Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Suffering and Boozing
Take the cable car from Varallo up to the Sanctuary and you come to a Franciscan shrine to the suffering of Christ. There is a basilica surrounded by a little village of 'chapels' (around 40) each of which is home to a display of life-size painted terracotta figures depicting said suffering. And I have to say, the Catholics do good suffering. Christ in the Wilderness? There He is next to a lion which has a lamb in its jaws so that its intestines are spilling out all over the sand. Christ before Pontius Pilate? There He is, bleeding already. Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane? There He is racked by countless evil demons. Christ scourged? Christ before the crucifixion (thrice, lots of blood 'n' thorns), Christ during the crucifixion, Christ off the cross...Oh! The unrestrained joy of the Catholic church! How my heart leaps up in happiness! Fortunately there was a charming 1920s hotel with a conservatory restaurant where one could forget for a moment all the suffering and indulge in some don't-mess-with-me reds made mostly from nebbiolo (the barolo grape) which in this part of Piedmont produces wines with mouth-stripping tannins and not much subtlety, but which did the business nonetheless. After this particular pilgrimage, I must renew my membership to the Anglican Communion, despite the Welsh theologian.