Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Breakfast in Padua and parts of a favourite saint

More on cyber warfare this morning. Kontacte Russia's social media network has been taken under the control of Kremlin-backed businessmen - access to 13 Ukrainian sites has been blocked. The Kremlin is keen to tighten its grip on public debate. More digital beachheads - like the Snake virus...
But this is by the by: there is a real pilgrimage to be undertaken today - to possibly my favourite saint, and certainly the one I invoke most frequently: St Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. I have long wanted to pay homage.
Even the nameless hero in Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City is talking about pilgrimage.
"Eventually you ascend the stairs to the street. You think of Plato's pilgrims climbing out of the cave, from the shadow world of appearances toward things as they really are, and you wonder if it's possible to change in this life. Being with a philospher makes you think."

A great breakfast in the Hotel Belludi37 - love the china milk carton with its indents of fingers - literally tactile design. And the cloudy glasses on the sideboard... grape coloured and as if the bloom of grapes is on them. Later see frescoes with just these colours.
Two perfectly cooked boiled eggs from the waitress who has been in Padua for eight years. Her brother and sisters are here. She has sad eyes but she smiles constantly and loves her new city. Her eyes are so sad that I do not even ask where she came from really, where her real country is. Will do so tomorrow.
The Basilica is a few steps from the hotel. It's busy even though it's hardly ten. This is a serious pilgrimage site and there is not a camera nor a mobile phone to be seen: they are totally forbidden.

The tomb is covered with photographs of people prayed for, or expecting miracles. Stand in line and lay my hand on the tomb. St Anthony is the patron saint of lost things and in my experience, he works hard.

Marble panel by the tomb

Relics are less easy to deal with. The coffin was opened with Pope Jean Paul's blessing some years ago and St Anthony's uncorrupted vocal cords discovered. These with his tongue, and his teeth, are in the chapel. Even more striking for me - than the body parts - were the woven fragments from his robe. The power of the stitch, the threads pulled through by a human hand.

To think about: why do people need relics? They work miracles, of course. But they are also a reminder that someone, or something, was real. Think about the earth brought back to Spain by explorers in the New World

Over breakfast I read a review on TripAdvisor saying all of Padua's sites could be seen in a day - in fact scarce a lifetime would suffice, it seems to me.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy