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An unusual crucifix in the seaside Spanish town of Bayona

Saint Liberada is depicted in her namesake chapel hanging on a cross

An unusual crucifix in the seaside Spanish town of Bayona

The crucified St Liberada at her chapel on the Atlantic coast of Spain 

August 8, 2013

There is something almost too terrible to mention hiding beneath the charm of the seaside town of Bayona. I was going to write about it last week, but then the terrible train crash at nearby Santiago got in the way.

I had been delighted, though, a few days earlier, to make the acquaintance of Bayona, on the Atlantic just north of Portugal. It must be something like Antibes before it became fashionable.

So I had a cooling drink at the Parador overlooking the sea and pottered down to the old town. There, next to the lovely collegiate church of Santa Mara, stood the chapel of Santa Librada. The chapel is a pleasant Baroque edifice, but the saint herself is depicted in the act of being crucified.

Now it is a remarkable cultural achievement that the loathsome punishment of crucifixion has in the West been integrated into visual art. Even the tortured agony of a Grunewald has much that is artificial about it. We are culturally less prepared to look with devotion upon an image of a crucified woman.

In her chapel, Santa Librada is depicted in a floral gown, not seeming to mind having been nailed to a cross. On the faade of the building she is carved in stone, and on the retable above the high altar she appears on a sort of Tree of Jesse with her eight sisters (Ginebra, Victoria, Eumelia, Germana, Gema, Marciana, Basilisa and Quiteria), each bearing a martyr’s palm, with their wet-nurse, Sila, standing at the bottom.

They were born, their legend says, as nonuplets to the wife of the Roman governor in northwest Spain in the second century. She, fearing her husband’s suspicions, hid them away under the care of Sila. When they were grown up, their Christianity was put to the test and all were martyred.

Bayona claims to be their home territory, but the relics of Santa Librada are revered in the cathedral at Sigenza. There she is said to have been beheaded, not crucified.

Full story: Sacred Mysteries: An alarming cult at the seaside

Source: The Telegraph

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