03 June 2021
The ‘Skellig Monks’ is a landmark sculpture on the eastern fringe of Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, looking out onto Dingle Bay. The monks have been there since 1995, and have become a well-known sight on the Ring of Kerry.
The ‘Skellig Monks’ are four monks in a crescent moon-shaped or sickle-shaped boat, originally with a mast in the shape of a cross. The sculpture stands in the air, between the mountains and the sea, supported on eight oars.
The sculpture, also known as ‘Saint Brendan’s Voyage,’ represents Saint Brendan and his fellow monks on their voyage to the monastery at Skellig Michael, where they founded an early monastery on the rocks off the Kerry coast.
Saint Brendan of Ardfert or Saint Brendan of Clonfert is also known as Saint Brendan the Navigator, and is said to have lived ca 484 to ca 577). He is known for his legendary quest for the ‘Isle of the Blessed’ and his encounter with a whale on his sea voyage.
The sculpture was completed in 1995 by the Irish sculptor, painter, printmaker, architect, photographer and lecturer Éamonn O’Doherty (1938 -2011), who is known for his sculptures in public places.
His well-known public sculptures include the Anna Livia monument, or the ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi,’ moved in 2011 from O’Connell Street to the Croppies’ Acre Memorial Park in Dublin; the Quincentennial sculpture in Eyre Square, Galway; the Wind sculpture, Dublin; the James Connolly Memorial near Liberty Hall, Dublin; Crann an Oir at the Central Bank of Ireland, Dublin; and ‘Fuascailt,’ a sculpture of 1798 United Irish pikemen on the N25 outside Wexford near Barntown and Taghmon.
Éamonn O’Doherty was born and raised in Derry and studied architecture at University College Dublin (UCD). He was the first manager of Sweeney’s Men, and painted the band’s logo on the front of their van in 1966. That year he also toured Denmark with Andy Irvine.
Later he became a lecturer at the Department of Architecture at the Dublin Institute of Technology, and also taught at the Dún Laoghaire College of Art and Design, the École Spéciale d’Architecture, Paris, Harvard, the University of Nebraska and the University of Jordan. He received many awards for his paintings, and an exhibition of his photographs in the Irish Traditional Music Archive toured the US.
Éamonn O’Doherty married Barbara Ó Brolchain, and they were the parents of three daughters and a son. He died in Dublin on 4 August 2011 at the age of 72.
Since the sculpture was erected in 1995, the boat has lost its mast in the shape of a cross. I wonder too whether I am alone in noticing that the monks appear to be sailing into Dingle Bay rather than sailing out to the Skelligs Rocks and the Atlantic.
During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:
1, photographs of a church or place of worship;
2, the day’s Gospel reading;
3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).
To mark Trinity Sunday (30 May 2021), my photographs were from the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Gibraltar. For the rest of this week my photographs are from six cathedrals in Spain.
Earlier in this series, I returned to the Cathedral of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela (31 March 2021, HERE), and the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (10 April 2021, HERE). This morning (3 June 2021), my photographs are from the Cathedral in Málaga Cathedral, popularly known as ‘La Manquita’ or ‘The One-Armed Lady.’
The cathedral stands within the line of former walls of the mediaeval Moorish city, close to Málaga’s Moorish Alcazaba or citadel.
Málaga was re-conquered by the Christians on 18 August 1487. Initially, the Aljama mosque was converted into a cathedral and consecrated with a dedication to Santa Maria de la Encarnación (Saint Mary of the Incarnation).
The minaret of the mosque became the bell tower of the cathedral, and the site of this first cathedral is more or less where the present-day sacristy, museum and gardens are located.
But the chapter or canons of the cathedral soon proposed building a new cathedral. Because of the restrictions of the site, the new cathedral was built on a north-south axis. The door of the main façade was built in Gothic style about 1510 and this is the sacristy door that today leads into the gardens.
The cathedral was built on or near the site of an early Almohad mosque in the Renaissance style between 1528 and 1782, following plans by Diego Siloe (ca 1495-1563), the Burgos-born architect who also designed the cathedrals in Gaudix and Almería.
The cathedral is built on a rectangular plan, with a nave and two aisles. The nave is wider than the two side aisles, but they are of the same height.
The façade, unlike the rest of the building, is in Baroque style and is divided into two levels. On the lower level are three arches, and inside these arches are portals separated by marble columns. Above the doors are medallions carved in stone. Those on the side doors represent the patron saints of Málaga, Saint Ciriaco and Saint Paula, while the medallion over the centre depicts the Annunciation.
The original plans envisaged two towers. The north tower is 84 metres high, making this the second-highest cathedral in Andalusia, after the Giralda of Seville.
The south tower remains unfinished. A plaque at the base of the tower says the funds raised by the parish to finish the south tower were used instead to help the former British colonies that became the United States to gain independence.
However, church records show the money may have been used to renovate the roadway called the Way of Antequera, which began in the present street Calle Martinez Maldonado.
Because only one tower was ever completed, the cathedral is known as La Manquita, or ‘The One-Armed Lady.’
Inside, the interior of Málaga Cathedral shows influences of the Renaissance and baroque styles.
Only the cathedrals of Granada and Seville, which have similar proportions, and the immense Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba can rival the architectural splendour of the interior of Málaga Cathedral.
The Gothic altarpiece in the Chapel of Santa Barbara is the oldest altar in the cathedral and is the only altar to survive from the time the mosque was converted into Málaga’s first cathedral.
There are 16th century tombs in the Chapel of San Francisco.
The Chapel of the Incarnation has a neoclassic altarpiece (1785) designed by the sculptor Juan de Villanueva and carved by Antonio Ramos and Aldehuela. A group of figures representing the Annunciation and sculptures of Málaga’s two patron saints, Saint Ciriaco and Saint Paula, were carved by Juan Salazar Palomino in the 18th century.
The 17th century choir stalls, carved in mahogany and cedarwood, were designed by Luis Ortiz de Vargas. After his death, 42 finely carved statues of the saints were completed for each stall by Pedro de Mena y Medrano (1628-1688), one of the most celebrated sculptors and woodcarvers in Spain at the time and a pupil of Alonzo Cano (1601-1667).
The 18th century painter and essayist Antonio Palomino described the choir with its stalls as the ‘eighth wonder of the world.’
Some of the chapels leading off the side aisles also exhibit works by Pedro de Mena and his tutor, Alonzo Cano, the architect who designed the façade of Granada Cathedral.
Despite the standing of the architects who initially designed the cathedral, building work continued at a slow pace throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. In the late 1700s, the Bishop of Málaga, José Molina Larios – who gives his name to Málaga’s main shopping street – commissioned José Martín de Aldehuela (1729-1802), an architect from Aragon, to rebuild and repair the cathedral. He had designed other buildings in Málaga province, including Ronda’s New Bridge.
Until the mid-20th century, the cathedral was attached to surrounding houses. They have since been demolished, and the cathedral stands on its own in the centre of the old town, one of Spain’s most impressive unfinished buildings.
The small Cathedral Museum is reached by a wooden staircase in the cathedral shop.
Beside the cathedral, the Iglesia del Sagrario was founded in the 15th century on the site of a mosque. The church has an unusual rectangular shape, and the 16th century Gothic doorway is all that remains of the original church, which was rebuilt in 1714.
The gardens include a number of interesting items in the so-called Museo al Aire libre de la Cathedral de Malaga. The oft-photographed cathedral gardens on Calle del Cistner also include a strange monument of unmarked crosses to victims of the Spanish civil war.
Mark 12: 28-34 (NRSVA):
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29 Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32 Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; 33 and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”, — this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (3 June 2021, Corpus Christi) invites us to pray:
Let us celebrate the institution of communion, giving thanks for the holy sacrament. May we grow closer to God, and to each other, as we do so.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org