I had not really paid that much attention to the itinerary for our excursion, so going to Sineu was a pleasant surprise.
The tour buses stop by a road across from the train station. The town did not look very promising, but as soon as we turned up a sidestreet, the hustle and bustle of the market was getting under way. On top of a hill, we could see the spire of the Church of Santa Maria.
We stopped at a stall that had sweet and savoury foods laid out on white papery cloths.
We picked a large, round, soft pastry dusted with icing sugar to share. It was delicate and light, and the sweet powder floated into the air as we broke it in half. We ate it as we headed up a street that leads us to the steps below the church. I was shocked to find that the market continued on the courtyard in front of this religious house.
“My temple should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves, get out, get out.” In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, the character of Jesus’ lashes out at the stall holders because the temple has become a market, selling everything that people will buy.
For €1 we could leave the growing crowds and enter the church. As soon as the large doors closed behind us, quiet and the dim light of peace fell upon us. Slow movements take over the body when you enter a space that is so huge, so elegant, so calming to the spirit. As you walk, the first reaction is to look up; looking up towards the high-vaulted dome where the Gothic-style stained glass windows point towards the sky.
The stone looked pale and grey compared to the peachy hue of the external walls. Against this wan colour the elaborate altar pieces of this Catholic church were highlighted.
Santa Maria, canonised pre-congregation, is possibly the most revered of saints in Roman Catholicism for obvious reasons. In this church their reverence, or their love, for this woman is delicately shown by the strange homeliness of the white sheets embroidered in a bright blue that her statue lies on.
Angels stand by the head of the bed, their robes a dulled gold and their folded wings flowing down their backs with all the grace that the artist could muster, a grace that is echoed on their faces. At the end of the bed a cherub floats with wings out, like a child watching his mother. The scene is beguiling and it was difficult to move away from it, should one gorgeous detail be missed.
On the other side of the church the depiction of the crucifixion is unusual. The Christ figure has been covered from the waist to the knees with a strange makeshift skirt in a jacquard fabric. Set in its own gilded alcove at the top of some steps, you can walk up to it and stand close to it. When I stepped up to it tentatively, I was facing the crossed-over feet. The sculptor had included a huge nail, about two inches in diameter, with the painted blood running down the feet and in between the toes. The attempt to be highly emotive worked and I shuddered.
I hate to leave the silent noise of a Roman Catholic church; fingers of pain seem to reach out to my back. When my friend and I did return to the streets of Sineu they had filled uncomfortably with more crowds – jostling for scarce space at the market stalls. We found a stall selling traditional Spanish terracotta cookware and managed to purchase some before a claustrophobic return to our bus.
I hung at Chris’ back as she picked a route through the squeeze, she being considerably taller than me. It was the only moment in the holiday that I was unsure of my surroundings and direction.
Coming out at the edge of the crowd was a relief; seeing our multi-lingual guide, Jose, and our dashing driver Juan made me smile again. “My Scottish girls,” Jose smiled too.