October 22: I thought I was finished walking. Today we walked all through the Santiago Cathedral, museum and Bishop’s Palace, then did a walking tour of the old city, not to mention walking down to the huge market to buy ourselves some dinner. It was a good day, though somewhat anticlimactic. It was sunny and warm if you could find the sun in these narrow streets and if the cool wind didn’t make its way into the canyons.
Santiago is a beautiful old city with many very old churches, monasteries and the like. The whole city is a Unesco World Heritage Site as is the entire Camino itself. The name Santiago de Compostella means “St. James of the Field of Stars” reflecting the story of a shepherd in 813 CE who saw a bright light or star over this field where the remains of the apostle were then discovered. A modest basilica was built over his remains and a less modest one a century or so later. It was all razed by the Moors when they took over, but eventually the cathedral was built on the same site. The remains of the apostle are absolutely central to the whole thing. I did not realize the extent to which the city itself owes its existence to the pilgrimage route. Indeed the later enlargements and additions to the cathedral were necessitated by the huge number of pilgrims.
There are two primary ways in which St. James is depicted in art and statuary. The first is as a pilgrim himself with robe, staff and gourd. The second is astride a white horse decapatiting Moors with his sword. I have a hard time with the Moore Slayer image which I have seen in a number of churches and the cathedral.
The story goes that during decisive battles in the reconquest of Spain for Christianity, St James appeared in the midst of the battle and turned the tide. Thus St James became, and still is, the patron Saint of Spain. I still prefer the pilgrim image. Knowing what I know about what Jesus taught I cannot believe that the Moor Slayer story is anything but the old pattern of political/military leaders using religion to further their aims and ambitions. The Moors themselves had a high tolerance for religious and cultural diversity, and the arts and sciences flowered under their administration.
I will not burden you, dear reader, with a complete history of Spain which is well beyond my competence and the scope of this blog.
Tomorrow we will take the train to A Coruña where we will stay the night before flying home the next morning. I am ready. I don’t know when you can expect my next blog post. It has been an excellent discipline for me to do this daily journal and I’m grateful to all of you who have followed my adventure — more of you than I imagined. The downside is that I won’t have anything left to say when I get home. You’ll know it all. 😉