Life & Travels Afloat in our Moody
Santiago is a place many people have heard of, and is visited by thousands every year. It is held to be the place of burial of St James, and is the end on the Camino, the road of pilgrimage. Probably the best known route in modern times is that from France, which involves walking hundreds of kilometres.
Actually, to qualify as a pilgrim, you have in any event to walk or ride a horse(!) a minimum of 100km, or cycle 200km. Historically, the English and Irish had it well sussed, and were able to land at La Coruna and walk a far shorter distance.
In recent years, the ranks of the resolute have been swelled by substantial numbers of Americans, struck by the romantic notions expressed in the film ‘The Way’. So now the countryside is littered with thousands of walkers with rucksacks and walking sticks holding up the traffic between France and Spain every year. Conversely, if this swells the ranks of the truly faithful, it is to be applauded.
One of the major events in the church, (other than the services for the faithful), is the ‘Swinging’. With origins back in history, apparently pilgrims used to end their journey by ‘living’ in the cathedral. The effect of their eating sleeping, etc, in the building offended even the most non-discriminatory of the clergy who simply could not stand the smell. So they came up with the idea of a huge ‘stove on a rope’ burning incense to try to overcome the assault on their olfactory systems. This worlds largest joss furnace is propelled with the aid of a clever system of pulleys. Monks swing this incense burner on steroids until it was virtually horizontal at the ends of each arc (see photo). Now very much a ‘feature’ of cathedral life, it probably serves the same purpose given the hundreds of tourist crammed in at any one time!
Santiago is a fascinating city, but all is not quite what it might seem. Many of the historic buildings were subjected to makeovers in subsequent centuries, and have multiple or ‘improved’ facades. It has led to a right mix of styles and periods, although none distracting from the interest of the city.
For the sailors, there is another interesting snippet. The name of Cape Finisterre harks back to the days of the concept of the flat earth. It literally meant finis terra, the end of the earth. It is also the point of the ultimate finish for the pilgrim.