My account follows on from Lilian's which you may have read last week (click here to read Lilian's article), as we visited places on the Way of St. James, the Camino. All three cathedrals that we visited, Burgos, Leon and Santiago were very ornate, lots of gold and medieval bling – awesome! The stone carvings depicted biblical truths and characters – in the 12th and 13th centuries few people were literate. Contrasted with this was the first Cistercian monastery in Spain at Sobrado, the pre-Romanesque church of Saint Martin at Fromista and the little chapel at O Cebreiro, the highest part of the route (as high as the summit of Ben Nevis), where we added our stone to the foot of the cross.
Of course, it was the people we met who made an impression. In Burgos, two ladies came to join our group for communion. Our service was in English, they only spoke Spanish but sharing the peace and taking communion are universal, no language is necessary.
At the Pilgrim Mass in Santiago we were fortunate to see the spectacle of the botafumeiro – the incense burner is the largest in the world and it takes eight men to swing it – it almost hits the roof. There were limited washing facilities for the pilgrims, so the incense acted as air freshener!
These are the images that will remain with me – the setting out on a journey in faith with no map to show the way, the contrast of the splendour of the cathedrals with the simplicity of other places of worship and the people sharing our journey both now and in the past.
We were given copies of a Pilgrim's Prayer – this is the final section which I would like to share with you:
If from today I do not continue walking on your path,searching and living according to what I have learned;if from today I do not see in every person, friend or foea companion on the Camino;if from today I cannot recognise God,the God of Jesus of Nazarethas the one God of my life,I have arrived nowhere.