Friday, 13 April 2012

The past is a foreign country

They say that the past is a foreign county, ans I, for one, believe them!

Sitting in Madrid's glorious Plaza Mayor we enjoyed a dinner.  Unfortunately it was punctuated by the inevitable (and completely resistible) offers to make purchases of useless gimmicks, or to donate to the inevitable beggars who frequent every city environment.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid.
Madrid's friendly atmosphere and glorious architecture seem slightly foreign but only in a friendly and cosmopolitan way.  Zooming in on that scene you find a surprisingly light hearted sight.

Headless man - apparently!
But a chance visit to the Museo Nacional del Prado art gallery a couple of days later reminded me that the past is a much more foreign country to the Spanish than present-day England is!

Spain may still be a Catholic country, but it is one where the dreadful strangle-hold of the Roman Catholic Church has been relaxed.  Many different cultures exist in the city now, with the blessing (I assume) of the Spanish people.  But just a few hundred years ago the Spanish Inquisition ruled the country with terror, and Plaza Mayor was the centre of its diabolical work.

Rizi's painting - Auto da fé in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid in 1683 represented 'The Inquisition' at its diabolical worst!
This is a reminder that, whatever the trials of present-day life might be, this is the best time in history to be alive.  Not very long ago, in most of the world, we would not have been free to express our heretical views without being in fear for our lives.

Who says that religion does no harm?  (But of course I keep being told that Christianity is not a religion!)

On a slightly lighter note, later in the week at another tourist attraction, I was in a group with some Maltese people.  Our guide spoke English well, but she was surprised to learn that Italian was not the main language spoken on the island.  The Maltese gentleman explained to her that they had had several hundred years of English rule.

"You're lucky" I said.  "We've still got it!"

Of course he asked where I came from.  I'm glad to say that he laughed heartily when I revealed that I come from England.  As you see - the past really is more foreign than the present!

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