Friday, 3 June 2016

Sao Miguel das Missoes

I will not just be covering Europe or places that I have visited! Sao Miguel is also known as San Miguel, when it was in Spanish territory. It is possibly the most well-known of the Jesuit Reduction churches in the southern part of South America. These "Reductions" were areas run as communities for the Guarani Indians by the Jesuits in parts of present Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. The Jesuits decided to keep these areas separate from the growing Spanish and Portuguese colonies, in order to protect the Indians from enslavement by local slave  traders.The settlements coped with the material and spiritual needs of the Indians.Some have seen this like a Utopia. Certainly the achievement of only a few hundred Jesuits to create over 30 towns with over 80,000 Indians by 1772 was quite remarkable. I have been reading about it this week in Lost Cities of Paraguay by C.J.Naspy and J.M.Blanch. It is a good read and the illustrations of the Guarani art are wonderful. I would love to visit this place and other Reduction churches. The plight of the Reductions was graphically told in the 1986 epic film "The Mission" with Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro, and music by Ennio Morricone.
The church in question is fortunate to have survived in such scale and the west front is like a Hispanic cathedral.
The church by Agusto dos Santos on Flickr.
The Jesuits had  formidable musicians amongst them and the Indians proved receptive. CDs have appeared recently trying to recreate the kind of music that might have been used in the churches. I am giving an example and hope to come back to this in later posts.I could resist giving you Gabriel's Oboe from "The Mission" too.


Interior shot by Silvia Martin on Flickr 
Organ gallery by Janos Korom on Flickr

Birnau will always be a special place for me. The photo above by Hardo Muller on Flickr brings it all back to me. In September 1969 I was camping at Nussdorf  right beside the Bodensee. Keith and I were doing a trip around Bavaria with car and caravan. Being by the lake seemed a good idea and the church on the hill looked interesting : very different from the medieval stone churches of Lincolnshire from whence we came. So we toddled up to the church "and I shall never forget the sight which met my eyes when I opened the church door.Photos do not do it justice. The splendour and excellence of the craftsmanship is incredible" I wrote in my journal of the trip. I continued "Baroque is a style that appeals to me and one day I should like to tour the Baroque churches of South Germany".  I was still at University then, reading history. Little did I know then that Baroque churches have become an obsession , and since those Anglican days I have become Roman Catholic! And of course it is a masterpiece of the rococo style inside. But we must not get bogged down into the differences of baroque and rococo yet.Doubtless I shall have to return to this as I've read a fair bit on this topic....It is the three dimensional quality of an interior like this that defies photography and makes seeing the real thing so exciting. Clearly I was unprepared for such a sight in 1969!

Birnau was built 1746-50 and is on the north bank of the Bodensee - a stunning position. It was and is a Pilgrimage church managed by the Cistercians. This resonates with me as a resident of St Albans and Abbey guide.They do tours at Birnau just like we do lasting an hour! Wish I could do a swop,: except that my German  would not cope!!!!Birnau is the masterpiece of Peter Thumb. I shall not go into great detail in this first post as it may put you all off.I would rather post some pictures and some suitable music which I think helps to bring it to life. Now I could have selected a little movie but they seem to all have dreadful modern or inappropriate sound tracks. So here is another one of my interests ; organs! And you can see down into the church from the gallery. Pity its a small screen.