Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fine Points of History; Some Tid Bits from the Trip:

       During our trip throughout Catalonia we learned more about both the history and culture of the area from our tour guide and the people we stayed with, as well as through our visits to museums and old villages. On our second night in Catalonia our guide talked about both the culture of the area and about Franco’s regime, which started in December 1938 and lasted forty years. It had huge deleterious effects on the area’s culture through outlawing Catalan as an official language and in the bloody and tyrannical way in which Franco ruled. The republic of Spain, which had previously ruled in Catalonia, was destroyed as Franco slowly gained a foothold, taking city after city, until he had control of the whole area. Franco ruled with extreme psychological repression of the people, killing anyone who spoke out against his rule and discrediting the defeated republic. The goal of the regime was to outlaw and destroy anything related to Catalonia, in this vein his first action was to repeal the Statue of Autonomy of Catalonia which legally separated it, though somewhat limitedly, from Spain. 
            During our trip we also visited the museum dedicated to Mateo Miguel who I mentioned in an earlier blog entry. We saw the castle and church which he owned and in which he housed his extensive collections of books, glassware and wine. As I mentioned before the church and connected castle used to be a convent before the Counts of Perelada created a school for the village children in the castle portion. Then Miguel who was a businessman from Barcelona bought it to house his collections. The library houses some 80,000 books in 33 different languages some of which date back as far as the fourteenth century. The large cathedral is also known for some of its important pieces including the wood ceiling that is painted to look like stone and the Spanish silver altarpieces. The tapestries that hang above the altar today are originals acquired by Miguel. Interestingly, the floor tiles, which are a pattern of black and white in the form of what looks like the rook piece on a chess board, depict the crest of the city and the Counts of Perelada. The glass and ceramic museum houses one of the most impressive collections done by one single person. The pieces in the collection date back as far as the second and third century BC, though there are some ceramic pots found beneath the castle garden dating back to the sixth century BC. The collection includes pieces that were found all over the world, both glass, ceramic and coins- over 2,000 in total. The wine cellar dates back to the days of the convent when the friars stored wine that was made locally there. Today it houses many ancient casks and tools for making wine as well as the original room built to look like a cask that Miguel requisitioned for the World Exhibition in Barcelona. Here he held his famous wine tastings that were attended by many important people at the time. 

The library

The many attractions of the museum

The floor tiles in the cathedral

The altar and tapestries in the cathedral

The cask room created by Mateo Miguel