Monday, July 23, 2007

Santiago de Compostela

Madonna's Kabbalah name is Esther, which reminded me of a travel story...

Santiago de Compostela is the second most popular Catholic pilgrimage destination, after Vatican City. The church is a massive Spanish baroque structure:

which is flanked by a sprawling square, bustling side streets, and a lovely little cafe that served Coca-Lite with a straw for me while I was waiting for the noon-time mass:

The mass was pretty spectacular, in that the church holds the largest Bota Fumiera in the world, and during the mass it swings from one end of the church to the other, over the heads of the parishioners. If you look closely you can see it swinging up toward the top of the photo. For the non-Spanish-speaking non-Catholics, the bota fumiera is that big pendant on a chain that emits incense smoke when Edward Norton swings it around in "Keeping the Faith". This one is about 5 times as large:

Inside the church, is the Portico da Gloria, with your typical Heaven, Hell, Purgatory images, the apostles, etc. in sculpture form. Now, I have been scouring the internet for confirmation of this story, and have found next-to-nothing. So please, raise your margarita glasses for the grain of salt you'll need for this, but this was the story that our Galician tour guide told us:

The statue of Esther, positioned opposite the apostles, was so offensive to a certain Bishop, that he ordered that her breasts be filed down to appear less suggestive to the pious observers. The two blurbs I was able to dig up on the subject said that the statue was the Virgin Mary, but I'm pretty sure it was Esther. She didn't look like Mary.

The legend went on to say that the local people, who typically paid their taxes to the Bishop via livestock, or food products, such as cheese, were so angry at the modification of Esther's assets, that they began shaping their cheeses in the shape of women's breasts, and paying their taxes to the Bishop with the "breast cheese". I'm going to try to pay my rent this month in mozarella sticks. Anyway, the cheese is still a well-known feature of Santiago de Compostela, and is called Queixo de Tetilla:

And the people of Santiago de Compostela seem to be familiar with the story.

Say "breasts"!