This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.
After hours of taking in sumptuous art and dazzling jewels at the Santa Cruz Museum, Lynn and I attempted to find the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz—Mosque of Christ the Light.
We consulted the map at the end of every block and still managed to get turned around. It was raining and the sidewalks were slick as we skidded down a narrow alley only to discover we had gone in the wrong direction and had to slip and slide back up.
But we found it. I’m sorry to say there wasn’t much to see. It was tiny, and the interior was empty. It would be great if the city would make a museum of it, like the Sephardic Museum.
Next, off we went to the Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes, just steps from our hotel, which turned out to be one of my favorite places.
There were manacles strung up along the perimeter of the exterior; this is not why I liked it so much, I’m just reporting it as one of the “highlights” of the building. Apparently they were there to scare people into obedience, and I’m sure it worked.
The interior was the usual: An ornate dome here, a bishops’ tomb there.
The sanctuary featured eagles—dozens of rows of them—symbolizing Spain’s power.
“You certainly couldn’t miss the point,” Lynn remarked, “sitting here in the pews with nothing else to look at.
There was a memorial to 30 priests who were executed during the Spanish Civil War. An old French man had glommed onto us and was talking up a storm. I couldn’t concentrate on reading the plaques, so I apologize for not knowing more.
The French guy veered into talking about Muslim terrorists. My weirdo radar switched on and I drifted away. I didn’t want to open my mouth, have him find out I was American, and risk he would start rhapsodizing about what a great man Donald Trump was.
I abandoned Lynn, who smiled and nodded noncommittally as he talked.
I wanted to find the courtyard. I had read in a guidebook that it had a special monkey carved into a pillar. What a magnificent courtyard it was:
It reminded me of the colleges at Oxford, which I had spent all my free time exploring when I lived there. I’m sure they look alike because they are built in the same architectural style, but I can’t tell you what that is, only that I love its airiness.
Every pillar had small images carved into it. There were hundreds of babies, griffins, fish, dragons, and unicorns—all difficult to photograph.
I found the monkey. It was sitting on a chamberpot and reading a bible upside down, supposedly a reference to the true impiety of priests carved by a workman.
Pepe had to leave his mark as well.
Lynn found the courtyard and we hung out there admiring the garden, sculptures, and towering spires. Then we grabbed a late lunch somewhere I can’t remember, and went in search of our last museum which, on the map, looked very close to our hotel.
It was called the Royal Toledo Foundation. Or maybe it was the Victorio Macho Musem. It turned out to be both. Whatever that meant, it was lost on us.
It was more than close to the hotel; it abutted our breakfast room and that explained the statures we could see through the windows.
The museum was only open odd hours, so we rang a bell and a startled-looking woman came and let us in. For a few Euros, we wandered the lovely gardens with our umbrellas. Victorio Macho was the third wonderful artist we discovered on this trip that we had never heard of. The museum was set in his home. The gardens overlooked the river and were populated with his statues.
In the tiny museum there were more sculptures, including a life-sized one of his mother which he lugged around South America for a year because he was so attached to it. Thank god for iPhones, which is where I have an image of my mom.