We are in Santiago – the end point of pilgrimage for upwards of 115,000 each year who travel from all over Europe, mostly walking 100-1000 km.
Today we attended the midday Pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral, which is held every day. The place is packed – standing room only. Some pilgrims have just arrived and carry their staff and backpack, others have had a shower, but you can generally pick them – cargo pants, open faces, expectant and somehow also content and expectant.
I have not walked the Camino, but I have been glad to support Ceridwyn who did, and get a kind of vicarious enjoyment. The mass of course is in Spanish, and the words pass us by, but at the beginning a list is read of the countries pilgrims have come from today- and the numbers.
Over 100 arrived today – and we all beam when New Zealand – unos – is read out.
The Cathedral is full on over the top ornamentation – gold everywhere – fabulous human size angels hold up the canopy above the high altar, the bones of St James (san tiago) lie (supposedly) in a silver box we file past quietly. We also file past his figure above the main altar and hug it – all part of the experience.
Pilgrims and tourists mingle around the cathedral ambulatory all day, it is designed for both services and pilgrims to do their thing without distracting each other. Services are held in the main sanctuary or in side chapels most of the day.
Santiago is part of the Spanish region of Gallitia which feels very different from other parts of Spain and Portugal. It has a very celtic feel – celtic music, a form of bag pipes, celtic symbols are everywhere. We have yet to discover where this connection happened in history, but there is an interesting feel to the place. Flamenco has no place here or Fado, it has its own tradition.
I am glad we decided to stay an extra few days in Santiago. There is a good feel about it this place – it feels inclusive and open with room to move and be yourself, but also room to embrace this tradition of San tiago if that is your desire, or to connect with God in some other way if that is your wont.