KelsieGleason's Travel Journals

KelsieGleason Kelsie Gleason

  • 28 years old
  • From Illinois, United States
  • Currently in Barcelona, Spain

Visions and Revisions: Discovering the Culture of Barcelona

This journal will serve as a collection of my experiences, observations, and reflections over the next four months of cultural immersion in Barcelona.


Spain Zaragoza, Spain  |  Jan 23, 2011
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            First weekend trip of the semester! We left for Zaragoza at 9am on Friday morning and just got back last night around 9:30pm. Zaragoza is such a beautiful city and we saw so much within those two days that I feel like I have been gone for at least a week!

            The first day there we toured two different cathedrals and learned about their history. My favorite cathedral was the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. The story behind the cathedral is that when Saint James was having trouble converting people to Christianity and was getting discouraged, Mary came to him in person and gave him a pillar around which to build a church. That pillar is still in the center of the cathedral today, but is barely more than a meter tall. We got to touch it from a little viewing area behind the altar, but only young children are allowed to touch the pillar from the front. The church has 400 different skirts that they cover the pillar with, changing the skirt every day. There are only 3 days each month that the pillar is uncovered. Besides the pillar, the architecture of the church was amazing. It is a Baroque style church, with a huge, very detailed altar. The choir was also pretty amazing too! There is even a dome on the ceiling of the cathedral that Goya painted, but his art was considered too modern by the church, and he did not paint any of the other domes since his art was not appreciated. If you look at the ceiling of the cathedral, you can see two large holes that were left by bombs dropped on the church during the Spanish Civil War. The bombs never went off, and they are on display in the cathedral. 

           The second cathedral we saw was the Catedral del Salvador de Zaragoza, also known as La Seo. It is a gothic style church with a very long history. Almost all the Aragonese kings were crowned there, and Pedro de Arbués, the head Inquisitor of Aragón, was assassinated there. The altar of La Seo is very similar to that of El Pilar, and there is also a lot of Renaissance artwork in the cathedral.           

Underneath the Cathedrals is the site of the old Roman city CaesarAugusta (from which Zaragoza gets its name). There are museums dedicated to the city forum, the theatre, and the public baths. Each museum allows you to walk through the old city sites and gives an interactive presentation about the artifacts found there. I learned a lot about the history of the Romans, especially from the video at the forum museum which described the building of the city from the point of view of the Ebro River.           

 On Saturday morning we went on a guided tour through La Aljafería, a palace that was originally built in the 11th century by a Muslim ruler. Since then it has served a lot of different purposes, as a recreational palace, a residence for the later Christian kings, military quarters, and a prison. Today it houses the parliament of Aragon. It was amazing to walk through the palace and think about how long it has been around and how many different people have lived in it. Between the palace, the cathedrals, and the Roman ruins, it really made me realize how little history the US has in comparison with Spain. I can’t even imagine going to mass every week at a cathedral like the ones we saw, growing up in a city that was built on top of a Roman forum, or being able to look out your apartment window and see an 11th century palace. It really makes me appreciate how amazing Spain is!

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