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Navigating the world - one step at a time These are the travel notes of a young Canadian traveling the globe as thoroughly and as fast as she can!

The Procession of the Pardon

SPAIN | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [220] | Scholarship Entry

After a lengthy and picturesque drive from Madrid, we arrived to the cliffside village of Cuenca on a clear sunny day. Central Spain is beautiful in spring - albeit hard to navigate if you don’t speak or read Spanish or visit during the Easter holidays. Yet, it is at this time you experience the true spiritual culture of the country and its people.

Driving upward along a narrow, oneway road toward our monastery-turned-hotel, we faced a small medieval town whose primary mode of access was across an aged wooden-plank footbridge. Where one wrong turn by car provides a straight plummet to the ravine below, the bridge spanning the drop was the perfect indication this was not a place for the faint of heart but symbolized the brave and romantic curiosity of those who visit.

Perhaps its Cuenca’s unspoiled, time-honoured traditions, its citizens’ displays of collective devotion or the shared awe of natural forces (a rainbow appearing post rainstorm over a massive, cliff-top Jesus figure) that provided the transcendental feeling in the town’s plaza mayor. The hotel concierge was adamant we see this magnificent, tribute to Catholicism and the Easter sacrifice. Being a fallen-away protestant yet an eager art historian, I was keen to take part and the spectacle did not disappoint.

As the sun set, one of the most elaborate and devotional celebrations I have ever been privileged to witness took place - the Procession of the Pardon. The plaza filled at dusk and came to life with banners, flags, dramatic spot lights and candles. As darkness fell, chanting, cries of joy and drum music poured from all the alleys of the village while the smell of burning wax permeated the air. The volume increased and a series of flags appeared over the edge of the hill to the plaza entrance. On the horizon was a series of peaked hoods and a floating, lit face which seemed to hover over a sea of peaks. As the face drew nearer, a life-sized Christ figure entered the square, elaborately-robed, carried by forty or so men from the bottom of the ravine to the plaza along Cuenca’s twisting streets. The procession continued for hours - hundreds of parishioners of all ages carrying ornate resin figurines bedecked with candles and flowers accompanied by marching bands.

In a world plagued with strife and where collective faith in organized religion continuously diminishes, this city provided a rare moment of respectful reverence for what many of us have forgotten or are too busy to acknowledge.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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