Sunday, September 27, 2009


Coimbra’s Sé Velha—the old cathedral (the “new,” 17th-century one is further up the hill)—is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture in Portugal. It is a stunning example, largely unaltered since it’s construction, with a double-arched clerestory over each tall, single-arched arcade. The narrow window slits and crenellated 12th-century walls are reminders of the hostile relations with the Moors.

Inside, I overheard a young boy looking up at the elaborate Renaissance retable of Christ on the cross ask his parents, “why was Jesus crucified?” I pulled him aside and said, “because he was stupid.” Let’s face it: when Pontius Pilate asked him, “Are you the Son of God?” he only needed to whisper, “Nah, not really. Don’t tell anybody,” and voilà! He would have lived to a ripe old age and history would have been spared centuries of Catholic guilt. You know all these lunatics who swear, “I’m Jesus Christ”? He’s the one who got away with it. The joke’s on you, Christianity.
But it is still a nice cathedral.

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