Sunday, February 11, 2007

Saint Cecilio!

Las Sunday was the festival of Saint Cecilio. I'm not usually one to seek out religious celebrations, but my housemate Oscar had been talking it up for days, and apparently only some early-rising types go for the mass, and everybody else goes for the dancing and singing and food.

Saint Cecilio is the patron saint of Granada, and the festival was held over by the Abadía del Sacromonte. The story goes that in the late 16th century, some lead tablets with Arabic writing on them, along with some saints' bones, of course, were found in some caves outside the city. The tablets and accompanying bones were used to make the argument that, before the Muslims got there, Granada had been a Christian city.

A. Katie Harris
, a history professor over at UC Davis, writes about the Sacromonte tablets and the layers of interpretation surrounding them; she's got a forthcoming Granada history book that, needless to say, I'm pretty excited about. If you've got JStor access, (or even if you don't), the abstract to one of her articles is here.

Anyhow, the way that all of this somehow got distilled through the centuries into popular celebration is that, on the festival of Saint Cecilio, the cultural branch of the municipality serves up some food, and there's a lot of flamenco music, some of it by small children to pre-recorded lo-fi singing.

There's a lot of waiting on line:

What are they on line for, you ask?
For this!

That's right, they're waiting for a plate of uncooked fava beans, a piece of salt cod, a small loaf of bread (not pictured), and a dixie cup of wine:

The line went pretty quickly, even though it was long. The fava beans were pretty standard for uncooked unseasoned fresh beans, and the salt cod was ... ridiculously salty. I was glad that there was bread to go with it, and that, in addition to the wine, I happened to have a water bottle. I read Mark Kurlansky's most excellent Salt: A World History a couple of years ago, but can't for the life of me remember if any discussion of salt cod in relation to religion. Salt cod itself is a big focus of the book, though.

After wandering around for a bit, I decided to walk down the hill and to go back after four p.m., when the cave where the bones had been found would be opened. The chain on my bicycle broke when I was halfway up the hill (for the second time in about as many months), and so I coasted back home.

I replaced the chain just yesterday.


Anonymous Zora said...

Wow. What a let-down. Mysterious bones, patron saint of the city, lots of excitement beforehand, and of course the general Spanish reputation for parties... You'd think that would be a recipe for some serious eating and drinking. Not some raw beans. And where do they get raw favas in February anyway? Is St. Cecilio the patron saint of greenhouses too? And salt cod, unsoaked? And a hunk of bread? There must be deep, mean-spirited religious symbolism to all this, because it is certainly not _real_ food.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

So the plot thickens. I've only read about the lead tablets in Harvey's Muslims in Spain. I remember his argument being that they were probably planted there by Muslims as a last-ditch attempt to increase respect for Arabic (and those who still knew it), and perhaps to present a compromise between Islam and Christianity that might reconcile Christians and the last few Moriscos? And isn't one of the tablets hidden away somewhere where no one has been able to try reading it? I haven't read this other professors stuff

10:31 PM  

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