What is it with European Christians getting all worked up about mythological statues?
Almost exactly a year since the last statue panic
In January of last year we reported on a decidedly not-even-nominally-satanic statue the city of Palaio Faliro in Greece. The donated statue was lambasted by many local religious leaders as “a soldier of Satan”, even though the artist said it was nothing of the sort.
Those religious zealots decried the statue for being too inhuman because of its ambiguous resemblance of a human body (in my opinion it looks a bit like Earthworm Jim with wings). At the time, I wrote that I found the whole argument silly because in cases of public art, when it comes to mythological symbols, the intent of the artist matters.
This year, in the Spanish city of Segovia we have yet another instance of this kind of over-ambitious attempt to keep the demonic at bay by attacking an innocent and wholly not religiously inspired statue.
Of course, this statue is at least actually of Satan
Let’s set aside the complicated business of how Secularism manifests in different countries. I don’t want to get lost in the weeds on the facts that this is a statue of the devil and I’m a Satanist. Let’s suffice to say that Spain is lousy with Christian religious art, including other statues of Lucifer that are far more religious in nature. Instead, let’s focus on why the artist made the statue, which is not a religious monument to Satan at all. It is a quaint nod to a bit of local folklore.
The statue is a chubby, friendly looking, rather cartoonish depiction of the devil holding a cell phone to take a selfie while holding a tong that clutches a large stone cube in his other hand. This is a nod to a bit of local mythology which talks about how the devil played a part in the construction of the city’s famed aqueduct, as Atlas Obscura discussed:
“Nicknamed “Puente de Diablo” or Devil’s Bridge due to a local legend detailing Lucifer’s part in the construction of the bridge to impress a lady friend, the aqueduct is arguably best enjoyed at Azoguejo square, where its pillars are at their highest point. A towering symbol of Segovia, the aqueduct is an extraordinary illustration of the marriage between the grandiose beauty and ingenious functionality that defined the architecture of ancient Rome.”
See? How cute is that? The city also boasts a statue left over from the Romans of the Capitoline Wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus but you don’t see the religious outrage over that. In context, this devil is the same sort of thing. It’s mythology, folk story, decidedly not a religious thing.
But the problem, according to the city’s religious objectors, isn’t that it is a statue of the devil, it’s that the devil in the statue is ‘too jolly’. They’re upset that this devil, which everyone acknowledges is just a harmless nod to a bit of local lore, looks too friendly. This suggests that they’re either doing it to garner some press, or they’re just way too uptight about things that don’t matter.
This is a whole lot different than, say, The Satanic Temple monuments that we’ve seen in the United States, which are intertwined with issues of religious liberty and equal access. No, this is just a cute statue about the city’s own cultural mythology. It’s like if someone in Georgia wanted to make a statue of the devil playing a fiddle to commemorate Charlie Daniels, or if someone made a statue of the devil and Robert Johnson shaking hands at a crossroads in Mississippi. These statues would not be commemorating a religious belief, or advocating for Satanism. If there’s any comparable instance in the United States it would be the Detroit Robocop, not the 10 Commandments.
But I guess overly irrational and panicked theists just can’t see a harmless thing for what it is sometimes and now the whole project of Segovia’s devil statue is on hold pending a review by the city council.