Friday, 7 November 2014

European Adventures Part II: Oviedo and the Temple of Death

After the Wedding in Bling Abbey, I was off for an assignment in Spain.  There wasn’t much time for sightseeing, but the one thing I did get to check out was Oviedo Cathedral.  And what a cathedral it is.  To give you an idea of the overwhelming visual experience, this is the main altar.

My detail-obsessed brain immediately shut down at this, and I still haven’t had a chance to process it.  This will be at least a two-part entry, so I may come back to it later.  For now, however, we are going to look at what I found to be the most striking art theme of the cathedral: brutal murder.

Before dragging my husband around to photograph 5000 vignettes and drawing suspicious looks from staff, I took the formal tour, which was quite whirlwind (“There is the altar! Here are very old statues of the disciples!  This is a fancy historical jeweled box!  Ok, thanks for coming!”).  One of the details from the guide that stuck with me, though, was that Saint Eulogius, who is buried in the cathedral, had been beheaded by the Moors.  After the tour, the first scene that I noticed was this one.

Sure enough, that is a dude about to be beheaded by a man with a scimitar and a bitchin’ moustache. 

The incoming angel seems unprepared to deal with this situation.  It is hard to balance a wreath on the head when it is a free-range head, not bound by the confines of a body.  Also, what is he planning to do with that palm branch?  Beat off the assailant, or just incapacitate him with hayfever? 

This proved to be the first of several death-in-process vignettes.  In a Catholic place of worship, I expect a certain amount of (Possibly Bleeding) Jesus-On-A-Cross, but this place is like a religious snuff film.  (Snuff mural?) 

I now present to you the Martyr Highlights of Oviedo Cathedral.

Apparently getting whacked from behind was a big problem in medieval Spain.  This time the weapon looks more like a baseball bat, although he seems to have a scimitar at his side.  The victim is just like, “Hey, tree, what did I do??”  

Also note the floating angel head - this theme is making more sense now that I see all the beheadings that went on.

I’m not sure if this one is actually a murder about to happen, but it looks like he’s about to be stabbed in the back on the king’s orders.  Charm point: adorable dwarf with a knife that might leap forward and cut his Achilles tendon.

Of course, the images of saints being beaten with rocks are much more picturesque than the stabbings. 

The guy giving the orders looks so delightfully disinterested – “Oh, just get it over with.  And try not to get any brain splatters on me.”

Here, even though one guy has a pitchfork, the multitude decided that rock-bashing is much more fun.  Also, I like that there is a dedicated rock-fetcher for the mindless murder mob. 

This man seems to be being whipped with bushels of wheat.  That angel coming down with the cross is like, “Hey guys, that looks pretty ineffective, but I’ve got a technique that works here…”

Also, good on the victim for trying to make a break for it while they’re still in the process of binding his feet.

This one gets points for being the most gruesome, with the man being actively flayed alive.  Must be a House Dreadfort job.

I am not entirely sure why those three angry guys are being trampled, but I love that the one in the middle is holding his hand up as if to say, “Excuse me, old chap, might you lend a hand here?”

I always thought that devils were supposed to take your soul and stab you with pitchforks underground, but apparently sky demons are also a concern.  Not quite sure what the dove with laser beams is doing, since it is not engaging in combat with the minions of hell.

Finally, my personal favorite Oviedo Cathedral death: naked man consumed by dragon under an Illuminati pyramid.

So there you have it.  There may have been more, but these were the main ones that caught my eye in the cacophony of imagery.  Because nothing encourages the worship of a loving God like looking at endless images of people, including the faithful, being brutally murdered!


  1. Interesting glimpse of the medieval mindset. Being a martyr means retaining your composure while being savagely murdered. I have hopes that the man looking at the dwarf would have got off with a stern warning from the king. The dwarf may have settled for his codpiece. The naked man can't be a martyr - I think he's just food for the dragon.

    1. I tend to agree on the dragon food not being a martyr. I think the pious man on the left prayed to the golden pyramid in the sky to save him from the threatening naked man, and had his prayers answered.

      Also, more trials should be settled with the exchange of codpieces.

  2. Sky demons - it is said that "Satan is the prince of the power of the air." Using technology and suggestions that travel on unknown wavelengths? Fascinatingly morbid - a mind overload for me.

    1. Are you suggesting that Satan is all wireless technology? Because that would explain a lot in the world. I knew I was right to avoid getting a smartphone!

      This whole building was a mind overload - beautiful, but also often unnerving...

  3. What I really learned from these panels is, watch out for dudes with mustaches! Mustache = Murder.

    1. That is an important life lesson. Although if you're lucky, they'll get distracted twirling it, giving you an opportunity to escape.