Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Quick Changes

The Cloister at the Jeronimos Monastery in Belem
The Kingdom of Portugal was full of Religious. Then in 1833 all monks and nuns were ousted - just as had happened in England three hundred years earlier. Curious how the 'enlightenment' brought with it such drastic changes. In France it had been the monarchy which symbolised everything old and bad; but the Church was seen as a part of the system. Accordingly the Church suffered along with the Royal Family. The guillotining of Dominican nuns was just one of the more barbarous events. It took another eighty years for Portugal to rid itself of its king. So now the country is full of empty convents and empty palaces - just places for tourists.

The Palace in Sintra
Inside the Templar Church
It can all happen so quickly. For two centuries the Knights Templar had been one of the most powerful, and most popular, of religious Orders, Tomar in central Portugal was one of the greatest monasteries of the Order. You can still see the great bakery where bread was baked not just for the brethren, but also for the many who came to the door seeking charity. With the failure of a Crusade, the French King took the opportunity to blame the Templars, and then leaned on the Pope to disband them. In England Henry VIII had blackened religious communities in order to seize their goods; and as in Portugal, it was the poor who suffered, with no one to feed them, nurse them in sickness, or educate them. The hatred of Religious and of the Catholic Faith so instigated by Henry and Elizabeth continue even to the present.
The Convent of Christ in Tomar, seat of the Knights Templar
In Alfama, Lisbon's once Moorish district
By a strange chance I had picked up in the Heathrow Airport Bookstall "The Buried Giant" by Kazuo Ishiguro. That is set in the time of the Saxon invasions of Britain, and gives an extraordinary account of the success of Arthur in uniting the country, only to see it divided and the Britons driven into the far west after his death. The Saxons had come wanting to simply to share what Britain had to offer; instead they managed to supplant its ancient culture.

In Tomar we also visited the Synagogue; which had functioned for just twenty years before Ferdinand and Isabella expelled Jews along with Muslims as part of the 'reconquest'. And now 'Isis' is trying to establish its caliphate ... how long will England hold out against it? North Africa, Turkey, Egypt, Syria - all were the home-lands of Christianity.

At the end of our stay in Lisbon we visited the Cathedral; they have been excavating beneath the cloisters at the east end of the church.

Excavations beneath the Cloister of Lisbon Cathedral

Roman streets, Moorish buildings (there was even a Mosque where the Cathedral now stands) and much more yet to be revealed. Everywhere in Portugal there is devotion to St James [of Compostela,] called 'the Moor Slayer'. And in Santiago itself, depictions of the beheading of the Franciscans who had attempted to convert the Muslims of the Holy Land.

Chapel of the Angel of Peace in Fatima where I offered Mass for the Ordinariate

Where is Thy reign of peace,And purity, and love?
When shall all hatred cease, As in the realms above?
When comes the promised time That war shall be no more?

The Knights Templar Castle above Tomar

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