Today was our farewell visit to Santiago Cathedral. We have not seen the giant incense burner, the Botafumeiro, swung, but that is fine. In ancient times it was used to send the prayers to heaven and to cover the odours of the unwashed pilgrims but now it is more for entertainment at the end of some Pilgrims’masses. If groups wish to pay a sum of money, the Botafumeiro will be lit and swung for them.
Santiago is a lovely, old city. The citizens of Santiago are very aware and proud of its religious significance and also, they are cognizant of the impact of the Camino pilgrimages on the economy. The Camino and the pilgrims are treated with honour and respect, despite our sometimes coming in droves. We have heard of no altercations but we have known pilgrims who received free medical care. Everywhere we went, people were kindly and would go out of their way to help us. All pilgrims we met have encountered the same hospitality and goodness.
The origins of St. James’ tomb in this remote Galician village date from between 788 and 838 AD, the exact date lost in the mists of time. What is certain is that these events changed the history of what was a sleepy village with cows in the streets and made it into one of the most important pilgrimage sites on earth. There is so much in Santiago. It is a museum unto itself. Over our three days here we have managed just a glimpse. It is almost overwhelming. Despite tourism somehow Santiago remains a special place….hopefully, it always will.
Later today we, too, did a bit of tourist shopping but mostly just enjoyed the various pilgrims arriving in the square. Some arrived singly, others in large groups and every other configuration. Today there were those on horseback and others on scooters. It was a celebratory moment for all when some physically handicapped pilgrims riding hand propelled tricycles arrived with their caregivers on bicycles. Emotions are high whenever pilgrims come into Praza do Obradoiro. There is singing, chanting, sobbing, applauding and laughing. Some pray, some are just quiet. Pilgrims kiss the ground, prostrate themselves, hug one another, lie down looking skyward or with eyes closed, sit leaning against their backpacks, dance and, literally jump for joy. It is a time of jubilation expressed in so many different ways.
On our arrival a few days ago, we were among the hot and weary celebrants, who touched the shell in the centre of the plaza, gave each other a hug and sought the cool of our hotel quickly. It was when we attended mass and walked about the old town that the fact we had arrived in Santiago and had finished our Camino became real. However, even now, we still have moments of disbelief.
It has been an amazing adventure in all ways. Would we do it again? Well, not right away. We have met pilgrims who have walked all of the various routes to Santiago and some who have walked Camino Frances many times. Would we recommend it? Yes!!
This is our final blog from the Camino. Thank you for sharing our walk. Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement and your patience with the blog. Some of you have taken every single step with us and we felt it. xo
Although a pilgrimage is not a vacation trip, we hope you enjoyed the bits and pieces about what we saw, the people we met, and the traditions and customs of this part of Spain. Perhaps, some of you may even consider a similar journey.
We leave the Camino unable to adequately describe what it has meant to us. Neither of us experienced an epiphany, but we feel it was good for us in every way. We are committed to living the rest of our lives remembering the things we have learned on this journey together. Hopefully, at a later time we may have an occasion to be able to tell you more.
Until then, quoting a kindly greeting of the Camino: “Ultreya” — go forth with courage.
Rod and Delana