Read CHAPTER II of The Shadow of the Cathedral, free online book, by Vicente Blasco Ibanez, on ReadCentral.com.

Since the times of the second Cardinal de Bourbon Senior Esteban Luna had been gardener of the Cathedral, by the right that seemed firmly established in his family.  Who was the first Luna that entered the service of the Holy Metropolitan Church?  As the gardener asked himself this question he smiled complacently, raising his eyes to heaven, as though he would inquire of the immensity of space.  The Lunas were as ancient as the foundations of the church; a great many generations had been born in the abode in the upper cloister, and even before the illustrious Cisneros built the Claverías the Lunas had lived in houses adjacent, as though they could not exist out of the shadow of the Primacy.  To no one did the Cathedral belong with better right than to them.  Canons, beneficiaries, archbishops passed; they gained the appointment, died, and others came in their places.  It was a constant procession of new faces, of masters who came from every corner of Spain to take their seats in the choir, to die a few years afterwards, leaving the vacancies to be filled again by other newcomers; but the Lunas always remained at their post, as though the ancient family were another column of the many that supported the temple.  It might happen that the archbishop who to-day was called Don Bernardo, might next year be called Don Caspar, or again another Don Fernando.  But what seemed utterly impossible was that the Cathedral could exist without Lunas in the garden, in the sacristy, or in the crossways of the choir, accustomed as it had been for centuries to their services.

The gardener spoke with pride of his descent, of his noble and unfortunate relative the constable Don Alvaro, buried like a king in his chapel behind the high altar; of the Pope Benedict XIII., proud and obstinate like all the rest of his family; of Don Pedro de Luna, fifth of his name to occupy the archiepiscopal throne of Toledo, and of other relatives not less distinguished.

“We are all from the same stem,” he said with pride.  “We all came to the conquest of Toledo with the good King Alfonso VI.  The only difference has been, that some Lunas took a fancy to go and fight the Moors, and they became lords, and conquered castles, whereas my ancestors remained in the service of the Cathedral, like the good Christians they were.”

With the satisfaction of a duke who enumerates his ancestors, the Senor Esteban carried back the line of the Lunas till it became misty and was lost in the fifteenth century.  His father had known Don Francisco III.  Lorenzana, a magnificent and prodigal prince of the church, who spent the abundant revenues of the archbishopric in building palaces and editing books, like a great lord of the Renaissance.  He had known also the first Cardinal Bourbon, Don Luis II., and used to narrate the romantic life of this Infante.  Brother of the King Carlos III., the custom that dedicated some of the younger branches to the church had made him a cardinal at nine years old.  But that good lord, whose portrait hung in the Chapter House, with white hair, red lips and blue eyes, felt more inclination to the joys of this world than to the grandeurs of the church, and he abandoned the archbishopric to marry a lady of modest birth, quarrelling for ever with the king, who sent him into exile.  And the old Luna, leaping from ancestor to ancestor through the long centuries, remembered the Archduke Alberto, who resigned the Toledan mitre to become Governor of the Low Countries, and the magnificent Cardinal Tavera, protector of the arts, all excellent princes, who had treated his family affectionately, recognising their secular adhesion to the Holy Metropolitan Church.

The days of his youth were bad ones for the Senor Esteban; it was the time of the war of Independence.  The French occupied Toledo, entering into the Cathedral like pagans, rattling their swords and prying into every corner at full High Mass.  The jewels were concealed, the canons and beneficiaries, who were now called prebendaries, were living dispersed over the Peninsula.  Some had taken refuge in places that were still Spanish, others were hidden in the towns, making vows for the speedy return of “the desired.”  It was pitiful to hear the choir with its few voices; only the very timid, who were bound to their seats and could not live away from them, had remained, and had recognised the usurping king.  The second Cardinal de Bourbon, the gentle and insignificant Don Luis Maria, was in Cadiz, the only one of the family remaining in Spain, and the Cortes had laid their hands on him to give a certain dynastic appearance to their revolutionary authority.

When the war was over and the poor cardinal returned to his seat, the Senor Esteban was moved to pity to see his sad and childlike face, with the small round head, and insignificant appearance; he returned discouraged and disheartened, after receiving his nephew Ferdinand VII. in Madrid.  All his colleagues in the regency were either in prison or in exile, and that he did not suffer a like fate was solely due to his mitre and to his name.  The unfortunate prelate thought he had done good service in maintaining the interests of his family during the war, and now he found himself accused of being Liberal, an enemy to religion and the throne, without being able to imagine how he had conspired against them.  The poor Cardinal de Bourbon languished sadly in his palace, devoting his revenues to works in the Cathedral, till he died in 1823 at the beginning of the reaction, leaving his place to Inguanzo, the tribune of absolutism, a prelate with iron-grey whiskers, who had made his career as deputy in the Cortes at Cadiz, attacking as deputy every sort of reform, and advocating a return to the times of the Austrians as the surest means of saving his country.

The good gardener saluted with equal cordiality the Bourbon Cardinal, hated by the kings, as the prelate with the whiskers, who made all the diocese tremble with his bitter and harassing temper, and his arrogance as a revolutionary Absolutist.  For him, whoever occupied the throne of Toledo was a perfect man, whose acts no one should dare to discuss, and he turned a deaf ear to the murmurs of the canons and beneficiaries, who, smoking their cigarettes in the arbour of his garden, spoke of the genialities of this Senor de Inguanzo, and were indignant at the Government of Ferdinand VII. not being sufficiently firm, through fear of the foreigners, to re-establish the wholesome tribunal of the Inquisition.

The only thing that troubled the gardener was to watch the decadence of his beloved Cathedral.  The revenues of the archbishop and of the Chapter had been greatly wasted during the war.  What had occurred was what happens after a great flood, when the waters begin to subside and carry everything away with them, leaving the land bare and uninhabited.  The Primacy lost many of its rights, the tenants made themselves masters, taking advantage of the disorders of the State; the towns refused to pay their feudal services, as though the necessity of defending themselves and helping in the war had freed them for ever from vassalage; further, the turbulent Cortes had decreed the abolition of all lordships, and had very much curtailed the enormous revenues of the Cathedral, acquired in the centuries when the archbishops of Toledo put on their casques, and went out to fight the Moors with double-handed swords.

Even so, a considerable fortune remained to the church of the Primacy, and it maintained its splendour as if nothing had happened, but the Senor Esteban scented danger from the depths of his garden, hearing from the canons of the Liberal conspiracies, the executions by shooting and hanging, and the exiling, to which the king Senor Don Fernando appealed, in order to repress the audacity of the “Negros,” the enemies of the Monarchy and of religion.

“They have tasted the sweets,” said he, “and they will return ­see if they do not return, and take what is left!  During the war they took the first bite, taking from the Cathedral more than half that was hers, and now they will come and take the rest; they will try and catch hold of the handle of the fryingpan.”

The gardener was angry at the possibility of such a thing happening.  Ay! and was it for this that so many lord archbishops of Toledo fought against the Moors?  Conquering towns, assaulting castles and annexing pasture lands, which all came to be the property of the Cathedral, contributing to the great splendour of God’s worship!  And was everything to fall into the dirty hands of the enemies of anything that was holy?  Everything that so many faithful souls had willed to them on their deathbeds, queens and magnates, and simple country gentlemen, who left the best part of their fortunes to the Holy Metropolitan Church, in the hope of saving their souls!  What would happen to the six hundred souls, big and little, clerics and seculars, dignitaries and simple servants who lived from the revenues of the Cathedral?....  And was this called liberty?  To rob what did not belong to them, leaving in poverty innumerable families who were now supported by the “great pot” of the Chapter?

When the sad forebodings of the gardener began to be realised, and Mendizabal decreed the dismemberment, the Senor Esteban thought he would have died of rage.  But the Cardinal Inguanzo did better.  Placed in his seat by the Liberals as his predecessor had been by the Absolutists, he thought it best to die in order to take no part in these attempts against the sacred revenues of the Church.

The Senor Luna, who was only a humble gardener, and who therefore could not imitate the illustrious Cardinal, went on living.  But every day he felt more and more sorrowful, knowing that for shamefully low prices, many of the Moderates, who still came to High Mass, were stealthily acquiring to-day a house, to-morrow a farm, another day pasture lands, properties all belonging to the Primacy, but which had lately been put on the list of what was called national property.

Robbers! this slow subversion and sale, that rent in pieces the revenues of the Cathedral, caused the Senor Esteban as much indignation as though the bailiffs had entered his house in the Claverías to remove the family furniture, each piece of which embalmed the memory of some ancestor.

There were times in which he thought of abandoning his garden, and going to Maestrazgo, or to the northern provinces, in search of some of the loyal defenders of the rights of Charles V. and of the return to the old times.  He was then forty years of age, strong and active, and though his temperament was pacific and he had never touched a musket, he felt himself fired by the example of certain timid and pious students, who had fled from the seminary, and were now, so it was said, fighting in Catalonia behind the red cloak of Don Ramon Cabrera.

But the gardener, in order not to be alone in his big “habitación” in the Claverías, had married three years previously the daughter of the sacristan, and he had now one son; besides, he could not tear himself away from the church, he was another square block in the mountain of stone, he moved and spoke as a man, but he felt a certainty that he should perish at once if he left his garden.  Besides, the Cathedral would lose one of the most important props if a Luna were wanting in its service, and he felt terrified at the bare thought of living out of it.  How could he wander over the mountains fighting, and firing shots, when years had passed without his treading any other profane soil beyond the little bit of street between the staircase of the Claverías and the Puerta del Mollete?

And so he went on cultivating his garden, feeling the melancholy satisfaction that he was at least sheltered from all the wicked revolutionaries under the shadow of that colossus of stone, which inspired awe and respect from its majestic age.  They might curtail the revenues of the temple, but they would be powerless against the Christian faith of those who lived under its protection.

The garden, deaf and insensible to the revolutionary tempests that broke over the church, continued to unfold its sombre beauty between the arcades, the laurels grew till they reached the balustrade of the upper cloister, and the cypresses seemed as though they aspired to touch the roofs; the creepers twined themselves among the iron railings, making thick lattices of verdure, and the ivy mantled the wall of the central arbour, which was surmounted by a cap of black slate with a rusty iron cross.  After the evening choir the clergy would come and sit in here and read, by the soft green light that filtered through the foliage, the news from the Carlist Camp, and discuss enthusiastically the great exploits of Cabrera, while above, the swallows quite indifferent to human presence, circled and screamed in the clear blue sky.  The Senor Esteban would watch, standing silently, this bat-like evening club, which was kept quietly hidden from those belonging to the National Militia of Toledo.

When the war terminated, the last illusions of the gardener vanished, he fell into the silence of despair and wished to know of nothing outside the Cathedral.  God had abandoned the good and faithful, and the traitors and evil-doers were triumphant; his only consolation was the stronghold of the temple, which had lived through so many centuries of turmoil, and could still defy its enemies for so many more.

He only wished to be the gardener, to die in the upper cloister like his forefathers, and to leave fresh Lunas to perpetuate the family services in the Cathedral.  His eldest son, Tomas, was now twelve years old, and able to help him in the care of the garden.  After an interval of many years a second son had been born, Esteban, who, almost before he could walk, would kneel before the images in the “habitación,” crying for his mother to carry him down into the church to see the saints.

Poverty entered into the Cathedral, reducing the number of canons and prebendaries; at the death of any of the old servants, their places were suppressed, and a great many carpenters, masons, and glaziers who previously had lived there as workmen specially attached to the Primacy, and were continually working at its repairs, were dismissed.  If from time to time certain repairs were indispensable, workmen were called in from outside, by the day; many of the “habitacións” in the Claverías were unoccupied, and the silence of the grave reigned where previously the population of a small town had gathered and crowded.  The Government of Madrid (and you should have seen the expression of contempt with which the old gardener emphasised those words) was in treaty with the Holy Father to arrange something called the Concordat.  The number of canons was limited as though the Holy Metropolitan was a college, they were to be paid by the Government the same as the servants, and for the maintenance of worship in this most famous Cathedral of all Spain ­which, when it formerly collected its tithe, scarcely knew where to lock up such riches ­a monthly pension of twelve hundred pesetas was now granted.

“One thousand two hundred pesetas, Tomas!” said he to his son, a silent boy, who took very little interest in anything but his garden.  “One thousand two hundred pesetas, when I can remember the Cathedral having more than six millions of revenue!  Bad times are in store for us, and were I anyone else I would bring you up to an office, or something outside the church; but the Lunas cannot desert the cause of God, like so many traitors who have betrayed it.  Here we were born, here we must die, to the very last one of the family.”  And furious with the clergy, who seemed to put a good face on the Concordat and their salaries, thankful to have come out of the revolutionary tumults even as well as they had done, he isolated himself in his garden, locking the door in the iron railing, and shrinking from the assemblies of former times!

His little floral world did not change, its sombre verdure was like the twilight that had enveloped the gardener’s soul.  It had not the brilliant gaiety, overflowing with colours and scents of a garden in the open, bathed in full sunlight, but it had the shady and melancholy beauty of a conventual garden between four walls, with no more light than what came through the eaves and the arcades, and no other birds but those flying above, who looked with wonder at this little paradise at the bottom of a well.  The vegetation was the same as that of the Greek landscapes, and of the idylls of the Greek poets ­laurels, cypress and roses, but the arches that surrounded it, with their alleys paved with great slabs of granite in whose interstices wreaths of grass grew, the cross of its central arbour, the mouldy smell of the old iron railings, and the damp of the stone buttresses coloured a soft green by the rain, gave the garden an atmosphere of reverend age and a character of its own.

The trees waved in the wind like censers, the flowers, pale and languid with an anæmic beauty, smelt of incense, as though the air wafted through the doors of the Cathedral had changed their natural perfumes.

The rain, trickling from the gargoyles and gutters of the roofs, was collected in two large and deep stone tanks; sometimes the gardener’s pail would disturb their green covering, letting one perceive for an instant the blue-blackness of their depths, but as soon as the circles disappeared, the vegetation once more drew together and covered them over afresh, without a movement, without a ripple, quiet and dead as the temple itself in the stillness of the evening.

At the feast of Corpus, and that of the Virgin of the Sagrario in the middle of August, the townspeople brought their pitchers into the garden, and the Senor Esteban allowed them to be filled from these two cisterns.  It was an ancient custom and one much appreciated by the old Toledans, who thought much of the fresh water of the Cathedral, condemned as they were during the rest of the year to drink the red and muddy liquid of the Tagus.  At other times people came into the garden to give little presents to Senor Esteban, the devout entrusted him with palms for their images, or bought little bunches of flowers, believing them to be better than those they could buy at the farms, because they came from the Metropolitan Church, and the old women begged branches of laurel for flavouring and for household medicines.  These incomings, and the two pesetas that the Chapter had assigned to the gardener after the final dismemberment, helped the Senor Esteban and his family to get on.  When he was getting well on in years his third son Gabriel was born, a child who from his fourth year attracted the attention of all the women in the Claverías; his mother affirmed with a blind faith that he was a living image of the Child Jesus that the Virgin of the Sagrario held in her arms.  Her sister Tomasa, who was married to the “Virgin’s Blue,” and was the mother of a numerous family which occupied nearly the half of the upper cloister, talked a great deal about the intelligence of her little nephew, when he could hardly speak, and about the infantile unction with which he gazed at the images.

“He looks like a saint,” she said to her friends.  “You should see how seriously he says his prayers....  Gabrielillo will become somebody; who knows if we may not see him a bishop!  Acolytes that I knew when my father had charge of the sacristy now wear the mitre, and possibly some day we may have one of them in Toledo.”

The chorus of caresses and praises surrounded the first years of the child like a cloud of incense; the family only lived for him, the Senor Esteban, a father in the good old Latin style who loved his sons, but was severe and stern with them in order that they might grow up honourable, felt in the presence of the child a return of his own youth; he played with him, and lent himself smilingly to all his little caprices; his mother abandoned her household duties to please him, and his brother hung on his babbling words.  The eldest, Tomas, the silent youth who had taken the place of his father in the care of the garden, and who even in the depths of winter went barefooted over the flower-beds and rough stones of the alleys, came up often bringing handfuls of sweet-scented herbs, so that his little brother might play with them.  Esteban, the second, who was now thirteen and who enjoyed a certain notoriety among the other acolytes on account of his scrupulous care in assisting at the mass, delighted Gabriel with his red cassock and his pleated tunic, and brought him taper ends and little coloured prints, abstracted from the breviary of some canon.

Now and then he carried him in his arms to the store-room of the giants, an immense room between the buttresses and the arches of the nave, vaulted with stone.  Here were the heroes of the ancient feasts and holidays.  The Cid with a huge sword, and four set pieces representing as many parts of the world:  huge figures with dusty and tattered clothes and broken faces, which had once rejoiced the streets of Toledo, and were now rotting under the roofs of its Cathedral.  In one corner reposed the Tarasca, a frightful monster of cardboard, which terrified Gabriel when it opened its jaws, while on its wrinkled back sat smiling, idiotically, a dishevelled and indecent doll, whom the religious feeling of former ages had baptised with the name of Anne Boleyn.

When Gabriel went to school all were astonished at his progress.  The youngsters of the upper cloister who were such a trial to “Silver Stick,” the priest charged with maintaining good order among the tribe established in the roofs of the Cathedral, looked upon the little Gabriel as a prodigy.  When he could scarcely walk he could read easily, and at seven he began to recite his Latin, mastering it quickly, as though he had never spoken anything else in his life, and at ten he could argue with the clergy who frequented the gardens, and who delighted in putting before him questions and difficulties.

The Senor Esteban, growing daily more bent and feeble, smiled delightedly before his last work; he was going to be the glory of his house!  His name was Luna, and therefore he could aspire to anything without fear, because even Popes had come from that family.

The canons would take the boy into the sacristy after choir, and question him as to his studies.  One of the clergy belonging to the archbishop’s household presented him to the cardinal, who, after hearing him, gave him a handful of sugared almonds and the promise of a scholarship, so that he could continue his studies at the seminary gratuitously.

The Lunas and all their relations more or less distant, who were really nearly the whole population of the upper cloister, were rejoiced at this promise; what else could Gabriel be but a priest?  For these people, attached to the church from the day of their birth, like excrescences of its stones, who considered the archbishops of Toledo as the most powerful beings in the world after the Pope, the only profession worthy of a man of talent was the Church.

Gabriel went to the Seminary, and to all the family the Claverías seemed quite deserted.  The long, pleasant evenings in the house of the Lunas came to an end, at which the bell-ringer, the vergers, the sacristans and other church servants had been used to assemble, and listen to the clear and well modulated voice of Gabriel, who read like an angel ­sometimes the lives of the saints, at other times Catholic newspapers that came from Madrid, or chapters from a Don Quixote with pages of vellum and antiquated writing ­a venerable copy which had been handed down in the family for generations.

Gabriel’s life in the Seminary was the ordinary and monotonous life of a hard-working student:  triumphs in theological controversies, prizes in heaps, and the satisfaction of being held up to his companions as a model.

Sometimes one of the canons who lectured in the seminary would come into the garden: ­

“The lad is getting on very well, Esteban; he is first in everything, and besides, is as steady and pious as a saint.  He will be the comfort of your old age.”

The gardener, always growing older and thinner, shook his head.  He should only be able to see the end of his son’s career from the heavens, should it please God to call him there.  He would die before his son’s triumph; but this did not sadden him, for the family would remain to enjoy the victory and to give thanks to God for His goodness.

Humanities, theology, canons, everything, the young man mastered with an ease which surprised his masters, and they compared him to the Fathers of the Church, who had attracted attention by their precocity.  He would very soon finish his studies, and they all predicted that his Eminence would give him a professorship in the seminary, even before he sang his first mass.  His thirst for learning was insatiable, and it seemed as though the library really belonged to him.  Some evenings he would go into the Cathedral to pursue his musical studies, and talk with the Chapel-master and the organist, and at other times in the hall of sacred oratory he would astound the professors and the Alumni by the fervour and conviction with which he delivered his sermons.

“He is called to the pulpit,” they said in the Cathedral garden.  “He has all the fire of the apostles; he will become a Saint Bernard or a Bossuet.  Who can tell how far this youth will go, or where he will end?”

One of the studies which most delighted Gabriel was that of the history of the Cathedral, and of the ecclesiastical princes who had ruled it.  All the inherent love of the Lunas for the giantess who was their eternal mother surged up in him, but he did not love it blindly as all his belongings did.  He wished to know the why and the wherefore of things, comparing in his books the vague old stories that he had heard from his father, that seemed more akin to legends than to historical facts.

The first thing that claimed his attention was the chronology of the archbishops of Toledo ­a long line of famous men, saints, warriors, writers, princes, each with his number after his name, like the kings of the different dynasties.  At certain times they had been the real kings of Spain.  The Gothic kings in their courts were little more than decorative figureheads that were raised or deposed according to the exigencies of the moment.  The nation was a theocratic republic, and its true head was the Archbishop of Toledo.

Gabriel grouped the long line of famous prelates by characters.  First of all the saints, the apostles in the heroic age of Christianity, bishops as poor as their own people, barefooted, fugitives from the Roman persecution, and bowing their heads at last to the executioner, firm in the hope of gaining fresh strength to the doctrine for which they sacrificed their lives ­Saint Eugenio, Melancio, Pelagio, Patruno and other names that shone in the past scarcely breaking through the mists of legend.  Then came the archbishops of the Gothic era; those kingly prelates who exercised that superiority over the conquering kings by which the spiritual power succeeded in dominating the barbarian conquerors.  Miracles accompanied them to confound the Arians, and celestial prodigies were at their orders to terrify and crush those rude men of war.  The Archbishop Montano, who lived with his wife, and was indignant at the consequent murmurs, placed red-hot coals in his sacred vestments the while he said mass, and did not burn, demonstrating by this miracle the purity of his life.  Saint Ildefonso, not content with only writing books against heretics, induced Santa Leocadia to appear to him, leaving in his hands a piece of her mantle, and he enjoyed the further honour of this same Virgin descending from heaven to present him with a chasuble embroidered by her own hands.  Sigiberto, many years after, had the audacity to vest himself in this chasuble, and was in consequence deposed, excommunicated and exiled for his temerity.

The only books that were produced in those times were written by the prelates of Toledo.  They compiled the laws, they anointed the heads of the monarchs with the holy oil, they set up Wamba as king, they conspired against the life of Egica, and the councils assembled in the basilica of Santa Leocadia were political assemblies in which the mitre was on the throne and the crown of the king at the feet of the prelate.

At the coming of the Saracen invasion the series of persecuted prelates begins again.  They did not now fear for their lives as during the time of Roman intolerance; for Mussulmen as a rule do not martyr, and furthermore, they respect the beliefs of the conquered.

All the churches in Toledo remained in the hands of the Christian Muzárabes with the exception of the Cathedral, which was converted into the principal mosque.

The Catholic bishops were respected by the Moors, as were also the Hebrew rabbis; but the Church was poor, and the continual wars between the Saracens and the Christians, together with the reprisals which set a seal on the barbarities of the reconquest, made the continuance and life of worship extremely difficult.

Having arrived at this point Gabriel read the obscure names of Cixila, Elipando and Wistremiro.  Saint Eulogio termed this last “the torch of the Holy Spirit, and the light of Spain”; but history is silent as to his deeds, and Saint Eulogio was martyred and killed by the Moors in Cordova on account of his excessive religious zeal.  Benito, a Frenchman who succeeded to the chair, not to be behind his predecessors, made the Virgin send him down another chasuble to a church in his own country before he came to Toledo.

After these, came the interesting chronology of the warrior archbishops, warriors of coat-of-mail and two-edged sword, the conquerors who, leaving the choir to the meek and humble, mounted their war-horses and thought they were not serving God unless during the year they added sundry towns and pasture lands to the goods of the Church.  They arrived in the eleventh century, with Alfonso VI., to the conquest of Toledo.  The first were French monks from the famous Abbey of Cluny, sent by the Abbot Hugo to the convent of Sahagun, and they were the first to use the “don” as a sign of lordship.  To the pious tolerance of the preceding bishops, accustomed to friendly intercourse with Arabs and Jews in the full liberty of the Muzárabe worship, succeeded the ferocious intolerance of the Christian conqueror.  The Archbishop Don Bernardo was scarcely seated in the chair before he took advantage of the absence of Alfonso VI. to violate all his promises.  The principal mosque had remained in the hands of the Moors by a solemn compact with the king, who, like all the monarchs of the reconquest, was tolerant in matters of religion.  The archbishop, using his powerful influence over the mind of the queen, made her the accomplice of his plans, and one night, followed by clergy and workmen, he knocked down the doors of the mosque, cleansed it and purified it, and next morning when the Saracens came to pray towards the rising sun, they found it changed into a Catholic cathedral.  The conquered, trusting in the word given by the conqueror, protested, scandalised, and that they did not rise was solely due to the influence of the Alfaquí Abu-Walid, who trusted that the king would fulfil his promises.  In three days Alfonso VI. arrived in Toledo from the further end of Castille, ready to murder the archbishop and even his own wife for their share in this villainy that had compromised his word as a cavalier, but his fury was so great that even the Moors were moved, and the Alfaquí went out to meet him, begging him to condone the deed as it was accomplished, as the injured parties would agree to it, and in the name of the conquered he relieved him from keeping his word, because the possession of a building was not a sufficient reason for breaking the peace.

Gabriel admired as he read the prudence and moderation of the good Moor Abu-Walid; but with his enthusiasm as a seminarist he admired still more those proud, intolerant and warlike prelates, who trampled laws and people under foot for the greater glory of God.

The Archbishop Martin was Captain-General against the Moors in Andalusia, conquering towns, and he accompanied Alfonso VIII. to the battle of Alarcos.  The famous prelate Don Rodrigo wrote the chronicle of Spain, filling it with miracles for the greater prosperity of the Church, and he practically made history, passing more time on his war-horse than on his throne in the choir.  At the battle de las Navas he set so fine an example, throwing himself into the thick of the fight, that the king gave him twenty lordships as well as that of Talavera de la Reina.  Afterwards, in the king’s absence, he drove the Moors out of Quesada and Cazorla, taking possession of vast territories, which passed under his sway, with the name of the Adelantamiento. Don Sancho, son of Don Jaime of Aragon, and brother to the Queen of Castille, thought more of his title of “Chief Leader” than of his mitre of Toledo, and on the advance of the Moors went out to meet them in the martial field.  He fought wherever the fighting was fiercest, and was finally killed by the Moslems, who cut off his hands and placed his head on a spear.

Don Gil de Albornoz, the famous cardinal, went to Italy, flying from Don Pedro the Cruel, and, like a great captain, reconquered all the territory of the Popes, who had taken refuge in Avignon.  Don Gutierre III. went with Don Juan II. to fight against the Moors.  Don Alfonso de Acuna fought in the civil war during the reign of Enrique IV.; and as a fitting end to this series of political and conquering prelates, rich and powerful as true princes, there arose the Cardinal Mendoza, who fought at the battle of Toro, and at the conquest of Granada, afterwards governing that kingdom; and Jimenez de Cisneros, who, finding no Moors left in the Peninsula to fight, crossed the sea and went to Oran, waving his cross and turning it into a weapon of war.

The seminarist admired these men, magnified by the mists of ancient history and the praises of the Church.  For him they were the greatest men in the world after the Popes, and, indeed, often far superior to them.  He was astonished that the Spaniards of the present times were so blind that they did not entrust their direction and government to the archbishops of Toledo, who in former centuries had performed such heroic deeds.  The glory and advancement of the country was so intimately connected with their history, their dynasty was quite as great as that of the kings, and on more than one occasion they had saved these latter by their counsels and energy.

After these eagles came the birds of prey; after the prelates with their iron morions and their coats-of-mail came the rich and luxurious prelates, who cared for no other combats but those of the law courts, and were in perpetual litigation with towns, guilds, and private individuals in order to retain the possessions and the vast fortune accumulated by their predecessors.

Those who were generous like Tavera built palaces, and encouraged artists like El Greco, Berruguete and others, creating a Renaissance in Toledo, an echo from Italy.  Those who were miserly, like Quiroga, reduced the expenses of the pompous church, to turn themselves into money-lenders to the kings, giving millions of ducats to those Austrian monarchs on whose dominions the sun never set, but who, nevertheless, found themselves obliged to beg almost as soon as their galleons returned from their voyages to America.

The Cathedral was the work of these priestly ecclesiastics; each one had done something in it which revealed his character.  The rougher and more warlike its framework, that mountain of stone and wood which formed its skeleton; those who were more cultivated, elevated to the See in times of greater refinement, contributed the minutely-worked iron railings, the doors of lace-like stonework, the pictures, and the jewels which made its sacristy a veritable treasure house.  The gestation of the giantess had lasted for three centuries; it seemed like those enormous prehistoric animals who slept so long in their mother’s womb before seeing the light.

When its walls and pilasters first rose above the soil Gothic art was in its first epoch, and during the two and a half centuries that its building lasted architecture made great strides.  Gabriel could follow this slow transformation with his mind’s eye as he studied the building, discovering the various signs of its evolution.

The magnificent church was like a giantess whose feet were shod with rough shoes, but whose head was covered with the loveliest plumes.  The bases of the pillars were rough and devoid of ornament, the shafts of the columns rose with severe simplicity, crowned by plain capitals at the base of the arches, on which the Gothic thistle had not yet attained the exuberant branching of a later florid period; but the vaulting which was finished perhaps two centuries after the first beginning, and the windows with their multi-coloured ogives, displayed the magnificence of an art at its culminating point.

At the two extreme ends of the transepts Gabriel found the proof of the immense progress made during the two centuries in which the Cathedral had been rising from the ground.  The Puerta del Reloj, called also de la Feria, with its rude sculptures of archaic rigidity, and the tympanum, covered with small scenes from the creation, was a great contrast to the doorway at the opposite end of the crossway, that of Los Leones, or by its other name, de la Alegria, built nearly two hundred years afterwards, elegant and majestic as the entrance to a palace, showing already the fleshly audacities of the Renaissance, endeavouring to thrust themselves into the severity of Christian architecture, a siren fastened to the door by her curling tail serving as an example.

The Cathedral, built entirely of a milky white stone from the quarries close to Toledo, rose in one single elevation from the base of the pillars to the vaulting, with no triforium to cut its arcades and to weaken and load the naves with superimposed arches.  Gabriel saw in this a petrified symbol of prayer, rising direct to Heaven, without assistance or support.  The smooth, soft stone was used throughout the building, harder stone being used for the vaultings, and on the exterior the buttresses and pinnacles, as well as the flying buttresses like small bridges between them, were of the hardest granite, which from age had taken a golden colour, and which protected and supported the airy delicacy of the interior.  The two sorts of stone made a great contrast in the appearance of the Cathedral, dark and reddish outside, white and delicate inside.

The seminarist found examples of every sort of architecture that had flourished in the Peninsula.  The primitive Gothic was found in the earliest doorways, the florid in those del Perdón and de los Leones, and the Arab architecture showed its graceful horseshoe arches in the triforium running round the whole abside of the choir, which was the work of Cisneros, who, though he burnt the Moslem books, introduced their style of architecture into the heart of the Christian temple.  The plateresque style showed its fanciful grace in the door of the cloister, and even the chirruguesque showed at its best in the famous lanthorn of Tome, which broke the vaulting behind the high altar in order to give light to the abside.

In the evenings of the vacation Gabriel would leave the seminary, and wander about the Cathedral till the hour at which its doors were closed.  He delighted in walking through the naves and behind the high altar, the darkest and most silent spot in the whole church.  Here slept a great part of the history of Spain.  Behind the locked gates of the chapel of the kings, guarded by the stone heralds on pedestals, lay the kings of Castille in their tombs, their effigies crowned, in golden armour, praying, with their swords by their sides.  He would stop before the chapel of Santiago, admiring through the railings of its three pointed arches the legendary saint, dressed as a pilgrim, holding his sword on high, and tramping on Mahomedans with his war-horse.  Great shells and red shields with a silver moon adorned the white walls, rising up to the vaulting, and this chapel his father, the gardener, regarded as his own peculiar property.  It was that of the Lunas, and though some people laughed at the relationship, there lay his illustrious progenitors, Don Alvaro and his wife, on their monumental tombs.  That of Dona Juana Pimental had at its four corners the figures of four kneeling friars in yellow marble, who watched over the noble lady extended on the upper part of the monument.  That of the unhappy constable of Castille was surrounded by four knights of Santiago, wrapped in the mantle of their Order, seeming to keep guard over their grand master, who lay buried without his head in the stone sarcophagus, bordered with Gothic mouldings.  Gabriel remembered what he had heard his father relate about the recumbent statue of Don Alvaro.  In former times the statue had been of bronze, and when mass was said in the chapel, at the elevation of the Host, the statue, by means of secret springs, would rise and remain kneeling till the end of the ceremony.  Some said that the Catholic queen caused the disappearance of this theatrical statue, believing that it disturbed the prayers of the faithful; others said that some soldiers, enemies of the constable, on a day of disturbance, had broken in pieces the jointed statue.  On the exterior of the church the chapel of the Lunas raised its battlemented towers, forming an isolated fortress inside the Cathedral.

In spite of his family considering this chapel as their own, the seminarist felt himself more attracted by that of Saint Ildefonso close by, which contained the tomb of the Cardinal Albornoz.  Of all the great past in the Cathedral, that which excited his greatest admiration was the romantic figure of this warlike prelate; lover of letters, Spanish by birth, and Italian by his conquests.  He slept in a splendid marble tomb, shining and polished by age, and of a soft fawn colour; the invisible hand of time had treated the face of the recumbent effigy rather roughly, flattening the nose, and giving the warlike cardinal an expression of almost Mongolian ferocity.  Four lions guarded the remains of the prelate.  Everything in him was extraordinary and adventurous even to his death.  His body was brought back from Italy to Spain with prayers and hymns, carried on the shoulders of the entire population, who went out to meet it in order to gain the indulgences granted by the Pope.  This return journey to his own country after his death lasted several months, as the good cardinal only went by short journeys from church to church, preceded by a picture of Christ, which now adorns his chapel, and spreading among the multitude the sweet scent of his embalming.

For Don Gil de Albornoz nothing seemed impossible; he was the sword of the Apostle returned to earth in order to enforce faith.  Flying from Don Pedro the Cruel, he had taken refuge in Avignon, where lived exiles even more illustrious than himself.  There were the Popes driven out of Rome by a people who, in their mediaeval nightmare, tried to restore at the bidding of Rienzi the ancient republic of the Consuls.  Don Gil was not a man to live long in the pleasant little Provencal court; like a good archbishop of Toledo, he wore the coat-of-mail underneath his tunic, and as there were no Moors to fight he wished to strike at heretics instead.  He went to Italy as the champion of the Church; all the adventurers of Europe and the bandits of the country formed his army.  He killed and burnt in the country, entered and sacked the towns, all in the name of the Sovereign Pontiff, so that before long the exile of Avignon was again able to return and occupy his throne in Rome.  The Spanish cardinal after all these campaigns, which gave half Italy to the Papacy, was as rich as any king, and he founded the celebrated Spanish college in Bologna.  The Pope, well aware of his robberies and rapacity, asked him to give some sort of accounts.  The proud Don Gil presented him with a cart laden with keys and bolts.

“These,” said he proudly, “belong to the towns and castles I have gained for the Papacy.  These are my accounts.”

The irresistible glamour that a powerful warrior throws over a man physically feeble was strongly felt by Gabriel, and it was augmented by the thought that so much bravery and haughtiness had been joined in a servant of the Church.  Why could not men like this arise now, in these impious times, to give fresh strength to Catholicism?

In his strolls through the Cathedral Gabriel greatly admired the screen before the high altar, a wonderful work of Villalpando, with its foliage of old gold, and its black bars with silvery spots like tin.  These spots made the beggars and guides in the church declare that all the screen was made of silver, but that the canons had had it painted black so that it might not be plundered by Napoleon’s soldiers.

Behind it shone the majestic decorations of the high altar, splendid with soft old gilding, and a whole host of figures under carved canopies representing various scenes from the Passion.  Behind the altar and the screen the gilding seemed to spring spontaneously from the white walls, marking with brilliant lights the divisions between the stalls.  Beneath highly-decorated pointed arches were the tombs of the most ancient kings of Castille, and that of the Cardinal Mendoza.

Under the arches of the triforium an orchestra of Gothic angels with stiff dalmatics and folded wings sang lauds, playing lutes and flutes, and in the central parts of the pillars the statues of holy bishops were interspersed with those of historical and legendary personages.

On one side the good Alfaquí Abu-Walid, immortalised in a Christian church for his tolerant spirit, on the opposite side the mysterious leader of Las Navas who, after showing the Christians the way to victory, suddenly disappeared like a divine envoy ­a statue of exceeding ugliness with a haggard face covered by a rough hood.  At either end of the screen stood as evidences of the past opulence of the church two beautiful pulpits of rich marbles and chiselled bronze.

Gabriel cast a glance at the choir, admiring the beautiful stalls belonging to the canons, and he thought enthusiastically that perhaps some day he might succeed in gaining one to the great pride of his family.  In his wanderings about the church he would often stop before the immense fresco of Saint Christopher, a picture as bad as it was huge ­a figure occupying all one division of the wall from the pavement to the cornice, and which by its size seemed to be the only fitting inhabitant of the church.  The cadets would come in the evenings to look at it; that colossus of pink flesh, bearing the child on its shoulders, advancing its angular legs carefully through the waters, leaning on a palm tree that looked like a broom, was for them by far the most noticeable thing in the church.  The light-hearted young men delighted in measuring its ankles with their swords and afterwards calculating how many swords high the blessed giant could be.  It was the readiest application that they could make of those mathematical calculations with which they were so much worried in the academy.  The apprentice of the church was irritated at the impudence with which these dressed up popinjays, the apprentices of war, sauntered about the church.

Many mornings he would go to the Muzárabe Chapel, following attentively the ancient ritual, intoned by the priests especially devoted to it.  On the walls were represented in brilliant colours scenes from the conquest of Oran by the great Cisneros.  As Gabriel listened to the monotonous singing of the Muzárabe priests he remembered the quarrels during the time of Alfonso VI. between the Roman liturgy and that of Toledo ­the foreign worship and the national one.  The believers, to end the eternal disputes, appealed to the “Judgment of God.”  The king named the Roman champion, and the Toledans confided the defence of their Gothic rite to the sword of Juan Ruiz, a nobleman from the borders of Pisuerga.  The champion of the Gothic breviary remained triumphant in the fight, demonstrating its superiority with magnificent sword thrusts, but, in spite of the will of God having been manifested in this warlike way, the Roman rite by slow degrees became master of the situation, till at last the Muzárabe ritual was relegated to this small chapel as a curious relic of the past.

Sometimes in the evenings, when the services were ended and the Cathedral was locked up, Gabriel would go up to the abode of the bell-ringer, stopping on the gallery above the door del Perdón.  Mariano, the bell-ringer’s son, a youth of the same age as the seminarist, and attached to him by the respect and admiration his talents inspired, would act as guide in their excursions to the upper regions of the church; they would possess themselves of the key of the vaultings and explore that mysterious locality to which only a few workmen ascended from time to time.

The Cathedral was ugly and commonplace seen from above.  In the very early days the stone vaultings had remained uncovered, with no other concealment beyond the light-looking carved balustrade, but the rain had begun to damage them, threatening their destruction, and so the Chapter had covered the Cathedral with a roof of brown tiles, which gave the Church the appearance of a huge warehouse or a great barn.  The pinnacles of the buttresses seemed ashamed to appear above this ugly covering, the flying buttresses became lost and disappeared among the bare-looking buildings, built on to the Cathedral, and the little staircase turrets became hidden behind this clumsy mass of roofing.

The two youths climbing along the cornices, green and slippery from the rain, would mount to quite the upper parts of the building.  Their feet would become entangled in the plants that a luxuriant nature allowed to grow amid the joints of the stones, flocks of birds would fly away at their approach; all the sculptures seemed to serve as resting-places for their nests, and every hollow in the stone where the rain-water collected was a miniature lake where the birds came to drink; sometimes a large black bird would settle on one of the pinnacles like an unexpected finial; it was a raven who settled there to plume his wings, and it would remain there sunning itself for hours; to the people who saw it from below it appeared about the size of a fly.

These vaultings caused Gabriel a strange impression; no one could guess the existence of such a place in the upper regions of the building.  He would walk through the forest of worm-eaten posts which supported the roof, through narrow passages between the cupolas of the vaulting that arose from the flooring like white and dusty tumours; sometimes there would be a shaft through which he could see down into the Cathedral, the depth of which made him giddy.  These shafts were like narrow well-mouths at the bottom of which could be seen people walking like ants on the tile flooring of the church.  Through these shafts were lowered the ropes of the great chandeliers, and the golden chains that supported the figure of Christ above the railing of the high altar.  Enormous capstans showed through the twilight their cogged and rusty wheels, their levers and ropes like forgotten instruments of torture.  This was the hidden machinery belonging to the great religious festivals; by these artifices the magnificent canopy of the holy week was raised and fastened.

As the sun’s rays shone in between the wooden posts the dust of ages that lay like a thick mantel on the roof of the vaulting would rise and dance in them for a few seconds, and the huge old spiders’ webs would wave like fans in the wind, while the footsteps of the intruders would occasion wild and precipitous scrambles of rats from all the dark corners.  In the furthest and darkest corners roosted those black birds who by night flew down into the church through the shafts in the vaulting, and the eyes of the owls glowed with phosphorescent brilliancy, while the bats flew sleepily about sweeping the faces of the lads with their wings.

The bell-ringer’s son would examine the deposits dropped in the dust, and would enumerate all the different birds who took refuge in the summit of the mountains of stone:  this belonged to the hooting owl, and that to the red owl, and this again to the raven, and he spoke with respect of a certain nest of eagles that his father had seen as a young man, fierce birds who had endeavoured to tear out his eyes, and who had so thoroughly frightened him that he had been obliged to borrow the gun belonging to the night watchers on each occasion that his duties took him to the roof.

Gabriel loved that strange world, harbouring above the Cathedral with its silence and its imposing solitude.  It was a wilderness of wood, inhabited by strange creatures who lived unnoticed and forgotten under the roof-tree of the church.  Truly the good God had a house for the faithful down below, and an immense garret above for the creatures of the air.

The savage solitude of the higher regions was a great contrast to the wealth of the chapel of the Ochava, full of relics in golden vessels and caskets of enamel and precious marbles, to the quantities of pearls and emeralds in the magnificent treasury, heaped up as though they had been peas, and to the elegant luxury of the wardrobe, full of rare and costly stuffs and vestments exquisitely embroidered with every colour of the rainbow.

Gabriel was just eighteen when he lost his father.  The old gardener died quietly, happy in seeing all his family in the service of the Cathedral and the good old tradition of the Lunas continued without interruption.  Thomas, the eldest son, remained in the garden, Esteban, after serving many years as acolyte and assistant to the sacristans, was Silenciario, and had been given the Wooden Staff and seven reals a day, the height of all his ambition; and as far as regarded the youngest, the good Senor Esteban had the firm conviction that he had begotten a Father of the Church, for whom a place in heaven was especially reserved at the right hand of God Omnipotent.

Gabriel had acquired in the seminary that ecclesiastic sternness that turns the priest into a warrior more intent on the interest of the Church than on the concerns of his family.  For this reason he did not feel the death of his father very greatly; besides, much greater misfortunes soon occurred to preoccupy the young seminarist.