Up at six for the ‘spectacle of the eight’ in Palma Cathedral

Waiting in line to enter the Cathedral

Waiting in line to enter the Cathedral

Today, February 2nd, is the Christian festival of Candlemas and, in Mallorca’s capital, Palma, it’s one of two days a year when the city’s majestic cathedral – La Seu – opens its doors early allowing thousands of people to witness something known as ‘the spectacle of the eight’.  It’s something I have been longing to see for several years; today we finally managed it.

It did mean an early start: I was still dreaming sweetly when the alarm burst into life at six o’clock. I’m no stranger to early mornings – having spent six years of my life getting up at 3.30am to work on a breakfast radio programme – but I generally prefer a little more duvet-time during the dark winter mornings.

‘The spectacle of the eight’ happens when the sun shines through the cathedral’s large rose window, and projects an image of it onto the opposite wall, directly underneath its smaller rose window, thus creating the ‘8’. The alignment works perfectly on February 2nd and on November 11th (the Feast of St Martin) – but only if the sun shines. We drove through quite a bit of fog on our journey to Palma and were relieved to see clear skies over the capital.

The large rose window – for those who like a few stats to drop into conversation – has a surface area of 94m2 and a diameter of 11.85 metres. The 14th-century window has no fewer than 1,115 pieces of coloured glass, that sparkle like jewels in the sunshine. Looking at this, the other stained glass windows, and the cathedral itself, one can only marvel at what could be achieved in the days before CAD, construction plant, and regular breaks for a cuppa.

We joined a long queue of people waiting to file into the cathedral, which was already about three-quarters-full when we found our spot inside shortly after 8am. And then we all watched as the spectacle unfolded above us. Shortly after 8.30am there was a little applause as the alignment came into place. It was a magical moment we shared with young and old, locals and visitors.

If you’re visiting Palma at this time of the year (or in mid-November), it’s something that shouldn’t be missed in the beautiful ‘Cathedral of Light’.

My only regret? I didn’t take my Nikon camera (brain not in gear so early in the morning) and had to reply on Mr Apple for these images.

Almost at the door . . .

Almost at the door . . .

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The large rose window welcomes in the sunshine.

The large rose window welcomes in the sunshine.

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Putting a damper on things

With apologies to Jane Austen . . .

Our new zinc guttering in place . . . well, you’d hardly want to look at a patch of damp-blackened wall, would you?!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you attempt to make improvements to an old Mallorcan finca, something will come back to bite you. We’ve experienced this so many times, and it’s a truth that ensures that the finca owner will never have time to twiddle their thumbs and be bored. Cross one job off the list and another (or, if you’re really unlucky, several) will have to be added.

Something’s brewing

Even as we were breathing sighs of relief that we would no longer have rain leaking through the roof into the house – and would have a warmer winter because of the addition of insulation – another problem was brewing.

During our roof repair project, we had some significant rainfall on a few occasions. Fortunately, the new roof lining, insulation, and a layer of concrete had already been applied, and only the tiles and guttering were missing. So although no rain fell through the roof, it did cascade straight down the walls because of the lack of tiles and guttering.

Our walls of made mostly of marès stone – the attractive honey-coloured local sandstone that’s a feature of many iconic buildings on Mallorca, including La Seu, the beautiful cathedral in Palma. It looks beautiful, but has the disadvantage of being extremely porous. And so our walls soaked up all that cascading rain . . .

Hiding behind the sofa

In the past few days I’ve been noticing a distinct smell of damp whenever I entered the house.  And for good reason: the water soaked up by our 60cm-thick walls has, in places, succeeded in reaching the internal walls. A few black spots are peppered here and there in a couple of rooms at the back of the house – which gets no sunshine at this time of the year. And this morning, when I moved the sofa in our sitting room, I was greeted by a large swathe of damp-blackened wall.

The post-project clean-up outside will have to wait: we have an appointment with a bottle of bleach, a sponge and some rubber gloves . . .

Ah, happy Monday!