Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

Gold for Catholic priests in Madrid

Marty’s photos of the day #2756: This week I’m featuring Catholic-related photos I shot in Italy and Spain. While visiting both countries, I thoroughly enjoyed all the opulent Catholic sights. That being said, how can a religion based on a book whose main character railed against the rich, turn around and waste so much money on vast displays of wealth? Isn’t that a wee bit hypocritical?

Today’s photos are from Madrid, Spain. One big difference between Spain and Italy is that churches in Italy posted signs forbidding inside photographs while Spanish churches seemed just fine with inside photography. Of today’s pictures, the one I still shake my head at is of the storefront where priests who didn’t yet have enough gold could buy more golden props and accessories. Well, I guess I’d rather priests be into acquiring more gold than into being one of the countless thousands of priests who have molested children over the years. Although, I suppose, the pursuit of gold and the pursuit of underage boys and girls isn’t mutually exclusive.

This is what I wrote about Spanish churches in my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents:

“Roman Catholicism became Spain’s established religion in the sixth century, and it remained that way (except for a brief period) until 1978, when the country’s new constitution declared an end to state religion. The Catholic Church’s long history of wealth and power was on display wherever I looked. Whether it was a store selling silver scepters, golden chalices, and precious metal accessories for the well-dressed priest or the extreme opulence in the cathedrals, all the gold and silver I’d seen in my life up to that point would be a mere speck compared to what I saw in a single afternoon in Madrid. . . . . Many of the churches had massive pillars, soaring arches, beautiful gold-framed antique paintings, colorful stained-glass domes inlaid with gold, huge gold and silver pipe organs, and elaborate stations where you could drop in coins to light electric candles. Even the doors, most with intricate three-dimensional artwork, were remarkable sights. Imagine the good the churches could of done if they had invested their money into helping the poor instead of decorating their buildings.”

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