Should the Pope offer St. Maria’s of Alhambra to Islam?

On a plateau over Granada, Spain stands Alhambra.  It is a grand palace and former settlement of the Moors.  It is today well preserved in its full history, but its history is still alive.

Inside the grounds of Alhambra is a church.  It is a nice church, in the renaissance style, but it’s history is not so nice.  Alhambra was a Moorish palace and settlement, and where the church of Santa Maria de la Encarnacion stands once stood a mosque.  That mosque was torn down and in its place was put the church.  It was common practice throughout Andalusia, Spain to convert old mosques to cathedrals.  The major cathedrals of Andalusia were once mosques.  But tearing down this mosque and building in its place a church, on the grounds of Moorish Alhambra, was a clear show of power by Catholic rule, and no mere convenience.

In The Alhambra Trinity I address – in literary and indirect form – some reasons for turning St. Maria’s of Alhambra into an offering of peace.  What I do not address directly – though it is an underlying current – is its historical significance as a symbol of religious struggle and the domination by Catholicism in Spain.  As such it holds a unique place for potential as a symbol of peace as Spain enters an age of religious diversity and tolerance, but I do not believe the proper action is to convert St. Maria’s to a mosque.  It should instead be made symbol of interfaith peace and not a symbol of triumph by one side over another – diplomatic or otherwise.  A place where all people of faith are welcome, including those of the Jewish faith, who have a long history in the region of Granada, and also worked on Alhambra.

To that end I, a Catholic, suggest it be converted to a place where all faiths can practice together, though in a unique way.  I realize that the suggestion of re-architecting a renaissance style church in Europe may fall on deaf ears.  And some may look at this approach as opening a can of worms, but I look at it as the most supreme offering of peace that the Church can make.  And peace should be the goal of all faith, Catholic, Islamic, Jewish or otherwise.

Odyssey de Sevilla

It started out like any other night, I would typically go out for a motadito and a cerveza and mix with the natives and tourists alike; but I learned that some people, namely tall white guiris, are an easy mark. I apparently made myself too friendly with the natives at one distinctly local establishment and after realizing that a barkeep lifted me for 20 euros in a phony-friendly encounter, I returned to the man, who insisted he never saw me at all.

Such slights I had previously found unusual in the friendly city of Seville, and after returning home, I decided I was a bit too punchy to settle in for the night. I stepped out my door to make the acquaintance of a black professional skateboarder originating from the Ghettos of Paris. He was an interesting and intelligent young man; I took the care making sure he did not drink too much before his European Championship in the morning. In reality, he did not have much a problem with it, but the idea gave me purpose, as I tried not to drink too much myself.

I did not drink too much, we parted ways early enough, and I was back in my room. Jonatan would go on to take third in the Freestyle the next day, and I would go on to lose every important thing I had in my possession.

In one fateful trip to the train station, I used my wallet to swipe my way in for the train, and when I had to swipe my way out, I could not – for my wallet was gone.

It is a strange feeling being in a foreign country with nothing to identify you and no currency at your disposal. You are simply a man in the world, without history or prospects. I found it liberating, but decided I really did not want to throw away my life.

With this I embarked on an odyssey – first to the train station office to put out a notice; then online to cancel all my credit cards, fighting with my bank to replace my cards (which they couldn’t because I did not have the password I set up five years earlier); then calling the embassy to put out a notice on my lost passport (yes my wallet was big enough to carry my passport and no its wasn’t a man-bag); then filing a police report on a lost (stolen?) wallet; finally arranging with my hostel to return there in the future, and pay at a later date, once I received a replacement credit card.

I went two days without money for food, while walking to and fro, but I managed to get myself wired 200 euros, which I promptly used to get to Madrid for the sake of a new passport. I had a scary moment when the Hostel in Madrid almost turned me away, late in the evening, because I had no ID, but luckily they could accept my story and the official copy of the police report. The next morning I filed for a new passport at the embassy, did some writing in the park, visited Sol (Madrid has done the absurd and given Vodafone the naming rights to the center of their city, so if you’re at the train station, it’s Vodafone Sol to you.) Then I decided I really should use the ticket to Alhambra I had purchased, well in advance, for the following day.

To get to Granada, I overnighted on a seven hour bus, and arrived, going directly to the grounds. After spending a beautiful day at Alhambra, I went to the bus station, where I was to take a late bus back to Seville. I realized, however, that I would arrive too late for my Hostel’s front desk still to be open, and would be without money to get another Hostel. I asked to change my ticket to an earlier bus, but there was a 2,40 change fee, and I had only 1,70 euros to my name by this time (passports aren’t cheap).

Needless to say, when they decided not to wave the change fee for my circumstance, I grew a bit irate, but to my surprise, after arguing for 20 minutes, a kind lady appeared out of nowhere, to give me two euros – though the man at information made me go back to the end of the long line, out of spite. While I settled down, a remarkably heavy downpour turned into a hailstorm, the likes of which the Granadan’s had not seen in years, as even the workers were leaving their post to snap photos.

I arrived late to Seville, but early enough for the front desk to be open, and there I found the front desk manned by the only person who did not know who I was. After fighting to get him to call the owner (poor guy) I finally got a room. When I entered the room, there came over me a curse, like I was inevitably going to be sick.

The next morning I was sick, but I received a replacement credit card, and sure enough, I was contacted by the consulate – they recovered my wallet, all intact but for 45 euros and an iPod (ok so what if it was really more of a European Carry-all. When in Seville…).