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Travelogue H7

March 9, 2016

By that point, I feared that I had let too much Claude Simon sneak into my thinking and returned to the flower-bedecked altar before me. To either side stood a level metal rack on which the faithful arrayed their candle offerings. Hoping to make the most of my own sacrifice, small though it was, I eyed a candle which had long since gone out, took it in hand, so that I might place it in a small bin beneath the tray with other discords. So my own candle took the place nearest the Virgin, at the tray’s upper left corner.

As I backed away to document the offering for sure-to-be incredulous friends, I noticed a young boy, perhaps eight years old, rummaging through the bin of cast-offs. He removed several, the wax of which had by then cooled and hardened, and arranged them in a small stack on the ground at which point he proceeded to the delicate operation of removing a wax sliver from each. All that remained them removed, the candles were abandoned, and the boy held the sliver above the open flame of another still alight. He persisted in his efforts until the wick hissed black.

I thought it best to leave the youth to his labor and so wandered inside where I found the interior ablaze with light, the morning service already underway. Pews creaked beneath worshippers. I had been unprepared for the presence of others, though I knew well that I had set out for a Sunday city tour. With that in mind, I crept about as quietly as I could to see if I might find the altarpiece for which I hunted. At last, from the organ loft, I was able to glimpse the sought-after altarpiece and its violent red coloring at the church’s far end, from where the priest’s voice boomed. After a few moments’ deliberation, I slunk away in defeat.

Back in the courtyard, I caught my breath and looked about. The wax-collecting youth had since vanished, but, in his place, a pair of workers trundled bins and waste out through a dark-wood access door in what I took as the north wall and through which a small alley was visible. They carried on their their task, removing wilted flowers and burnt out stubs. I left them to their work.

From outside, I contemplated the church’s layout as best I could make it out in my mind’s eye. The complex appeared to have grown with the years, the Gothic base adorned with Rococo fillings, though the whole seemed centered on the courtyard from which I had emerged. To the west appeared ecclesiastic offices and dwellings (in truth a cloister as I would later read) while to the north rose the wall and access gate from before. The entry portal and small entryway pierced the south side and led to the courtyard at the east side of which I found the nave.

Unfamiliarity and subsequent research have given me pause over this initial description, and I might attribute the imprecision in my bearings to the manner in which the complex seemed to fit ill at the joints. Looking back at photographs to confirm my suspicious, I needed only note the complex’s southern side where Neo-Gothic bay windows stood out, trimmed in rose stone, and below which a religious shop had been built to hide the lower third of the wall. Its metal roof and plate-glass windows promised any number of books, calendars, figurines and so on from which the devotee might choose. An old entry portal, vaguely Baroque, broke up the shop’s own center but allowed none in, closed as it was with a large pane of stained glass. In the architectural variety possibilities for confusion fed directly into confusion of possibilities.

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