Arrived home last night which is always a ‘nice’ feeling. Home… though being on the road is just wonderful too. We have just been to Madrid, Toledo and Caravaca de la Cruz. A few more kilometres on the ‘furgo’: around 1.3k or 800 miles, so not huge distances. Madrid was our first destination and we met there with two generations of ‘Hawkes’ from north London (Adrian and Pauline, Gareth and Jo). They are such inspirations to us – maybe I should say provocations. Their passion for the Gospel and its outworking at a level of justice (is there another outworking that is at the centre of the Gospel?) is very striking. They have given themselves to everyone but with a focus on asylum seekers and refugees and the provision that they have believed God for, not once but on many occasions. There are those you can read about but it is always a deep privilege to be with the kind of people one can read about.
Over the past years we have met with a sightly wider group from http://phoenixcommunity.org and are glad that we seem to have some positive input to them. Their input to us is immense. We had a few days together and we stayed with them on an interesting street (more below on this!).
From Madrid we made the short drive to a city with major history, the city of Toledo. At one time it served as the capital. Our focus was very narrow – the city had been a centre for church councils, many Jewish massacres and also a centre for the Inquisition – but our focus has been on the Muslim / Christian / ReConquista aspect. In 1045 Alfonso VI of Castile captured Toledo, and although the city is a long way south the capture was viewed as one of the most significant captures in the ReConquista process. A truly magnificient city and one that understandably pulls in the tourists but it is hugely oppressive with clear evidence of the alliance of religion and military pride coming together. It would be a major challenge to live in the city as a believer as those spirits always come to suffocate real life.
Alfonso has a statue erected to him on one of the main ways in to the city. A sword raised to heaven!
Because our focus was on the Muslims we did not visit the Jewish quarter, though we have done that in the past and are deeply grateful for the focus Spanish believers have had on repentance into that history. On the edge of the old city by the Puerta del Sol (gate) there is one of the 10 original mosques that were in the city. It is pretty much intact and has been there since around 1000AD. It was a good place to pray, and as it was still during Ramadan it also carried some weight.
From the Mosque we went to the Cathedral, the Town Hall and the archbishop’s palace. All three together in the one square, and all three together in a spiritual history. How far have we shifted from the simplicity of following Christ, the simple and yet deeply profound message of the cross that made an open show of what is at the heart of controlling power? It is very difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion when walking the streets of a city like Toledo that ultimately there is no difference between the controlling Judaism that colluded with Imperial power, the Islamic faith that proclaims a predestinating God, and a christianity that transforms the cross into a sword. They are of one spirit, and certainly not of the Spirit of Jesus… though wonderfully he can be found hidden in there. Days of walking, praying are very provocative, they seem to bring sight in new ways.
Cathedral and a military / Knights T / St George images:
From Toledo we went to Caravaca de la Cruz, a town not too far from Murcia in the south. It of course has Moorish history but our focus here was simply to complete going to the three places in Spain that are legitimated by the Vatican to offer ‘perpetual indulgences’. (Inside Spain there are three, outside two – Jerusalem and Rome.) I am sure there are those who find Jesus, and even find forgiveness in the midst of the paraphernalia, but oh for some of the simple ways of Jesus to become available! This place draws so many pilgrims but here the religious spirit was not so heavy as in Toledo…
Here is view of the city from the pilgrimage sanctuary:
So a little journey and back home. The next days we will try to shape the next parts.
And the street name? Just before we left Noé (from Calpe) had talked to us about what is considered the major battle that is the turning point in the ReConquista: the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212). So we have been reading on this and know that (probably) in July we will travel there. There is much to write about on the history, but of interest in terms of where we have been, the ‘Christian’ forces came from Toledo to the battle. They included the most unlikely of allies, and also drew in the Knights Templars and the Order of Santiago. Later in the same year of the battle there was a major slaughter of Jews in Toledo. Those kind of connections are not uncommon.
And the street in Madrid? Here is the corner of the street:
Nice pointer on the journey – who needs GPS with signs like that!!