Monday, 23 April 2012

To the end of the camino and the gates of salvation - this is Santiago de Compostella - April 19

One of the reasons we are here in Galicia is Santiago de Compostella. They write that it always rains in Santiago so it seemed not to matter which day we went. It vas raining when we left, it rained while we were there but left off for most of the time. So a good day by Santiago standards.
Principal destination, even for us atheists, was the cathedral and the praza de major. The city was as billed -smart, well heeled - though we saw less of it than we hoped (blame the weather). The cathedral is an impressive structure but the bling is unreal - so many people could have been saved from starvation if they had just held off a bit with the gold! And as for the cherubs! They are monstrous large, ugly and over dressed if a cherub can be. What flesh is visible is a sort of ruddy red, the rest if bling gold. The whole thing is uncomfortable to view. And then we spot them. A queue of would-be pilgirms - but they look like ordinary tourists to me - waiiting in line to climb up behind the altar and behind St James statue (not you understand in any way actually connected with the disciple) so they can kiss or otherwise obscenely genuflect upong the holy one. I realise i can actually film them as they pass behind his holiness's bum; see Picassa for the result. And weep. Apparently my remark about his bum is horribly close to the mark - they do indeed hug him from behind and it marks the end of their pilgrimage. Unless of course they have a spare 240 euros about their person.Then they can acquire the right to watch the astonishing incense burner being swung 50 metres down the knave! You can Google than and wtch the vid if you want! It has only broken free of the chain twice...
Unlike Lourdes this place is not blighted by plastic Mary's filled with Holy Water or puddle wash -who knows? But otherwise it is an insult to sanity. The cathedral is fine - sadly someone in the 18th century decided the exquisite west front carved by geniuses in the middle ages was just not up to the mark. So they blighted it with a ghastly Plateresque frontage. By some miracle they di not however actually destory the original.So it sits, wuietly beautifulo some ten feet back from its nemesis. As ever for us the scaffolders are in.We get this everywhere. Florence, Rome, Chartres, Notre Dame, Westminter, St Pauls,  St Marks, Rouen, Rennes, ... wherever we go the builders are in. However we got a general idea of what was ruined. Pilgrims used to touch the statue of St James which stands at its centre. Whether they will again is unknown.
Away from the centre we walked the dog through the university grounds - very beautiful with some wonderful buildings by the Chirruesco brothers - I think (I'll check).

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