El Sagrario, Granada, Spain

El Sagrario, Granada, Spain


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: El Sagrario
Location: Granada, Spain
Date of visit: Sunday, 28 May 2006, 11:30am

The building

One of a group of buildings forming the cathedral complex on the site of the former Grand Mosque, El Sagrario is flanked by the cathedral on its left and the royal chapel behind. The church we see today is the 1704 reconstruction, in the form of a Greek cross. Inside is a large baroque altarpiece in front of which is a small glass altar table. There is also a white marble baptismal font and several Renaissance paintings.

The church

The congregation seemed to me to be a transient group who don't relate to each other but just come to "consume" the eucharist and then go away again.

The neighborhood

This is the main tourist spot in the city and it's hard to get past gypsies selling "lucky heather".

The cast

Just a celebrant in white vestments and an open necked shirt under his alb. I couldn't find out his name. There were no lay people to read lessons, nor were there any altar servers.

What was the name of the service?

Misa (Mass)

How full was the building?

There were 53 people when the service started but that number rose to 87 by the gospel.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

No, but I was kept out of another service by a man with a truncheon – see below!

Was your pew comfortable?


How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There were a lot of tourists milling around, talking.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

I don't speak Spanish, but (given that people crossed themselves) I assume "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

What books did the congregation use during the service?


What musical instruments were played?

"Piped" organ music was played before the service and during the eucharistic prayer.

Did anything distract you?

Many things, but the main distraction was my own anger! I fancied a full-on, emotional, incense-laden high mass at the cathedral, which I expected the Spanish to do well. But I had arrived from the airport the night before to discover that the cathedral's mass times are not displayed outside. (Visiting times are prominently displayed everywhere, and I can't help feeling that they regard the income from tourists as more important than worship.) A cathedral official who spoke some English told me that the main mass was at 10.30, but when I got there a man in a uniform carrying a truncheon wouldn't let me in! So I wandered next door to El Sagrario and found this mass.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

I can only describe it as casual. The mass was rushed and everyone looked bored. It only took 10 minutes to gabble through the preparation and the three readings, and the whole service was over in a mere 37 minutes. As the collection was being taken up, the celebrant didn't wait but rather went right on with the eucharistic prayer. The collection was still being taken up as the words of institution were recited. I have seen this before in continental Catholic churches and cannot understand why, given what Catholics believe is happening at this climactic point, they allow it. One friend suggested that maybe that was the way the Spanish like their religion, but that does not make sense given the great emotional processions they have on big festivals. Another suggested that they have a shortage of priests and that this guy might have been on his third mass in so many hours.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

1 – He read it, hurriedly, without looking up once. He then mumbled the opening words of the creed before anyone had time to digest the sermon or even to rise to their feet.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

It was the Sunday after Ascension Day and I could make out the words "Ascension" and "Sacrament", and so I guess he was saying that the ascended Lord may have left us in his physical body but he is present with us in the Blessed Sacrament.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

None of it. I wish I hadn't gone.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Receiving communion. I probably should have stayed in my seat because a) I am Anglican and b) the whole experience had put me in such a bad mood. Then again, I think we should come to God in honesty.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Nothing – people dashed out immediately before the dismissal, even before the priest had left the altar. Can't say I blame them.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was none.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

1 – I wouldn't go if it was the only church within miles. I chose to miss church the following Sunday even though it was Pentecost Sunday.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

No. I'll bet the Grand Mosque put on better services in its day.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The man with the truncheon.

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