We took a pause from our walk, to “walk” around Santiago for a day and smell the proverbial flowers. We spent most of the day at the city’s Cathedral, an imposing Romanesque structure finished in the early 1200s. According to legend, St. James preached in Galicia before returning to Jerusalem where he was martyred in 44 AD. His disciples then retrieved his body, returning it to Galicia for burial. Due to the Roman’s persecution of Christians, the exact location of his tomb was forgotten until in 814 AD, the hermit Pelagius, saw “strange lights in the sky” and for whatever reason connected them to the remains of St. James. The pilgrimage to his shrine is now over 1,000 years old.
The major symbol of the Camino is the scallop shell. Like other pilgrims, we’ve been carrying a shell on our backpacks as we follow the scallop shell markers along the route. Although the shell’s symbolic history is rooted in the legends surrounding the return of St. James body to Galicia, it is probably best seen as a metaphor for the journey itself. As the grooves of the shell meet at a single point, so do the many paths pilgrims take that ultimately converge at Santiago de Compostela.
We attended the Pilgrims Mass, where we were announced as “two from the United States starting in Sarria” and got to see the Botafumeiro in action. We did a little shopping, took some pictures around town, and stuffed ourselves silly with the unending supply of bread, cheese and wine (especially wine from the Ribeiro Sacra region). One of the most curious aspects of Galicia was that the sun did not set until well after 9 pm and that therefore people did not venture out for dinner until well after 10 pm. Curious about this, my husband did a little research and discovered that Spain never went back to its “natural” (solar) time zone after WWII, accounting for the “unusual” schedule.
Our journey continues tomorrow.