Wednesday 15th June
I spent a good 45 minutes in the church. In part, because I'd arrived too early to check in to my hotel room but mostly because the place absolutely captivated me, set my emotions on a precipitous edge. For a start, just the feel of the place: it's stunning altarpiece and ornate side chapels.
Then, due to the presence of a host of Virgin Marys (is there a collective noun for this?). I counted six: Our Lady of Salette, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Victories, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Montserrat and Our Lady of Guinea.
Four were too pale, too Anglo-Saxon and/or too straight but Our Lady of Guinea and, of course, my patrona for this trip, Our Lady of Montserrat are, in their own way, quite queer.
Finally, being in this beautiful church made me think about the queerness of my own theology and Catholicism. The French Catholic Church, though much reduced in number, is still a powerful institution, deeply reactionary and conservative. The church of St Pere undermined that paradox; I was overcome by the sheer beauty, an affect which, one could argue, opens up a conduit to the Virgin Mary and/or God.
You pays yer money and you makes yer choice.
When I was a teenager and found mass desperately dull and boring, I used to while away the time imagining the church as a concert venue: perhaps this was the origins of my rock 'n' roll theology. The choir makes a perfect stage: the vocalist - centre stage at the altar, obviously, the priest; the lead guitarist, the deacon, to her/his right hand; the second guitarist and bassist, the altar servers, to the left. And at the back, the drummer. To be honest, I'm not sure where the drummer fits in ecclesiastically but there you go. Before the altar, in the pews and the nave would sit (and stand and kneel) the worshippers, hanging on every word and chord.
With its backlighting and illumination, the church of Sant Pere would have made a rocktastic setting for a couple of hours of nineteen-eighties, big-haired, bubblegum pop-metal. But here the queerness of my Catholicism reached its limit. I couldn't countenance the fantasy becoming reality; would have considered it sacrilegious, even conjuring up the image in my head made me feel uncomfortable.
It's a weird one, full of paradox and inconsistencies but such is life. I can't help thinking my visit to the church of Sant Pere was pre-ordained. The perfect place to start the Summer of Sweat.
|Santiago/Sant Jaume/ San Jacques in the church of Sant Pere, Prades. This man follows me everywhere and I don't even like him!|