The first time I saw a Bible was in the Gettysburg Marriott. I was excited to be there, and found joy in opening and closing every single drawer. All were empty except for one in between the double beds. The Holy Bible? I quickly flipped through its pages, but the Bible had an old, musty sort of smell, and the font was small.
I wouldn’t read the Bible again till AP English in my senior year of high school. I had heard through the grapevine of graduated seniors that the class was torture. Ms. Krammer was going to force you to read the Bible within a week, and give an exam the following Monday. The Bible was daunting to me. I eventually got through that year, but with a lot of help from Sparknotes and Wikipedia.
Entering a cathedral gives me the same anxiety as reading the Bible. It’s not the thought of religion that makes me uncomfortable; it’s the thought that my lack of knowledge could be interpreted as disrespectful, rude, and the epitome of the “Ugly American”. Setting my anxiety aside, I knew that I needed to visit the Catedral de Sevilla, and Sagrada Famiglia in Barcelona. People boasted about the amazing views atop both. But more importantly, the Cathedrals were an integral part of each city’s rich history and vibrant culture.
On Sunday afternoon, I ventured to the Catedral de Sevilla only to be turned away. Between the hours of noon and 230PM, the Cathedral was only open for prayer. Tripadvisor did not indicate that… I returned back a little after 230PM, and there was already a queue wrapped around the block. Tickets can be purchased in advance, but the website failed to work for me. The blazing hot sun beat down on the throngs of people eager to step foot inside. As mentioned in my previous post, 10 Things I Learned in Spain, be sure to wear a hat. There is no shade while waiting on the queue. Sagrada Famiglia has a much more internationally friendly site that was easy to book. I highly recommend booking that in advance because its queue for purchase onsite was ridiculous.
I waited roughly half an hour to enter the Catedral de Sevilla. A small museum welcomed guests. I was thankful because it eased my way into the experience. My first step into the actual Cathedral was jaw dropping. The ceilings were immense. Soaring heights and gigantic pillars made it appear as if the church was infinite. Just enough daylight was flowing through the Cathedral to illuminate the entire room. Ornate golden features gleamed from the sunlight, and hand carved statues surrounded me. I was overwhelmed in a magical way.
A few steps into the recently waxed floor, my Nikes began to squeak. And not just tiny pip squeaks. They were loud. It echoed with every step I took. “What the hell”, I thought to myself. My body jerked. “I am literally going to hell. I just said hell in a church.” Heads turned in my direction. I wanted to throw my sneakers out and go barefoot. But that wasn’t a better way to behave. I lightened my step and tip-toed. Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths. That seemed to help.
I made my way to the center. A tour guide began her opening remarks to a group. Others were silently praying. While tip-toeing through, I noticed no one was wearing a hat! And here I was, being an asshole with mine still on. Was it OK to wear? My mind raced back to episodes of The Simpsons. When Lisa was in church, she wore a pink hat with a bow. And Marge had her tiny green hat too. But during God Bless America of the 7th inning stretch, you take off your hat?! I felt the blood rushing to my face. With my mind in flux and heat radiating from the top of my head, I took off the hat. As I looked down, I realized my shoulders were bare. A friend had said to bring a shawl to Sagrada Familglia because shoulders should be covered. Does that apply here? My mind was starting to wander off again.
“Hey, the entrance to the Giralda Tower is this way.” My partner pointed to a brightly lit sign that in turn pointed to a door. I forgot about the shawl. We walked up the ramps leading us to the top of the tower. I’ve climbed up the Dom in Frankfurt, and down the almost 200 steps in Covent Garden’s tube station (never again). Giralda Tower’s ramps, all 34 of them, were absolutely genius! The last ramp lead to a small staircase with a narrow doorway illuminated by sunlight. I made my way out, a large bell cowered over me.
Tripadvisor was right: the view from Giralda tower truly was the best in the city. Because almost all of the buildings in Sevilla are low, it was easy to see as far out as the water. More amazing was being able to look at the roof of the Cathedral. The tops appeared to be painstakingly carved. Blue and white tiled domes added bursts of colors to the stone. I was awestruck as I imagined the amount of effort needed to construct the Cathedral centuries ago. “Just how?” I asked my partner.
My anxiety was long forgotten while I enjoyed the views of Sevilla. The bells even rang while I was up there. It actually became a refreshing moment of introspection. I may not be religious, but I can truly appreciate the inspirational works and marvels that one’s belief can produce.