Happy Birthday Murphy! Here’s to many more.
We docked in Vigo, which is in the northwest corner of Spain very near the Portuguese boarder, hopped on a tour bus, and headed to Santiago de Compostela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our drive took us an hour and a quarter out of town on an impeccably maintained divided highway. I sat in the very front seat, so I could catch every word the guide said and throw in a few questions if need be and Dan zipped to the back where, my guess is, he dozed the whole way.
Our ride took us over rolling hills lush with vegetation thanks to the rain that is so common in this part of Spain. Eucalyptus trees, imported from Australia, dominate the forests we drove through. Once we found out that mussels, scallops, and oysters are farmed in the bay it was easy to spot the dozens and dozens of wooden platforms essential to the process. We passed lots of small vineyards but did not see any kiwi farms that are now common in the area.
Our day was spent in the old part of the city. For the insatiably curious, here’s its claim to fame. In the ninth century the tomb of the apostle Saint James the Greater was discovered. Pilgrims came from all over Europe following one of many Camino de Santiago routes to reach the city born around the holy tomb. Over time the site has become one of the most important and famous Christian pilgrimage towns as well as a symbol in the Spanish Christians’ struggle against Islam. Destroyed by the Muslims at the end of the 10th century, it was rebuilt the following century. The groundbreaking of the current cathedral took place in 1075, but it wasn’t consecrated until the year 1211. A little quick math tells me it took a whopping 136 years from laying the first stone to consecration. According to our guide this is one of the tree most sacred Christian sites behind Jerusalem and Rome.
We enjoyed a guided walking tour around the old part of town and were then set free to roam the labyrinth of narrow granite-paved streets and passages and poke around in a few shops. Everything from the paved street to the buildings with their beautiful facades is made of granite giving the old part of town a very homogeneous look. The highlight was entering the cathedral and seeing the eye popping, bedazzling, wowzah gold and silver alter which is in total contrast to the simplicity of the rest of the cathedral. Before we left we lit a candle for Josie’s Aunt Jerry.
A lucky coincidence: Only during years when July 25 falls on a Sunday is a small side entrance to the cathedral open to the pubic. This happened in 2021, but because the cathedral was closed due to the pandemic, official permission has been granted for the door to be used this year, and we went through it.
In case you want to be an official pilgrim (and not a day tripper) here are a couple things to keep in mind. No matter which route you follow, you need a ’passport’ of sorts that identifies you as a pilgrim and allows for official stamps along the route. Walkers must cover a minimum of 100 kilometers and those on bike or horseback must cover 200 kilometers. There are three markers set into the stone plaza in front of the cathedral that serve as the official end of the walk. A few very happy groups were taking their photos today in celebration of this accomplishment.
Today’s pilgrims have passports to prove they completed their walk. But what of the pilgrims of centuries past? Because scallops were plentiful in the waters near here and not elsewhere, a scallop shell was the treasured proof that would be cherished for the rest of their lives. Some even chose to be buried with their shell. Understandable considering some walked for years. Shells adorn churches along the many routes and they are used today on markers showing pilgrims which way to go.
Table talk: More Tribe of Mentors questions.
Weather: Lady Luck was on our side today. It rained all the way to Santiago and then abruptly stopped. The sun flirted with us the rest of the afternoon and there was a cool breeze, so even with a high of 60 degrees we were thankful for our coats, scarves, and hats.
Entertainment: The UK’s Laura Broad, a 2013 semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent.
Dan’s gambling status: He’s even after two nights on the machines. Down $20 … up $20 … equals even … equals happy.
Dan’s claim to fame regarding Santiago: He visited in 1964 when his family lived in Spain.
The cathedral can accommodate 1,200 visitors
For centuries, pilgrims have touched the left foot of the statue of Saint James,
leaving a handprint in the soft stone.
In ancient times pilgrims arrived anytime day or night traditionally spending the first night praying and contemplating in the church. Therefore the doors were never locked. The use of incense
was not only part of worship services but also served to disguise the smell of the unbathed pilgrims.
Today, numerous masses in several languages are held every day.
The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela adorns the Spanish cent coin.
Our old pals Walter and Cleone spent a few days walking the Camino and attended
a special mass in the cathedral at the end of their pilgrimage.
2 thoughts on “Santiago de Compostela, Spain (April 23, 2022)”
So many interesting details! We saw a documentary a few years ago about a man who did the trail in a wheelchair—with the help of several dear friends.
Nice shout out to the Birthday boy
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