Whilst in Barcelona recently, Kaiser Noir--historian, tour guide and co-organizer for the Barcelona Congress of Curious Peoples, and director of Kriminal Kabarett–took me on a special visit to the grim and fabulous Basilica of Saints Justus and Pastor.
I asked Kaiser to write a brief post about the church and its entrancing shrine dedicated to the souls in purgatory; his text follows, and the above images are my own:
The most fascinating church in Barcelona, the Basilica of saints Justus and Pastor, has a long history related to martyrdom, funerary rites and the supernatural world.
The temple is unique because its preservation is exceptional (surviving wars, looting and religious persecution) and it is perhaps the oldest Christian sanctuary in the city.
The pagan roots of this church are still discussed. Although archeological evidences are unclear, this might have been the place where the temple of Castor and Pollux, two Graeco-Roman divinized heroes, once stood.
Their names were Christianized and changed, and they became the saints Justus and Pastor, two christian boys killed near Madrid in the times of the emperor Diocletian.
The first Christians from “Barcino” (the name of Barcelona in the Roman times) also suffered these persecutions in the beginning of the IV century A.D. The most famous victim was saint Eulalia, patron of the city.
The surroundings of the church were used as a cemetery for these martyrs, whose relics were greatly appreciated. This fact consecrated the place as one of the holiest in the city.
When the Germanic invaders, the Goths, conquered Spain, Barcelona became the court of the king Ataulf and the first version of this church was built. Since then, the temple enjoyed royal protection, only interrupted by the Muslim invasion, when it is said that the church was used as a mosque.
Louis the Pious (son of Charlemagne) retook the city in the year 801 and confered an unusual privilege to this church: it was the sacramental testament.
In the chapel of Saint Felix it was possible to declare and confirm the last will before dying, a tradition absolutely legal until 1991.
Pablo Picasso, famous for pushing the boundaries of art with cubism, also broke with convention when it came to paint, new research shows. X-ray analysis of some of the painter’s masterworks solves a long-standing mystery about the type of paint the artist used on his canvases, revealing it to be basic house paint.
Art scholars had long suspected Picasso was one of the first master artists to employ house paint, rather than traditional artists’ paint, to achieve a glossy style that hid brush marks. There was no absolute confirmation of this, however, until now.
Physicists at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., trained their hard X-ray nanoprobe at Picasso’s painting “The Red Armchair,” completed in 1931, which they borrowed from the Art Institute of Chicago. The nanoprobe instrument can “see” details down to the level of individual pigment particles, revealing the arrangement of particular chemical elements in the paint.
“El Caminito del Rey”, in English, (“The King’s little pathway”) was initially built as an access route.
It enabled workers at the hydroelectric power plants of El Chorro Gorge and Gaitanes Gorge with an easier way to transport materials, maintain and inspect the workings of the two power plants.
Construction of the “walkway” began in 1901 and was finished in 1905 and in 1921 King Alfonso XIII visited and walked along the path for the inauguration of the Conde del Guadalhorce dam and since that time it became known as the “Kings path”
The Kings Path – Photo Credit Diputacion de Malaga.
The original walkway was just 1 metre (3.3 ft) wide and in places more than 100 metres (330 ft) above the river below.
From one end to the other is about 3 kilometres. The path for many years was in a highly deteriorated state with numerous sections collapsed and large open air gaps bridged only by the narrow steel rails.
Very few of the original handrails existed but a safety-wire placed by climbers ran the length of the path.
The area is a mecca for climbers and the Caminito del Rey became known as one of the most impressive and dangerous mountain trails in the world.
But, after several people lost their lives on the walkway (in 1999 and 2000) both access points were demolished by local authorities and access prohibited.
In June 2011 the regional government of Andalusia and the local government of Málaga agreed to share the costs of a restoration project (including car parking and a museum) but even with a budget of €9 million euros,the project took approximately three years to start and only in March 2014 the restoration work began.
In its new upgraded and repaired state the Camino del Rey will have wooden and concrete flooring, glass-bottomed viewing and safety rails along the whole length.
How the Camino del Rey looks in 2014 – Photo Credit Diputacion de Malaga