The city of the dead looks abandoned. With the exception of that mysterious visitor to this necropolis. Unexpectedly, he caught up with me.
A lonely man with an umbrella. Almost humbly he passes the mausoleums. Subdued, as if he imagined an unwanted stranger.
Nice to immerse yourself in. An oasis of peace. Beyond the gate in the high wall. As if by magic, I end up in a romantic past. Where lush vegetation fights with tall trees. To maintain the existence of warped monuments. Some date back hundreds of years.
Like at the time in the 12th and 13th century. When Coimbra was still the center of power in Portugal. The capital of the country even. A tomb as final resting place. In memory of the first Portuguese king, Dom Afonso Henriques. Client for the construction of the only cathedral in Lisbon.
It looks like a busy market. Here in this imposing house of worship, Sé Patriarcal. Filled with improperly dressed figures. Stuck to their inseparable whining cell phones. With noisy buzz and clicking cameras.
Visibly nervous he bounces around aimlessly. From pillar to post. With sweat stains under his arms. He regularly lifts his half-sagged pants. Occasionally his baritone echoes between the immense high vaults. In an admonishing tone, as soon as it becomes too much for him. “Silence please!”.
An impossible to stop cacophony. Oh, poor minister in charge of such a hopeless task. That ever-growing stream of worldly visitors. Not in line. One woman spans the crown, smiling exuberantly. She cheerfully talks during this church visit. Unbelievable, just in her mobile phone.
As a rational man, I do not believe in ghosts, crystal balls or intersecting earth rays. And yet, between these countless graves. From all those deceased musicians, poets, movie stars, soldiers and painters. Somewhere in the back of my head it is imposes itself. The unusual feeling of lacking control.
Lead gray clouds draw the air. The rain refreshes the flowers. As the last caress of nature. The atmosphere sprinkled. By one of the rare rain showers that the suffocating summer tolerates. After which the birds resume their liberating chirping and twittering.
With every step he takes. Kerns the fine stone chipping under his shoes. It produces a disapprovingly loud sound. Alarming according to my insidious ears. As if it sounds wrong in the drying silence.
Cemitério dos Prazere (Cemetery of Entertainment). Yes, really, that naming. From one of the largest and most famous cemeteries in Lisbon. A crazy bunch, that is not the case.
A cemetery, no more than a monastery, or cathedral. Hearing to be no places of lack of silence and contemplation. Not only for the believers. Even non-believer tourists may be expected to be restrained in equal measure. Even though we live in a secularized world.
In no case is it a license. To behave disrespectfully in a sacred environment. Without respect for age-old religious customs. Portugal’s cultural heritage is not a fairground attraction.
A rather disappointing experience, there in that cathedral. In flagrant contrast to this deadly Portuguese cemetery. Incomprehensible and believe me, really not because of the rather particular entertainment.
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