as a final touch, I will talk about his monuments, especially the one erected in his city.


    THANK YOU!

  • A forgotten in time palace in Jerez

    Riquelme Palace. Market square. Jerez de la Frontera

    It history…

    After the definitive conquest of the city of Jerez by the Castilian king Alfonso X the Wise, the monarch had the arduous task of repopulating these frontier lands. For this, he chose the Castilian nobility and brought with him thirty nobel knights, being one of them Mr. Beltrán Riquelme and Mr. Bernal Riquelme.

    This was one of the relevant family names in medieval times, in competition to other important families such as the Ponce de León or the Villavicencio.

    To show their power, they chose the ancient nobility medieval centre to establish, the Market Square in the Saint Matthew district, betting on the construction for an advanced art style that would break the moulds of the city medieval architecture.

    In the 15th century they acquired a block of houses in the aforementioned square. Don Hernán Riquel, perhaps amazed by the splendid corner window of the Ponce de León Grace palace (https://dejateguiarporcarolina.com/en/the-most-charming-corner-of-jerez/) contacted for his palace’s facade with the same architect, Fernando Álvarez.

    As result, this beautiful and harmonious Renaissance inspiration palace was the most important civil building, for hosting on numerous occasions the city council sessions, due to epidemics and other calamities that constantly threatened Jerez.

    The facade…

    Palace main facade. Guided tour organized by Jerez tourism department.

    It is a magnificent work piece with historical and mythological features, worthy of the glorification of tRiquelme family lineage.

    We know from a very deteriorated cartela, that the completion date of the sculptural part was in 1543.

    Let’s start from the bottom to the top…

    The entrance door is flanked by two pairs of Corinthian Roman capital columns raised on plinths. The scrolls have been replaced by masks with reduced grotesque heads, winged, with elongated necks, mixed with normal ones.

    On the jambs, four reliefs of portraits in medallions or tondos, identifiable thanks to the signs surrounding them:

    On the left:

    • “Nabucodonosor Rex Babylon” Depiction of the King of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar. Bearded and crowned face. The crown is made up of the figure of a naked man who crawls through the center, flanked by serpents and dragons at the ends, casting fire (chapter we can read in the Bible, The book of Daniel 4,30)
    • Roman Emperor Constantine

    On the right:

    • “Camila Regina Magna.” Camila’s profile, wearing a helmet. The front of it consists of the face of an old man, perhaps his father, and a small scene of the fights between centaurs and lapites (Virgil speaks of Camilla in the Aeneid, she was the daughter of King Metaboo, and was consecrated to the goddess Diana, therefore, trained in hunting and war arts). The helmet scene corresponds to the episode of the mythological wedding between Hypodamia and Peritoo.
    • Romulus and Remus. Legendary founders of Rome.

    On the lintel: the coat of arms of the family, helm worn by two tenants, men with vegetable legs (grutesco decoration)

    The Frieze: profusely decorated, formed by three tondos with portraits and fantastic hybrid animals among them.

    The fantastic hybrid animals:

    • Flanking the central portrait with bird upper body and vegetable lower body, the tail of the one on the left finishes in a feline (the one on the right is not appreciated by deterioration)
    • The farthest ones are equally hybrid, the left one half upper wolf with wings and lower vegetable finished in lion head tail. The other, top half feline with wings and goatee and bottom vegetable with tail finished in monkey head.


    The tondos:

    • Central: beautiful young woman with wavy hair with flowers and fruits. From her neck hangs a medal that seems to be half a heart.
    • To the left and to the right we see tondos with reliefs of busts of man and woman.

    The central tondo could represent several goddesses or allegories, but the closer situation of crows, the panther and the half-heart of pendant, makes us choose the representation of the Concord. However, there is another possible interpretation, the Virtue being attacked by the Vices, the same decorative motif is found in Villamarta palace.

    At the ends, on the capitals of the columns:

    • on the left side: rectangular relief where a strong man fights with a lion. It is Hercules fighting the Nemea lion
    • on the right side: similarly shaped, representing the rapture of Deyanira by Neso Centaur, where we see Hercules again, here wielding the bow and arrow to prevent it. Deyanira sits on the centaur over the waters of the river, among trees.

    On the sides of these reliefs: four faces are sculpted, one on each side.

    • On the left: female figure with cap, in Renaissance clothing, and young bearded man with winged helmet.
    • On the right: Woman’s bust with two small side caps, and man with angular features with hat.


    Of the four, we can identify the winged figure as the god Mercury.

    On the top

    In the center, blind span flanked by three columns on each side, being the interiors ones with smooth shaft and classical capital; and the exteriors of abalaustrado shaft and grutesco capitals.

    The columns are flanked by human and animal figures of practically real size.

    • On the left, there is a strong bearded man, of good musculature, dressed only of ribbon or turban on the forehead and chlamsy by the thighs covering his intimate parts. Between his hands at the height of the head that looks to the front, a sledgehammer to defend himself from the lion that stands next to him with the body looking towards the column, but the head turned looking at him, one paw is resting on the column and the other on the plinth.
    • On the right, a character with the same physical characteristics and ribbon on the forehead. The chlamys now falls from shoulder to back, being held with one hand towards the hips for the same purpose as the previous one. The sledgehammer is held by the other hand, also at head level. His gaze, this time, directed to the sky. The lion has the same posture as the previous one, looking forward though.

    We may be either seeing the symmetrical representation of Hercules against the Nemea lion, or two savages fighting against two beasts.

    Above the blinded gap: reliefs of fantastic zoomorphic figures, some of difficult interpretation. At the ends, the reliefs of two children playing a tuba, and among them another frieze, smaller than the previous one.

    Frieze of the upper span:

    • On the left we see a unicorn with its front paws bent. At the other end, a female figure with a floral crown, kneeling, trying to cover herself with a cloak (unicorns were difficult to hunt, being only attracted by the singing of young virgins)
    • In the center, relief of female bust, with crown of fruits, leaves and flowers. Accompanied by figures with bird body and elongated neck with head in the form of a deformed and contorted mask. The tail long and tangled vegetable. The tail of the figure on the left ends in the shape of an ape’s head and the one on the right in the form of a ram’s.

    Surmounts the top two panther-shaped animals covered with leaves and joined by the neck with bell necklace. As tenants, they hold a shield with a deformed human head with the empty eye socket, semi-covered by bangs, huge ears with two branches finished in flower coming out of their mouth.

    If you want to visit it yourself…

    Recently, the tourism department on the town hall hasbeen offering guided tours in which they explain what I have said in this section, in addiction you have also the possibility to enter the palace and visit the ruins, through which you can get a lot of information about the original building, like how it changed throughout time, its functions… So if you feel like, contact the city hall website and register as I did. You will enjoy the visit!

    If you want to see videos of the inside and many more photos, look for me in the social media to watch a Reel I made about the whole visit, do not miss it!

    If you wish to see the facade and take a walk through the city, do not forget to visit the tours and services section of this website to find interestings tours options. However, if you don’t find something you like, no problem! Just tell me your ideas and we will design one that suits you.

    Thank you!

  • Setting the nativity scene

    Christmas’ nativity scene

    I continue talking about Christmas elements and ornaments and now it is the turn of the nativity scene, that crib in Bethlehem that usually accompanies the Christmas tree in our homes.

    As the time goes by, the human creativity has made possible that the simple nativity scene composed by baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph has transformed into an extensive nativity scene including figurines of all kinds and even engineering works covering the events of the whole city of Bethlehem, even illustrating by sections from the odyssey that Mary and Joseph went through until the birth of the Christ until the adoration of the wise men, some of them go even further in time though, covering the flight to Egypt…

    But let’s go back to where this Christmas tradition comes from.

    He was born in a stable…

    The stable

    The word manger derives from the Latin “praesepium”, an expression used around 350 AD by Saint Jerome in his Biblical translation (the Vulgate)

    Likewise, “praesepium” derives from “prae-sepas”, possibly related to the Greek “phate”, which describes the concavity where cattle feed is deposited.

    First signs

    The Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. Capella Greca of Saint Priscilla catacombs, Rome.

    It seems that the first testimonies of the Nativity dates from the second century. In the catacombs of Santa Priscilla in Rome one can find the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary with the Holy Child.

    From the 4th and 5th centuries we can highlight the proliferation of these types of images sculpted in sarcophagi, being of special mention the construction similar to the grotto of Bethlehem ordered to be raised by Pope Sixtus III after reconverting the early Christian church of the fourth century (the Liberian Basilica) in a temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This example dates from 432 and is found in Santa Maria Maggiore oratory in Rome.

    Later on, in the Middle Ages, Christmas motifs began to be sculpted in capitals and doorways of cloisters, monasteries, abbeys and temples, to educate and teach the people about Sacred History.

    Special devotion to the Birth of Jesus is expressed by the Order of the knights Templars, who encouraged and promulgated the worship of Jesus and the Holy Sepulchre.

    The belenism

    Greccio’s crib. 1295-1299. Giotto. Asisi’s Mayor basilica. Italy.

    If we had to put a date and name to this tradition, this would be December 25, 1223, and this one, Pietro Bernardone known as San Francesco d’Assisi (Saint Francis of Asisi)

    Saint Francis had a revelation due to his visit through Holy Land first and then Rome, where he marveled at the mosaics of the Birth of Jesus of Saint Mary the Major church (right next to the place where, tradition point out the location of true splinters from the original manger)

    15 days before the aforementioned date, our protagonist contacted a citizen of Greccio called Giovanni to help him to materialize his vision: “I wish to celebrate the memory of the Holy Child who was born in Bethlehem and I want to contemplate somehow with my eyes what he suffered in his invalidity as a Child, how he was reclined in the manger and how he was placed on hay between the ox and the donkey.” So Giovanni started right away to work on the idea in the same place pointed out by the friar.

    The agreed day came to Greccio friars and nuns from various places and orders together with the locals, carrying flowers and torches to illuminate that divine night, discovering with great fascination the scene of the beautiful “presepre”, continued by a mass celebration, to emphasize the link between the incarnation of God the Father in Jesus and the Holy Eucharist.

    But what was that nativity scene like? Well, they say that the representation lacked figurines but baby Jesus, the scene was covered with hay and the ox and an ass were also present.

    The inmediate expansion

    Saint Giovanni Carborana’s crib. Naples.

    Saint Francis of Assisi embodied heavenly vision caused such an impact that it was carried out first to the Italian “duoms”, and afterwards to all European churches. _There’s a good example in the Duomo di Volterra, carved by the sculptor Andrea della Robbia.

    Probably, the oldest nativity scene preserved was found in San Giovanni Carbonara church, in Naples, formed by wooden figurines dated in the 14th century (we can see them nowadays in San Martino’s museum)

    Already in the 16th century, it seems ti be started the tradition of setting up the nativity scene only at Christmas time, as documented around 1562 in the Jesuits church in Prague.

    And finally, by the same century, in 1567,we can speak about the first nativity scene own by a family. It was property of the Duchess of Amalfi, counting with 107 figures, a mixture of evangelical and other anonymous characters.

    The baroque, the final boost

    Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Giuseppe Sanmartino.

    It’s easy to imagine that, the baroque, the most decorative style, propelled the propagation of the nativity scene.

    In the 18th century, talented artists like Damián Campeny, Giuseppe Sanmartino, Francisco Salzillo and Bernardo Legarda left their particular mark on the art of Belenism.

    Belenism in Spain

    Neapolitan crib. Royal Palace. Madrid

    In our country, it was King Carlos III to give the final push to the tradition, making available a large room of the Madrid Royal Palace to organize a nativity scene so that it could be visited by anyone.

    As in Italy the nativity scenes proliferated in the sixteenth century, in Spain we were not left behind, since the oldest Spanish nativity scene dates from 1536, and is located in the Balearic Islands, specifically in the Annunciation church of Palma de Mallorca (known as La Sang)

    First Spanish nativity scene legend

    De la Sang nativity scene. Palma de Mallorca. Spain

    Yes, the first nativity scene in the Iberian Peninsula has a legend!

    Once upon a time… a ship departed from Italy carrying on board the seven Marian mysteries figurines. The ship captained by Domingo Gangonne, at a certain point during the voyage, was involved in a tremendous storm, so badly that it was very close to sinking it. The captain, as a good sailor leader, promised to deliver one of the seven Marian mysteries carried on board in exchange for salvation.

    The promise made to the Divine took effect and the ship was delivered from death, being illuminated by a light, the one from the lamp of Our Snow Lady, eternally lit up from the convent of Our Angels or Jesus Lady, located on Palma island, the same convent that would later host the Majorcan friar who evangelized California, Fray Junípero Serra.

    The monks noticed during their morning prayers and meditations the battered ship approaching them, and immediately ran towards the ship to help the crew.

    Once they were saved, Domingo Gangonne wanted to fulfilled his promises and agreed with a prior to choose one of the Marian mysteries, being chosen the one of the Nativity.

    Curiously the captain was not enthusiastic about the election, but rather the opposite and refused to gave the prior what he asked for. Instead, Gargonne set an ultimatum to the prior: to choose some other or none. After a pointless argument, the captain decided to set sail as soon as the sea was calm, but when he tried to set out, the ship didn’t move. Without doubt, he was being punished from above for not fulfilling his promise, so he had to accept the deal and give the mystery of the Nativity to the prior as first requested, no choice but to yield and leave in the convent the precious art work.

    That supernatural event was responsible for the great devotion for the extraordinary Gothic figures attributed to Alamanno’s workshop, very well recognized sculptors of the oldest Neapolitan nativity scenes of the 15 century.

    Well, now it’s your turn to share, what’s your nativity scene like? Are you one of those who go to detail or those who put the crib without missing a thing? I will love to read your comments.

  • The Christmas tree

    Christmas tree

    The most seen tree in December

    The Christmas tree is a must element in Christmas holidays. It’s that main element that welcomes us in homes and cities, always present in the most important places to announce that the time of year when we meet to celebrate with family, friends, neighbors and beloved ones has come, days of sharing joy, illusion and magic.

    Trees are majestic, medium or small size; artificial or real; minimalist in decoration or baroquish with thousands of colored or monochromatic lights… In terms of Christmas trees, mind you, there’s no accounting for taste.

    Nowadays setting the tree by the end of the year is something in our bones, but… Have we ever wondered why we do all this for?

    The origin of the Christmas tree: arrival of the Christians to the north of Europe for the first time. Saint Boniface.

    Saint Boniface cutting the Sacred tree.

    The inhabitants of northern Europe celebrated the birth of Frey, god of the sun and fertility, around Christmas date.

    To receive Frey, they adorned a non-evergreen tree symbolizing the tree of the Universe, known as Yggdrasil, the tree of life. At the top of the tree there was Asgard, the abode of the gods; and Valhalla, the palace of Odin. Further down, at the deepest roots, was Helheim, the realm of the dead.

    Well, it is said that Saint Boniface (680-754), evangelizer of Germany, once he arrived in northern Europe, cut with his axe the tree that represented the Yggdrasil, planting in its place a pine, perennial tree, symbol of eternal love of God, and decorated it with apples and candles, to remember the temptations and the original sin and the Light of the world, Jesus Christ.

    Over time, apples and candles were transformed into spheres, lights and other ornaments and later, the tradition of putting gifts for children under the tree, sent by Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus and Santa Claus, or the Three Wise Men, depending on the customs of the place.

    Another legend in Estonia says…

    Other sources place the first Christmas tree as we know it in Tallinn (Estonia) around 1441.

    The legend in question concerns a tree located in the main square of the town around which a single merchant man began to dance in the company of several women who ended up setting fire to the tree. The event, far from being catastrophic, incited the custom of lighting fir trees by Christmas.

    The first Christmas tree in Spain and a Russian princess

    Portrait of the Russian princess Sofía Troubetzkoy.

    Paradoxically, the first person to set a Christmas tree in Spain was Russian and widow of a half-brother of Napoleon himself.

    The Russian princess Sophia Troubetzkoy, remarried to the Spanish aristocrat, politician and military José Osorio in 1869. During their first Christmas together in their Alcañice palace, (today’s disappeared,) the princess asked to install a decorated fir tree. Without a doubt, all the visitors received by the couple in the palace, promoted the tradition of placing the Christmas tree in the houses.

    Christmas tree decoration and symbology

    Christmas tree ornaments.

    Although the list of ornaments to beautify and dress the tree is endless nowadays, those are some of the ones that continue to last in time:

    • The star. The star crowns the tree as a symbol of faith, which must guide the Christian, just as the Star of Bethlehem guided the three wise man and shepherds to the manger.
    • The sphere. They replace the temptation apple imposed by Saint Boniface, to represent the gifts that God grants to men.
    • Bonds. Symbol of family union and loved ones.
    • Lights. Initially candles to represent the light of Christ.
    • Horseshoe. Object related to good luck.
    • Pineapple. Sign of immortality and family unity.
    • Bells. To announce Christmas good news
    • Angels. Guides and heralds of the birth of Jesus Christ. They can swarm the entire tree or preside over the cusp replacing the star.
    • Other elements related to Christmas traditions: snowflakes, drums, trumpets, Christmas cookies, Christmas sticks, snowmen…

      More curiosities…

      • It reminds us of the tree of Paradise, from whose fruits Adam and Eve ate and, therefore, that Jesus Christ has become the promised Messiah for reconciliation.
      • It symbolizes the offspring and the bud of the Tree of Jesse, Jesus Christ, the summit of the prophecies.
      • The triangular shape represents the Holy Trinity.
      • The prayers that are performed during Advent are differentiated by colors: blue for the prayers of reconciliation, silver for the prayers of thanks, gold for the prayers of praise, green for the prayers of abundance, strength and nature.
      • The color of the lights also have their meaning: red represents fire and blood, love and generosity. Green, hope, nature and life. White purity, joy and faith. Gold prosperity and wealth.

        How many things said from a simple tree, right? Surely next time you get to work on the tree decoration, after reading all this information, it may be different.

        If you want to share how you decorate your tree, I’d love to read it!