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Civica, the work of Don Aurelio
21 November 2019

 

This strange sight looks like something straight out of Tolkien’s Rivendell. What resembles an ancient, mythical village is carved into the rock, complete with elegant arches that lead into ornate corridors.
Perhaps disappointingly, this random roadside scene is not at all related to the fictional Elven realm. In reality, it’s the work of a 20th-century Spanish priest.

 


Don Aurelio, the priest of nearby Valderrebollo, Spain, constructed this curious hamlet in the 1960s. Almost every day after mass, he and local volunteers would carve their way through the soft karst. They created elaborate doors and banisters and a network of tunnels that wind through a labyrinth of hidden chambers. Supposedly, one of the lower caves even held a bar frequented by local fishermen.


Now, the intriguing hamlet is abandoned. Some of the inner walls have collapsed, and plants are slowly beginning to blanket parts of the space. But amazingly, a little fountain nestled amid the structures still gurgles with life. Fed from a natural spring, the crystal-clear water cascades out of small set of brass spigots and pools within a trough, waiting to quench the thirst of any animals that happen to wander by.

 

 



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Olvera - From Fortress to Castle
14 November 2019

Olvera Castle, locally known as Castillo de Olvera, lies on a rocky cliff in the centre of the town with the same name in the province of Cádiz. It is one of the most characteristic towns in the mountains of Cadiz, lying between the Sierra de Líjar and the Sierra de las Harinas mountains. Olvera is an excellent entry point from the north to the mountains of Cadiz and is set among woody hills and olive fields.

The first fortress at this site was built by the Moors, probably during the 12th century to defend the border of the Nasrid Emirate of Granada against the Kingdom of Castile. Around it, the medieval town of Olvera grew up.

In 1327 Olvera Castle was taken by the King of Castile, Alfonso XI. The Christians then completely rebuilt the old Moorish fortress into the castle we see today. The castle has an irregular plan, adapted to the shape of the cliff, resembling an elongated triangle. The rectangular keep has two storeys covered by barrel vaulted ceiling. The castle is also equipped with a gateway protected by a barbican, curtain walls with a parapet walkway and turrets, a subterranean enclosure and two cisterns.

 

In 1492 the War of Granada ended in a victory for the Kingdom of Castile and Olvera Castle lost its military value.

Olvera Castle can be visited for a small fee. Other sites of undoubted interest are the convent of Caños Santos, the sanctuary of Los Remedios and the Casa de la Cilla building, the current site of the “La Frontera y Los Castillos" Museum of Olvera.

 

 



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Don't sleep in room 712 tonight or any night....
31 October 2019

The Castle of Cardona is arguably the most important medieval fortress in Catalonia. It is situated on a hill overlooking the river valley of the Cardener and the town of Cardona.

Wilfred the ‘Hairy’ originally constructed this fortress in 886. It is in both the Romanesque and Gothic styles. During the 14th century, the dukes of Cardona came from the most important family of the Crown of Aragon, which was second only to the royal house. Because of this, they were called “kings without crowns,” as they had extensive territories in Catalonia, Aragon, and Valencia, and dynastic ties with Castile, Portugal, Sicily, and Naples, increasing the importance of the castle.

In 1714, even after a Bourbon siege destroyed a good part of the castle's walls, the garrison was one of the last to surrender to the Bourbon troops that supported Philip V. Today, the castle's main jewel is the Torre de la Minyona (from the 11th century) a tower that measures 15 metres in height and 10 metres in diameter. Additionally, there is the Romanesque Church of San Vicente de Cardona adjacent to the fort. 

 


This may however be very interesting but it is not the reason why I am writing about the Cardona Castle… Nowadays it is a luxury hotel run by Paradores, a public leisure company, and happens to be home to a haunted bedroom: Room 712. People say you either have to be very brave, or not believe in ghosts, to stay in Room 712 at the Parador de Cardona. As a matter of fact, guests are only allocated this room on request as, after hearing reports and claims made by countless guests, the hotel management decided to close it to the public, unless specially requested. With Halloween around the corner this might just be the perfect place to spend the night if you want a fright!

Strange noises, open tap, disturbing dreams and even apparitions; these are just a handful of the strange occurrences reported by those who have stayed in Room 712. 

Whether you believe in paranormal phenomena or not, visiting this Parador will blow you away; not because of the legend, but because of its location in a stunning castle atop a headland.

Just 100 kilometres from Barcelona, this is one of the most impressive hotels in the entire Paradores of Spain network; a castle that, given its location and good condition, transports guests back in time to the Middle Ages in the blink of an eye. This 9th century fortified complex also features the Minyona Tower and a church, both from the 11th century. This castle's impressive location, atop a promontory, offers wonderful views of the Cardener River and the Salino valley, home to one of the world's most important potassium salt mines. Although it is currently inactive, discovering more about it on a guided tour comes highly recommended.

Even the smallest details at this castle are subject to careful consideration, including furniture, carpets and decorations, to ensure that at first glance, guests feel like they have been transported back in time 12 centuries. Even the architecture of the building is the stuff of fairytales, with long and narrow passages, austere, vaulted rooms with pointed arches, wooden beams and Gothic elements. All of this is shrouded in a silent, solemn atmosphere that takes on a mysterious aura when you reach the seventh floor or the west wing: home to Room 712.

This room always remains closed, unless a guest is brave enough to specifically request it. In recent years, customers staying in this room claim to have felt strange presences. Most say that they simply had trouble sleeping or that they had a restless sleep; others, however, assert that it was impossible to sleep on account of furniture being moved in the room above, despite it always having been empty. Even cleaning staff at the Parador have decided to enter the room in pairs so that nobody is left alone at any time. In doing so, they try to avoid being by themselves with any of the strange phenomena reported in recent years, such as finding all the furniture together in the centre of the room, hearing voices, finding open taps and hearing strange noises when there was no guest inside. Some guests even claim to have seen ghostly figures.


Legend has it that the source of these paranormal occurrences is attributable to a sad story dating back to the 11th century, when a young Christian woman, Adalés, fell in love with a Muslim and was condemned by her father to live her life locked away on the Minyona Tower, where she died of sorrow. Her sorry soul, they claim, still wanders the area and is responsible for the strange occurrences that many have witnessed in Room 712.

Whether or not the legend is true, and whether we dare stay in Room 712 or not, what cannot be missed is the opportunity to visit this impressive castle. Furthermore, staying here offers us the chance to visit the medieval village of Cardona, full of narrow alleys and corners bursting with charm.



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The world's fastest ball game comes from Spain...
23 October 2019

 Basque Pelota

Throughout the history of the world, numerous civilizations have played various pelota games. In order to create a round moving body, various materials have been used: vegetables, all kinds of threads and rags, hides, latex... even a pelota filled with cereal grains could be valid. Competition in pelota games tended to be individual contests, and the game developed on conveniently located and defined meadows. The game provided a form of amusement and personal challenge.

Pelota is therefore a universal game. The most regulated forms were found in South America, the Middle East and Western Europe. The Jeu de Paume, the “tambour” game and the sieve game are living proof of the ancient pelota games, and Basque pelota and tennis are direct descendants of those games.

The advance of the Roman Empire took the game called “pila” to the French territory. Its subsequent evolution would derive into jeu de paume. This game, which was played against walls and in town squares, kept its name of paume (palm), in spite of the progressive use of various hitting instruments. The bourgeois and aristocrats used gloves and rackets.

Oral tradition provides us with numerous testimonies of great courage, but even more tangible are the disk-shaped stela from 1629 and 1784 found in Garruze and Banka, respectively. In Basque funerary rites, the half-pagan half-Christian custom of making engravings on tablets provides us with clear proof: pelota players held a place of privilege in our society.

Pelota is therefore a universal game: the Basques, like others, have known how to keep the contributions from other civilizations. The greatest merit has been the adaptation of the game to its own characteristics, thereby contributing numerous modifications and creating new modalities, facilities and game materials.

The Hellenic people, historians say, among the variety of games they played, “amused themselves intensely playing pelota.” An important group of Greek writers gave their opinion about the origin of the game of pelota. Agalis, a man of the humanities from the ancient island of Corfù, attributes its invention to the princess Nausicaa, who lovingly took the warrior Ulysses into her arms.

Homer, in epics VI and VII of his Odyssey, immortalizes and reflects that damsels amusing themselves with the game of pelota. “When damsels and Nausicaa had their appetites satisfied, they took off their veils and played pelota together...” Discovered in 1926, a recording on the walls of Athens, dated approximately 600 years before Christ, shows a scene of the game of pelota celeste or “Ukrainian.”

 

 

These quotations defer quite a lot from the current pelota game. But almost all authors have given in the temptation of the genesis of sports and attribute the Greeks the parenthood of pelota. Alexander the Great had his pelota instructor, Aristonicos de Cariste, on the Portico of the Parthenon.

Literary quotations reference the games of pelota between the Greeks and the Romans. The scarce research into clarifying the era of the pelota accepts that Romanisation, where it occurred, implanted the game of pelota in Europe. In the old continent, pelota games took root in France, the Netherlands, England and the Iberian Peninsula.

In the 12th century, there is a gradual increase of documents that support the expansion of the game of pelota. In the Middle Ages, it is evident that courtiers, nobility and the kings had their so-called “trinquetes.” France is the pioneer in the game of pelota, with respect to its possible similarity with modern times, including two modalities: “la longue paume” and the “courte paume”.

In the 13th and 14th centuries, the “paume” game spread throughout all of France. A. de Luze, a studious of pelota evolution, in 1933 counted the existence of more than 300 “tripots,” or games of pelota, during a time that spanned from the 13th century to the 14th century. The first news of the “long” game comes on the verge of the French Revolution.

In Spain, there are scarce indications with respect to the game of pelota. However, it is significant to point out references in this regard by Quevedo, Cervantes, Calderón de la barca, Zabaleta, etc. Goya’s 1779 painting, “the game of pelota,” truly records a pala [bat] game among a group of courtesans.

 

 

In the 17th century, the preferred game of pelota was the “long game” using a glove or “laxoa.” It is in the last decade of the 19th century when the most representative modalities of the game take root: mano [hand], pala, “remonte” and “cesta-punta,” and these modalities were exported to a large part of the world. Cesta-punta is the modality that becomes the most universal. America becomes the continent that receives the game of pelota which the Basques take with them in their culture.

In the 20th century, professional play begins to bud. Organized competitions begin in 1925. Tournaments spring up everywhere under the push of federative and business entities. Fondness of the sport extends through this century, although cyclical curves show periods of splendour and decadence.

In the amateur arena, the World Championships, initiated in San Sebastián in 1952, are set up as the most important pelota event. It is a re-encounter every four years among those countries that pay honour with the greatest fervour to the sport of pelota. Watch these videos to learn a little more and see a few modalities in action....

 



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A Cliffside Abbey
15 October 2019

 

Chiselled out of the cliffside in Cataluña, Spain, this gorgeous monastery overlooks a plunging vista complete with a waterfall that runs straight through the architecture. 

As a rushing waterfall tumbles hundreds of feet into the emerald pool below, it's hard not to imagine visiting (or living in) this place and easily attaining the peace and tranquillity perpetually sought by the most devout religious groups and monks.

 

  

 

The medieval abbey of Sant Miquel del Fai, 50 km from Barcelona, contains the only romanesque chapel in Catalonia to have been built inside a grotto. The gravity-defying ensemble, which nestles among the rocks, is imbued with mystical beauty.

The abbey of Sant Miquel del Fai stands in a leafy valley, the Vall del Tenes, among rocky outcrops and waterfalls which are more than 100 m high. The visit begins in the unusual square in front of the Abbey which is cut into the mountainside. The square affords views of the small lakes formed by rainwater and melting ice. The gothic-style Priory House (15th century) stands on the other side of the square and is now used as an exhibition gallery and restaurant. The terrace boasts wonderful views of the entire valley.

 

 

  

As you go along the rocky gallery which used to be part of the cloister, you come to the Romanesque chapel of Sant Miquel (10th century). Built inside a grotto, next to a waterfall. The site was once used for pagan worship. A flight of steps leads to the cave of Sant Miquel, where the calcareous rocks have formed stalagmites and stalactites. The path continues to a small lake hidden among the rocks, passes below a spectacular waterfall, and ends at the chapel of Sant Martí (10th century) which stands in the middle of an esplanade. At the end of the tour, you'll be given a helmet to visit the mysterious cave of "Les Tosques". Water from the Rossinyol and Tenes Rivers as well as from rains and melting snow has created a unique landscape in Sant Miquel del Fai, one consisting of stalactite and stalagmite caves, fascinating rock formations, ponds and beautiful waterfalls. It is quite simply a wonderful place to visit.

 

 



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50 Curious facts about Spain
29 August 2019

In case you get a little bored while having a coffee today, here are 50 unusual facts about Spain that maybe you didn't know!

 

1. The Spanish language has a word that exists grammatically and can be pronounced, but it can not be written. That's why I can not tell you what it is.

2. Spain has had three monarchs under 10 years of age: Carlos II, Isabel II and Alfonso XIII.

3. Spain is the first country in the world in terms of acceptance of homosexuality, only 6% of the population believes that it is "morally unacceptable".

4. Despite what most people think, 58.6% of Spaniards affirm that they never sleep a ‘Siesta’.

5. Spain is the second most visited in the world, surpassed only by France.

6. The most expensive restaurant in the world is located in Ibiza, it is called Sublimotion and the dinner costs 1,700 euros per person.

7. Spain has a bar for every 165 inhabitants.

8. Cádiz is the oldest city in Europe, it is traditionally said to have been founded 80 years after the Trojan War.

9. The symbol of the dollar ($) is a Spanish invention, an evolution of the abbreviation Ps (pesos - eighth's 1/8).

10. The Spanish alphabet lost 2 letters in 2010 - ‘ch’  and ‘ll ‘

11. Spain has almost as many airports as provinces, in total, 48.

12. On December 7, 1969, Ángela Ruíz Robles, a Galician lady, invented the 'Mechanical Encyclopedia', considered today the first prototype of an ebook.

13. The most consumed fruit in Spain is orange. 

14. The ‘menu of the day’ - menu del dia -  was an invention of Franco, promoted by the Ministry of Information and Tourism in the 60s, to promote Spanish cuisine.

15. 30,000 years ago,  it was as cold as it is in Denmark.

16. The Royal Family was assigned the numbers from 10 to 99 for their DNI, although Nº 13 was annulled by superstition.

17. The shortest reigning King of Spain wore his crown for only six months and twelve days,  Luis I de Borbón.

18. Querétaro, the name of a Mexican city that means 'island of blue salamanders', was chosen in 2011 as the most beautiful word in Spanish.

19. To travel the kilometres of Spanish coastline (7,905) would be almost the equivalent of making a trip from Madrid to Moscow and back. 

20. Spain is at the forefront of Europe in the consumption of cocaine.

21. The Spanish drink 11.2 litres of pure alcohol per person per year, which is almost double the world average (6.2).

22. Spain is the leader in organ donations.

23. Spanish inventions are the mop, the Chupa Chups lollipop, the submarine, the stapler, the table football (although disputed) and the digital calculator.

24. According to the Guinness Book, in Spain, we have the largest mortar in the world (3.29 meters high and 3.07 in diameter) and the largest cup (4.73 meters long and 0.85 in diameter), they were built in the City Council of Macael (Almería).

25. There are 44 sites in Spain that are a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which places Spain as the third country in the world with more wonders to visit.

26. The Alhambra in Granada is the most visited place in Spain.

27. Spain has a good number of rare museums, for example, the Museum of Museo de Microminiaturas  (Micro-miniatures) in Guadalest (Alicante) or the Parque de la Vida (Park of Life) in Luarca (Asturias) that has a total of nine giant squid.

28. The most popular names in Spain are Antonio, José, Manuel, Francisco and Juan as a boy and María Carmen, María, Carmen, Josefa and Isabel among women, according to the INE.

29. The largest earthquake in Spain took place in Torrevieja (Alicante), on March 21, 1829. A 6.6 on the Richter scale.

30. Spain’s National Library contains around twenty million pieces of work.

31. With 14 holidays a year, we are one of the countries in Europe with the most non-working days.

32. The Inquisión burned a total of 59 witches in Spain.

33. The first medal that Spain achieved in an Olympic Games was for the ‘Pelota’ pair formed by José de Amézola and Francisco Villota at the 1900 Paris Olympics.

34. Spain is one of the European countries with the lowest rates of suicides.

35. There is evidence that 800,000 years ago, in Atapuerca, our ancestors practised cannibalism.

36. The caves of Altamira and El Castillo harbour the oldest Palaeolithic art in Europe.

37. Spain is world leader in downloads of content protected by copyright.

38. Women were able to vote for the first time in Spain in 1933.

39. According to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, people in northern Spain, as well as Salamanca and Madrid live longer than people in the south.

40. In Spain, you can be fined up to 100 euros for driving with your hand or arm out of the window.

41. The tradition of the twelve grapes on New Year's Eve has its origin in 1887 when the Mayor of Madrid imposed a new tax for the night of the Epiphany celebration and the poor protested in the town square by eating grapes on the 31st of December.

42. Before Instagram, scallops were the irrefutable proof that pilgrims brought back to show that they had completed the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James). In the Middle Ages people trafficked with scallops so much that the Church had to prohibit it.

43. The first draw of the National Lottery was held in Cadiz in 1812, the intention was to increase the revenues of the Public Treasury without having to resort to raising taxes to citizens.

44. Mayonnaise was invented in Mahón (Menorca), the legend says that when Armand Jean du Plessi, cardinal and Duke of Richelieu (1585-1642) arrived on the coasts, he demanded to eat something and, as there was nothing prepared, a chef mixed several ingredients to give them consistency ... and that's where the magic comes from.

45. Dying is much cheaper in Gran Canaria (around 2,600 euros) than in Barcelona (about 6,400). Think about it.

46. In Spain, there are 8 Nobel prize-winners, 7.5 if we count the double nationality of Mario Vargas Llosa.

47. According to a survey conducted by the World Values Survey worldwide, Spain would be among the most tolerant countries: only 10% of respondents would care to have a neighbor of another race.

48. Fidel Pagés, Spanish military doctor, was the discoverer of epidural anesthesia.

49. Spain holds the record for most editions of Big Brother broadcast in one country - 18!

50. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Spain was in Montoro, Cordoba during the summer of 2017 where it reached 47,3ªC. a record previously held by Murcia.

 



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Horse races - SanLucar de Barrameda Beach - Just around the corner...
22 August 2019

 

Sanlucar de Barrameda is famous for its horse racing which takes place along a 1,800m stretch of beach at the mouth of the Río Guadalquivir during the month of August, this year on the 25th, 26th and 27th. This is a thrilling spectacle where real racehorses thunder across the sand watched by a large noisy crowd of spectators. There is nothing amateur about this event and you can expect to see spectator stands, bookies, paddocks and of course the winner's enclosure. Now an international event with horses from other European countries taking part and many famous names amongst the spectators. With more than 165 editions on its back, it is the oldest equestrian activity in Spain and one of the oldest ones in Europe. It has also been declared of International Tourist Interest since 1997.

 

 

Run by the "Horseracing Society of Sanlúcar de Barrameda", in its by-laws it expressly states that one of the activities that the society will carry out will be the holding of horse races, with the first ones being held on the beaches of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in the afternoon of August 31st, in 1845. This marked the beginning of one of the most exhilarating horse races in the country.

It has traditionally been admitted that the origin of the “Horse Races on the Sanlúcar de Barrameda beach" started with the informal competitions, that was held by the owners of horse stock that was used for transporting the fish from the former port of Bajo de Guía to the local markets and nearby towns. It was effectively a past-time while they waited for the fishing trawlers to come back into port. But, how exactly the races started is ambiguous. Another story is that people raced donkeys along the banks for fun and eventually upgraded to horses. 

 

 

As of 1981, the “Horse Races on the Sanlúcar Beaches" have gathered momentum with the re-founding of the former Horseracing Society of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and the approval of its by-laws on March 3rd of that year. Since then, the horse races, under the exclusive direction of the society, have reached a scale that was unheard of until then, exceeding the splendour achieved in the first decades of the 20th century. The competition days were expanded to two periods of three days each; the Sanlúcar races were given official status and they were integrated into the national equestrian circuit – along with Madrid, San Sebastián and Seville, Dos Hermanas and Mijas- and received decisive support from the “Society for the Promotion of Horse Breeding of Spain”, which made them famous worldwide.

 

 

After many years during which the Horseracing Society of Sanlúcar de Barrameda was solely responsible for holding the annual equestrian competitions on the beach of Sanlúcar, as a social event most representative of its annual activities, the organizing of horse races fell under the authority of the City Council, which included them in its summer programmes.

     Today, the Horse Races on the Sanlúcar beaches, now privately managed, are thriving and enjoying strong support and stand out as one of the main events of the summer in Andalucía. This unique show on the world stage, declared as an International Tourist Interest, captures the attention of thousands of Sanlúcar residents and visitors, who every afternoon of the races approach the Sanlúcar beaches to enjoy the purebreds competing on a natural racetrack, which in the afternoons of the month of August give us a low tide. So if you happen to be near Sanlúcar de Barrameda in August, don't miss an afternoon at the races!

This year the races are on 25th, 26th and 27th or August and tickets are available online here - 

http://www.carrerassanlucar.es/es/ 

 



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A unique way to discover Spain
01 August 2019

For seven nights and eight days the Transcantábrico Gran Lujo or the Al Andalus will become your living room, your means of transportation, your socialising place, your bar, your bedroom: a hotel on wheels in which you sleep and wake up in a different place every day. The landscape passing by the window of your suite or the lounge where you are having a coffee is never the same. That simple fact makes the trip itself unique and unlike any other experience.

To ensure passengers a good night’s rest, the trains remain parked at a station at night. The train lounges are especially designed for relaxation and unfettered enjoyment of the evocative ambience, also offering the chance of sharing the company of fellow travellers. 

After dinner, an evening of entertainment. Every night is party night, with various live performances throughout the trip. Given the length of the train, these will not affect those who prefer retiring earlier to the privacy of their suite. You can also choose to have a quiet drink in one of the other saloon cars, or go for a stroll in whichever town the train is spending the night at.

In general, comfortable clothing and shoes are recommended for the daytime when all passengers will be out and about on excursions, while at night you can opt for more formal attire, although no particular dress code is required at any time. The only exception is for gaining access to the Casino de Santander on the routes that include that city, where there is a requirement for more elegant dress.

During the journey one will visit and explore places by the sea or in the mountains, charming squares and streets, museums, cathedrals, wine cellars and ports; many stories will be revealed by the multilingual guides, accompanying you on each trip. Lunch will be the central event of the day, and in the afternoons you will alternate more excursions with activities on board the train, or just enjoy the scenery passing by before your eyes. A luxury 'on-land' cruise, a truly a unique way to discover Spain, the way luxury travel used to be…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.renfe.com/trenesturisticos/eng/index.html



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The Underwater Museum
28 June 2019

 

There is a rather unusual museum on the Canarian island of Lanzarote. But visitors wanting to see the collection of sculptures created by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor will first have to put on a wetsuit and then dive 14 meters down to the seabed of Coloradas Bay, just off the coast of the town of Yaiza, in the southwest of the island.

Jason deCaires Taylor says his sculptures are a way to bring people into contact with the sea, as well as to make them more aware of the dangers our oceans face. At the same time as the figures tell a story, they help to protect the seabed. He also points out that the materials he has used are not harmful to their environment and he wants to help coral and other species to grow, which can help repopulate the marine biomass.

This isn’t Taylor’s first sub-aquatic venture. Around 500 of his pieces are already lying offshore in the warm waters off the coast of Cancún, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

When the local authorities in Lanzarote heard about Taylor’s work, they invited him to take part in the island’s biennial arts festival.
“As we knew it wasn’t impossible, we did it,” says José Juan Lorenzo, head of Lanzarote’s arts, culture and tourism department, which is responsible for running the museum.

 

 

 

“Taylor is a pioneer, an innovator,” says Lorenzo, highlighting Lanzarote’s long-standing support for the arts, best known via the work of local artist Cesar Manrique. “Lanzarote, thanks to the work of Cesar Manrique, has a long tradition of land art. The seabed here is as beautiful as the land, and so an initiative that highlights its importance, its fragility, its beauty, seemed perfect to us.”

 

 

Along with his family, Taylor has spent the last two years on Lanzarote preparing the seabed for the installation. While waiting for the paperwork, he has created images in his workshop there such as The Lampedusa Raft, a homage to refugees who flee their countries by sea.



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The Secret Library
20 June 2019

During the 1800s the fraternal order of Freemasons had lodges in practically every European-cultured country. Spain was no different, though the traces of the Freemasons are mostly hidden now—apart from this once-secret library.

Barcelona, much like London, Paris or Washington D.C., has an extraordinary artistic and architectural heritage based in Freemasonry. Masonic symbols like pyramids and the all-seeing eye can be found in cemeteries, libraries, sculptures, even government buildings. Passeig Sant Joan is devoted to Saint John, the chosen patron of Christian Freemasons. Ildefons Cerda, the urban planner who designed Barcelona’s layout, was a member and imagined a utopian city based on Masonic principles. At the turn of the century, there were nearly 170 Freemason lodges in Spain alone.

 

Rossend Arús was an influential journalist and playwright of the 1800s who used his Freemason associations for Republican political favour. Along with his fellow Masons, Arús had control of the city from behind the scenes. He began to host meetings in his home in 1888, and it soon became an official Masonic Temple. After his death in 1891, the house was turned into a library dedicated to Freemasonry. 

During Franco’s regime, almost every Freemason building was torn down and the Masons were prohibited from meeting. Like many fascist leaders, Franco feared uprising from independent organizations, as well as having misplaced antisemitic beliefs about the Freemasons’ purposes. Some in power sympathized with the Freemasons though, and the Rossend Arús library was shut down and hidden from view during the Franco years. After the dictator’s death and the end of his regime, Freemasonry slowly but surely crept its way back into Spain. 

After timidly growing less and less private and secretive, the Freemasons of Barcelona have opened Biblioteca Publica Rossend Arús to the public in Passeig Sant Joan. The luxurious reading rooms, golden frames, and precious marble of the 19th century still impress visitors. The collection includes important Masonic texts, as well as anarchist collections and rare magazines and literature. The third original version of the Statue of Liberty also resides in the main entrance. Today, the Rossend Arús is the best library for studying the working class history and Freemasonry in Catalonia. 

 

 

 



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