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Project 6:  Spain

God or Money?
By Gordon Klco

    Walking through the doors of the largest Gothic cathedral in the world was surprising.  Instead of walking out under a huge vaulted ceiling, I walked into a museum…instead of seeing the beautiful architecture I walked through turnstiles and wandered through an exhibit of religious paintings finally making it into the actual Cathedral at the other end of the modern building.

            Once inside the actual Cathedral, I found the space to be amazing.  The vaulted ceiling and the huge pillars made the space very surreal.  The scale of the building and the workmanship that had gone into every inch of the structure was awe inspiring. 

As a walked around this “House of God” something seemed out of place.  No one was actually worshiping here.  I looked to my right and saw two people kissing and hugging; I looked to my left and saw someone talking on their cell phone!  This was no longer a “House of God” it was a tourist attraction.  The pews were no longer being used by people listening to mass; they were occupied by people cuddling and making small talk.  The space was filled with many voices which cut into the silence that is supposed to be heard in such a place.  I found this shocking.

I searched for people who were there to worship and found them tucked away in a small corner of the cathedral cordoned off from the “museum” which occupied most of the Cathedral.  Here “NO FLASH” signs were posted and everyone was quiet but I could not enter the space.  A metal fence separated me from the religious space and I could go no closer.  How does one worship God in such a profit driven place? 

Like so many religious sites on this trip, the cathedral in Seville has been converted from a sacred place into a profit maker.  Mary Crain’s study of the Andalusian pilgrimage fits nicely with my observations of the cathedral in Seville.  In her study she talks of the pilgrims actually having to move their ceremony and lengthen the pilgrimage in order to be able to worship in peace, without tourist coming to watch.  I saw the same thing in Spain.  The people there to really worship had been forced to move into a small corner of the cathedral because tourist visiting the structure had taken over the space.  After reading Crain and now seeing the “touristification” of another religious site, I have to ask myself:  “When does it stop and how is this changing the world’s religions?”     

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