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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Always something to discover on Mallorca

Kay Newton is a friend of mine who also lives in a finca on Mallorca. Today, I bring you a guest post from Kay . . .

I have lived on Mallorca for nearly 27 years. You would think that by now I would know all of this little rock in the middle of the Mediterranean – and yet this past week has proved me wrong.

As the almond blossom flourished and the sun came out, I was indoctrinated into the world of hosting retreats. My home had to be cleaned from top to bottom. The breakfast and evening meals bought for and pre-prepped. Worst job of all was persuading my husband to let me have his seven-seater car. Permission was granted providing I cleaned it. He works on a building site … two days later with very sore fingers, it looked nearly new!

I have a wonderful friend who for many years has been telling me about her spirituality and beliefs. Some of it I have immediately resonated with, other bits I find different and I am still coming to terms with it all. Sue wanted to host a workshop and needed living space. Since she lives ten minutes away, we pulled together to create a very special event.

Gaiadon Heart Mallorca    http://inspirationforchange.es

Gaiadon Heart - Mallorca 2014

As well as Sue’s two-day Gaiadon workshop we went to Palma cathedral to see the ‘Spectacle of the Eight’. Twice each year on the 2nd of February and again on the 11th of November, the sun (if it’s a cloudless sky) shines through the main rose window and lights the wall below the the small rose window. Exactly one hour later both were in-line, creating a figure of 8, or the infinity sign. Well worth getting out of bed early and joining the crowds of people who had also made the effort.

Palma Cathedral puts on a twice-a-year spectacle

Palma Cathedral puts on a twice-a-year spectacle

During our guests’ stay, we also visited Sta Magdalena, Pollença, a crystal skull mesa in Calvía and one of the Talaiot sites on the island not far from my home in Inca. I have often driven past the signs for the Talaiot on my way to Sencelles, yet I have never stopped. These round stone structures were created by the Bronze Age megaliths and are well worth a visit. There are many Talaiot sites here on the island.

I can’t wait for the next retreat and an excuse to see more of this beautiful island!

Kay Newton is a Personal Development Coach – you can find her at http://SensiblySelfish.com

Cooking up the Christmas spirit in Mallorca

We think that we’ve embraced the Mallorcan way of life rather well, but some things from home cannot be forgotten at Christmas. So, in the past few days, I’ve baked the traditional Christmas cake. After it’s been iced, nobody will notice that it’s rather darker than it should be.  For yet another year, the combined efforts of Delia Smith (the recipe) and myself (the hard graft) have been thwarted by our rather useless Italian oven.  With its smart brass fittings and matte finish, it really looks the business – but then so do many Italian things. The problem is that the thermostat has never worked properly, (the grill packed up ages ago), and the temperature goes up and down (but mainly up) like a bride’s nightie. It’s been suggested that it’s because the oven is powered by butano gas . . . ?

Spice girl

At least my homemade mincemeat looks and tastes rather fabulous (and I’ve had to taste it a few times to make sure). And so it should, with that much brandy and spiced rum in it. I even bought a small piece of festive fabric from a haberdashery shop in Manacor so that I could make kitsch little covers for the jar lids.  Sorry . . .  were you just dazzled by the sun reflecting off my halo?

Here I must confess that the oven gets the better of me when it comes to making pastry. Thankfully, I’ve found a local shop that sells a natty little line in ready-made pastry cases: I fill them with my home-made mincemeat, top them with my special crumble mix, and – venga – delicious mince pies. The Boss is ever-so-slightly addicted to these little packages of Christmas spicy loveliness, so I’ll be on production line duty for the next few weeks.

Service with a smile

One thing we do miss is the Ecumenical Christmas service which used to be held in Palma’s magnificent cathedral in early December. It was the perfect warm-up for the festive season: singing a few carols, listening to the cathedral choir, Els Vermells de la Seu, and the wide-eyed children of the Centre Stage Junior Chorus. Some of the verses of traditional carols were translated into castellano or mallorquín and, in some cases, it seemed that there were more words than available tune!

The service also included the 10th century chant known as the Sibil-la, traditionally sung before or during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve – and Mallorca is now the only place where it’s performed. The story of Judgement Day, it’s sung unaccompanied by a lone chorister clad in oriental robes and holding aloft a rather heavy-looking sword.  Between each verse there’s a heart-stopping burst of music from the cathedral’s booming organ. I’d sum it all up as hauntingly beautiful . . .  and a bit long (plenty of time to reflect on one’s own misdemeanours, I suppose).

One year we were there, the length of the service proved to be too much for one little person, sitting close by. Just as the opening bars of “A Holly Jolly Christmas” were being played, an indignant voice (aged around three) piped up loudly from a nearby pew: “Not another one!” The little boy’s parents’ faces were as red as the Centre Stage Juniors’ sweaters, but the rest of us who heard it enjoyed a muffled giggle behind our order of service sheets.

Ah, fond memories. But I must go, Delia’s calling – Spiced Apricot and Orange Chutney, I think . . .