Under the Crescent and the Cross, is a book which offers an insight into the turbulent history of St Mary the Crowned – a mosque, church and cathedral. Written by former Director of Culture Manolo Galliano, this is an indepth study of one of the Rock’s most iconic buildings but it also features some of the forgotten human aspects of the people who were at the forefront of the church “defended it in times of need and ensured that we have inherited the archive of information” which exists today. Manolo Galliano has always had a keen interest in all historical matters. As Director of Culture he began to keep records on the many cultural events over the years. His interest is also on its people and its culture.
“I have collected and read umpteen books on Gibraltar during my life time and even as a teenager, I was already a member of the old Gibraltar Society, the percursor of the present Gibraltar Heritage Trust.”
Today he is a member of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
“I have been a Trustee for the last nine years and over the last few years have been contributing articles for its Journal. This year, for instance, there is an article introduced by me on an eyewitness account of the capture of Gibraltar in 1704 and another on on the history of the Hermitage of Our Lady of the Rosary (doorway of St. Jago’s).”
Mr Galliano said that originally his intention, originally, was to research and prepare for publication a book on Gibraltar’s churches, monasteries and hermitages, but it got so unwieldy and voluminous, that he decided to subdivide them into separate publications. This new book is therefore the first of a series. Already he has completed the next two – the history of the Franciscan Monastery (The Convent), followed by part one of a three part book on the history of the Monasteries of San Juan de Dios and La Merced and the Convent of Clarisas.
Mr Galliano has been researching and writing on all these ecclesiastical buildings for the last 18 months.
“Difficult,” he says, “with my busy life style and two small grandchildren underfoot most of the day (they live with us 24/7), but I always try to find time, mostly in the late evenings.”
Very often, he tells me, when he has discovered some new long lost piece of information, it is like discovering another piece of a very disjointed jigsaw, which adds up to the picture and either proves or upsets some previous theoretical ideas.
“You ask what fascinates me about the building. Certainly, its resurgence like the proverbial phoenix from the flames after the destruction of the Great Siege and that despite its long history, at least a remnant of its original architectural glory is still evident.”
And Mr Galliano, was able to gain access into the bell tower, all the way up to the interior of the cupola – “that was an experience, especially being abe to see the old bells at close quarters, one of them being over seven centuries old – imagine what events it has witnessed over the ages.”
He beleives that Padre Romero de Figueroa, was a great Gibraltarian patriot, a very brave man who decided to remain in post, when it would have been easier for him to have left to more peaceful climes with his relations.
“He was criticised for being foolhardy etc, but was instrumental in saving the church for future parishioners and preventing its looting,whilst all the other ecclesiastical buildings were soon converted into barracks, stores, hospitals and residents.”
The book also has a great selection of photogrpahs by Victor Hermida. I asked Mr Galliano, he had decided to feature a section on the many Bishop cape’s and artefact’s.
“What the Cathedral has as some of its treasures , the details of the sculptures and bosses around the windows and ceilings, ciboriums, chalices, images and vestments – all of these, items or details which the everyday churchgoer or visitor to the church are not privy to or which they pay little attention to.
“Hopefully, after reading my book and seeing the photos, they will look around and appreciate in a better way what the Cathedral still has.”