Thursday, April 7, 2011

Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife - Canary Islands

By the dry bed of the Barranco de los Santos and crouched amidst high rises and private homes stacked like domino stones, lays the pretty, horizontal cathedral Iglesia de la Concepcion; its slender and square belfry like a bastion overlooking the sea.

The indented chapels could use a lick of paint on the outside but on the inside the church is well kept, spacey and utterly hospitable. When Draga and I enter we find the congregation conducting a worship service. We scoot through the isles and sit down somewhere and listen to a friendly Father deliver his sermon. I have no idea what he’s saying but around me the world stands still and becomes reverent, and I look at the statues, the paintings and the impressive arches that hold up the ceiling.

I’m holding Draga’s hand. I want her to know that I understand that she belongs to a world that’s not made from steel and peeling paint, and that needs to be perpetually maintained at the price of human lives. She belongs to an eternity that, although it must be misunderstood by the merits of its nature, can be wholly enjoyed in silence and surrender.

After the service the congregation shuffles out and lingers by the entrance, chatting and laughing. I remain inside and take pictures of the statues (with flash because the lights go out as soon as the door opens). When we finally also exit, we walk quietly around the church. Near the belfry we find a plaque that says rather esoterically:

“Although it was built very slowly (XVIth - XVIIIth century) the temple presents a great unity of style. The first edifice, that today corresponds to the first part of the central nave, was a little, rectangular ground-plan church. Along the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries other naves were added to it, changing the temple to the present church of five naves, transept with cupola and isle chapels. 

The tile roofs with two and four slopes corresponds in the inside with the traditional Mudejar coffered ceilings. The walls are made with rubblework being the hewn stone only used in the corners of the edifice, in the tower and on the main facade on which a dark basalt is used. Outside the Canarian wooden balconies stand out, being considered a unique example of the architecture of the islands.”

Whatever cultural significance this church may have for the Canarians, to us it was a brief symbol of safety, of being part of something that must evolve like all other things, but which was based on something eternal that will never go away. Draga and I are part of each other. Today we were part of the congregation of the Church of the Conception in Santa Cruz, Tenerife. We are part of the much larger Body of Christ, equally unfathomable and ultimate more mysterious and eternal. Standing hand in hand in front of this cathedral, to which we will probably never return, we realized that we were part of the great union of heaven and earth; a marriage that can never be described in any human language of logical system, but which defines us at large and at every tiny detail; from the purpose of our lives up to the level of everyday’s most quiet need.

Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife – Canary Islands

Could use a lick of paint
Staring over the heads of the congregation to the impressive Marian altar piece

Detail of the Marian altar piece of Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Arches hold up the ceiling - Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Mary and Jesus, probably
The baptism of Jesus; stained glass window of Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Veronica - Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
After the service the congregation lingers
Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife - Canary Islands

The Christless cross, unusual for Catholic churches but not in Santa Cruz,
which city symbol is the Christless cross.
(To the right, that's Draga, by the way... )

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