Sunday, 25 June 2017

Historic stopover at the gates of Granada

We set out before ten to collect the car and my alb and stole from St George's churchyard, and I was pleased to find a couple of Nigerian church congregation members were already busy preparing to welcome those who would be coming for worship at eleven. Another new experience for Owain of Dad's workplace.

The hour long drive to Salinas gave us enough time to have a coffee in Manolo's Bar before going to the capilla and joining the congregation. The local parish congregation was just finishing, and I was introduced to their young assistant priest, who originated from Mexico. The now elderly and infirm senior cleric had been a missionary there, and encouraged the vocation of a local boy, who has now ended up working in this rural community with four congregations to look after. 

I was delighted to find that I could converse a little with him in Spanish, and he clearly enjoys being able to speak English in return. Relationships between the two congregations are very warm and hospitable, and people are wonderfully open to the ministry of women clergy, I heard, not for the first time, and that's despite the evident conservatism of some traditionalists.

Salinas Anglican congregation members John and Val have developed a community choir that sings concerts in the region. As many people as can make it come together to sing for Sunday services fortnightly. The capilla has no organ or keyboard but does have an excellent acoustic, so the singing is 'a capella'  led by the choir. It's an arrangement which I appreciate and enjoy. It helps to build a worshipping community in a special way, as they gain confidence in each other by singing together, or if worshippers are not particularly musical, they can relax and enjoy listening contemplatively. 

There were nineteen of us present, and after the service the congregation retired to Manolo's Bar to socialise over a drink. John and Val kindly treated us to lunch and some interesting talk about life in deepest rural Andalusia. We heard a couple of stories about how people had come to the region for a month's holiday, and ended by exchanging contracts on a house to live in for other holidays, or for impending retirement. A place and way of life which people can grow to love very quickly it seems.

When we parted company, Owain and I drove on the A92 to the town of Sta Fe, in suburbs adjacent to Granada's small airport. Using Booking dotcom, Owain found a room for €36 to stop the night, a roadside Hotel called BS Capitulaciones, on of two with the BS prefix in Granada, thought I have been unable to find out what BS stands for. Identifying the place wasn't difficult, but finding out how to reach it from the highway was less than easy. 

Coming into Granada from out of town, we had to go under the motorway and around a narrow back street, then turn on to the highway going in the other direction for the length of a large car sales compound and exit immediately right, with no slip road or signage to give safe passage. The hotel is a well appointed modern building with a large forecourt, secure indoor parking, a restaurant plus a bar with its own breakfast and snack menu. I couldn't help wondering if the owners were in dispute with city planners and lawyers about safe and proper site access. It's clearly well used, being close to the airport, but not being well served by municipal authorities in my opinion.

What a strange name for a hotel, we both thought - was this anything to do with what we'd noticed about site access and location? Very soon we discovered that the town of Sta Fe had been the place where the forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had been garrisoned before the final assault and siege of Granada in 1481, one of the great prizes of their Andalusian reconquista campaign. The camp rapidly turned into a fortified town. The outcome was the negotiated withdrawal from Granada by the outnumbered Muslim armies of Bobadil the city ruler in 1492. He chose loss of honour and status rather than loss of blood, and has been sneered at by historians of the victorious for his weakness, rather than his humane common sense. Sta Fe was where withdrawal agreements of safe passage were signed and labelled 'Capitulaciones', and henceforth remembered.

After unpacking, we walked into the town centre, which is still defined by the four substantial gates which mark the four points of the compass, and commemorate 'Los Reyes Catolicos', as does the large 18th century neo-classical parish church of the Incarnation. The original church, constructed when the town was first built, was destroyed in an earthquake. The town was named Sta Fe (Holy Faith) because it was the dwelling place of the armies of Los Reyes Catolicos. It's a place of great significance for the whole of Spain because of the story it tells. It it seemed to Owain and I that it looked a little in need of care and attention, a coat of paint, better signage, despite banners hanging from lamp posts declaring the 425th anniversary of Capitulaciones. Perhaps it's part of the fate of any place which finds itself under the flight path of the local airport. Too easily overlooked.

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