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For over a thousand years pilgrims have taken a journey through northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, in the northwest province of Galicia. The great Cathedral in this town is believed to house the relics of Christ’s Apostle James the Greater Today over 300,000 people from around the world take the journey each year Each has their own intentions Some see it as a chance to get away from the stresses of daily life, to take a step back and gain a new perspective and self understanding. For others it is a chance to take a challenging hike through beautiful natural settings and to immerse themselves in Spanish culture For yet others it is a way to honor a loved one and perhaps pray for their healing and deliverance from suffering Whatever the personal motivations, the Way of St. James or Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage where travelers encounter history, stunning natural landscapes and monuments to faith and the power of religious ritual But most importantly it is a journey during which pilgrims, on foot and bicycle, alone or in groups, experience a common humanity that transcends national, ethnic, religious and socio-economic boundaries. On this ancient path, pilgrims share life’s joys and sufferings and are swept up in a spirit of service that both renews and transforms their lives This documentary examines the varied experiences of contemporary pilgrims in their own words. At the same time it locates travelers within a broader context of historical events, traditional rituals, and sacred spaces that often both shape and orient these pilgrims experiences. For those who are considering the pilgrimage themselves this film is designed to give an overview of what they might encounter and how they might prepare for the journey The origins of the Camino are in the pre-Christian period, when an ancient Celtic pathway to the end of the known world became the foundation for a Roman road that served both military and commercial purposes Beginning in the medieval period, many pilgrims began their Camino journeys in different parts of Europe, especially French towns such as Vezelay, Paris, Cluny, and Arles Today, a small number of pilgrims still begin their walk far from the Spanish border, but most follow a route – known as the French Way – which begins in a small town in the French Pyrenees called Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port Every day pilgrims arrive by train and make their way by foot into the old city There are shops for last-minute gear and various hostels to stay the night Pilgrims meet fellow travelers and share questions, information and fellowship I’m not used to finding my own way, this is my first time on my own so I arrived and I didn’t know where to sleep. And I spent maybe an hour and 15 minutes trying to find my way and I finally got there and these guys were sitting and having their dinner and they kind of said like oh it’s good you came because we have too much food and we’re kind expecting you to come in and they invite me for a bit wine, bread, soup, cheese, everything, and kind of gave me the insides of their stories So I think I was received very well, I got a room for myself because the owner he didn’t want me to sleep with a bunch of guys. And he walked me like the first few steps and then gave me kiss on both cheeks and wished me a good Camino I think that got me started thinking, I was meant to walk this path The next day they begin their walk at this marker under an arch that has long served as the starting point for the journey. Pilgrims are excited to begin their adventure. Each has their own story This was cooked up better part of a year ago. I was just leaving from North Georgia to walk on the Appalachian Trail

through hike and I asked my son if he when he graduated high school this year if he would be interested in spending six weeks or so with his dad at the age of 18 and go on a trek so we cooked it up about a year ago. I don’t know I think it’s more of a father-son bonding kind of thing. We live in different states so this is really big to get to come out here and spend six weeks pretty much tied together at the hip and walking through Europe Many travelers next proceed to an office where they register for the pilgrims passport. This passport will be stamped at hostels churches and restaurants along the way and provides proof that pilgrims have walked the required distance once they arrive in Santiago To the sound of morning church bells pilgrims then walk through the town alone or in groups Some make the journey on bicycles, which is especially challenging the first day, when the Camino ascends to a mountain pass before its long descent to the Spanish plains This part of the Camino goes through the Basque region, so the signs are in French, Spanish and Basque The Basque language is unique and is unrelated to any other human language After crossing the Spanish border, pilgrims come to this church and historical monument. The stone marks the battlefield where Charlemagne’s rear guard was destroyed by Basque tribes in 778 The battle is memorialized in the medieval epic poem, the Song of Roland, in which Charlemagne’s nephew Roland dies a hero’s death. In the epic, a Moorish army is substituted for the Basque tribes, likely for political reasons The Camino is largely downhill from here to Pamplona with the first hostel found in the village of Roncevalles, which sits at an altitude of 3,000 feet. It provides a place to rest weary legs and feet after the rigorous climb up the pass How was the trip up the mountain? It was a little tough at first but honestly the view was worth it every time you get up there and you’d get energy basically from the views. Incomparable beauty try to take pictures but it just can’t do it justice. I just stopping and hearing God’s word in this busy world Get too caught up in work and too caught up in other things, it’s just great to take some time out and reflect on things I watched the movie The Way and that kind of got me to know it and then I kind of joked to my dad about it, hey, we could do that and then it became a reality a year later and we started planning and now we’re here I’m a Christian, I’m a follower of Jesus and that’s also what I grew up in That is not, I’m not a Catholic or so doing a pilgrimage right now, but I think it really fits for a Christian something like this, to kind of give up your home and your permanent location to travel bit as a pilgrim for a while, as I believe it’s also how Jesus lived I think especially it’s about the people that my impression, a lot of nice people I’ve met, a lot of good talks, though I’m kind of tired all the time so I don’t spend too much time with anyone I think everyone is very hospitable towards each other so it’s, like we’re one group Well I believe that as I travel this it will not only impact my physical, how I feel and how my body’s doing but also my soul my spirit will make a journey Most pilgrims spend the night in a large hostel that began in the 12th century as a hospital and monastery designed to serve Camino pilgrims Travelers can prepare their own food or eat at local restaurants The town features a fine example of French Gothic architecture, St. Mary’s Collegiate Church built in the late 12th century The church has three naves, vaulted arches and large Gothic windows adorned with modern glass The high altar features this image of Santa Maria de Roncesvalles, which dates to the 14th century The Gothic sculpture is constructed of silver covered wood and decorated in gold A cloisters nearby leads to St. Augustine’s Chapel Here pilgrims can view the 13th century Gothic tomb of King Sancho the Strong The seven foot three inch king was a formidable warrior against Muslim

kingdoms to the south and an early champion of the Jewish community and of human rights The chapel’s 20th-century stained glass depicts Sancho’s victory in the Battle of Navas de Tolosa in Andalucia. The battle was an important milestone in the Reconquista of Spain for Christianity Many travelers attend the pilgrims Mass held each evening in the Church of Santa Maria.These services are offered in most towns along the Camino and priests from around the world participate and offer words of encouragement for pilgrims in their own languages Catholics and non-catholics believers and non-believers are all welcome The oldest structure in Roncesvalles is the 12th century Chapel of the Holy Spirit According to local tradition this is where Roland died after his defeat by the Basque tribes The early Gothic Church of Santiago stands next to the chapel and houses a bell from the Hermitage of San Salvador of Ibaneta, who served as a guide for pilgrims on foggy days Early in the morning pilgrims rise and begin the day with silent reflection before beginning their journey through the Basque province They pass through the town of Burguete, where the novelist Ernest Hemingway spent a fishing vacation during his time in Spain. He gives a version of the visit in his novel, The Sun Also Rises. The town has a checkered history and is infamous for its public Witchcraft Trials in the 16th century. On June 19, 1525 in the town square the Inquisition burned five alleged witches at the stake. The records of these trials have been preserved and give a sobering account of the persecutions and injustices of this period The trek downhill through the picturesque villages of Navarre presents its own challenges to pilgrims. A little more challenging I think than we expected, the downhill. Beautiful views, wonderful people. We did good, seven hours I think Yeah the uphill was not bad, at all. It was just the the downhill was real hard on you. A lot of surreal moments, standing there trying to figure that we’re actually standing in France and then Spain, it was awesome People were super accommodating at the albergue, I had a wonderful dinner last night. They actually separated us by chance so he sat at a different table and talked with people from–Japan, Ireland, France, America, so that was kinda neat Some Americans, some French at our table. There’s a central theme, everybody’s walking, nobody cares what anybody is or where they came from per se, they just all walk together Anything that kind of stuck out to you? I don’t know just kind of the sense of community like he’s talking about. People are a lot more friendly and open. It’s a lot easier to start a conversation with people than it would be back home This is an education every time we stop and sit down and everybody’s willing to talk The Camino passes through Pamplona, the capital of Navarre. Just to the south of the city pilgrims can see this well-preserved Roman aqueduct The scallop shell has long been a symbol of the Camino. The shell references traditions about the miraculous appearance of St. James’s relics off the west coast of Galicia. Travelers see the scallop on various signs along the route and often attach a shell to their backpacks signaling their status as pilgrims Pilgrims soon discover they need a poncho or umbrella as rain is always a possibility in northern Spain, particularly in the mountains They also learn that walking 25 kilometers a day can lead to a host of foot, ankle and knee problems. Blisters are the most common complaint. The suffering many pilgrims experience fosters a spirit of resilience, community and compassion And then my toes actually had a blister but it’s split and now the skin’s literally coming off Yeah, it’s pretty bad. So did you start wearing those just–Oh this morning We bought them yesterday at the pharmacy and then I let ’em dry out last night. And are they helping? A little bit, it still hurts pretty bad. But you know what, I’m gonna do it

I remember a few years ago I was walking on the way and there was a woman from Spain and she was sitting on one of the embankments and she was just in a terrible way really– her feet-she obviously hadn’t broken in the boots properly and she was very upset And there was a German woman who was a nurse and she was trying to sort things out but she didn’t have any first aid kit with her and I a first aid kit and the German lady didn’t speak any Spanish and the Spanish lady didn’t speak any German but between the three of us we were able to kind of bathe her feet for want of a better word and put her back on the way And the thing is it doesn’t matter if someone is a card-carrying Roman Catholic or a hardcore atheist. As long as someone comes with the sense of openness to what the way has to offer– it’s that kind of experience that welcomes everybody I suffer from arthritis in both my knees and my left one seems to suffer the greatest and it’s taken me probably five weeks to travel here–half of that journey was spent in an incredible sense of pain. And I met this lovely young Irish girl, Amy Armstrong, and she spent a few days with us and the last few days of those three weeks I was in incredible pain and she offered to give me a leg massage. And my friends made fun of me because as she was massaging my leg I was almost on the verge of tears. And she’s become my trail angel because from that day forward, every day my journey has gotten more and more comfortable. I almost feel like I experience little to no pain at all–a certain degree of discomfort at times but I’ve made incredible progress and I probably would not have made it this far if I had not met Amy and Amy had not given me that special massage that got me here I see a pregnant woman lady yesterday walking and carrying a child and I thought, wow So I stopped complaining about my blisters and said wow it’s amazing you know, it just shows the parents’ love–even though they are tired they continue on. So have you had some blister issues? Yeah I had it on the second day and I remember going to mass at the end of the second day and I was like, oh you know in slippers, my foot was hurting and I was going to receive Communion and I saw this thing hanging on the altar on the works of mercy and one of them was sufrir con paciencia, to suffer with patience. And I thought well okay, if that’s your message for me Lord, then yeah, I will suffer with patience. Yeah because we are so used to being so quick and instant that we forget that sometimes our Lord just wants us to suffer with Him a little bit, and not just get a quick recovery And I think my sufferings are minute compared with what people are suffering But I think I’ve come to understand maybe the hearts of these people who are suffering a little bit more, be more sensitive to their needs South of Pamplona the Camino moves along rolling hills and lower elevations. Near the town of Puente de la Reina is a 12th Century Romanesque Church, Santa Maria de Eunate. The church has an unusual octagonal plan and is located in open landscape near a small river. Some scholars believe it was originally built and used by either the Knights Templars or the Order of St. John as a hostel and refuge for pilgrims The church is surrounded by an arcaded gallery of 33 arches and these carved figures set above its eight walls The elaborate doorway facing the Camino opens into a serene interior with typical features of Romanesque architecture, including dressed stone masonry, semicircular arches and small alabaster windows. The eight walls buttress an eight-ribbed vault, inspired by the Caliphate art of Cordova The five sided apse has as its central figure the image of Santa Maria de Eunate Local Catholics come here during the annual Romeria, a pilgrimage procession that includes singing, feasting and dancing You have the church itself–building and you have kind of walls around the church and between the building and the walls I could breathe a special atmosphere when I was on my own. Eunate is a very interesting place

The nearby town of Puente de la Reina, Bridge of the Queen, was built in the 12th century as a pilgrimage resting place The graceful 11th century bridge was the first piece of construction in the area It was built by Queen Munadona to assist pilgrims in crossing the river Arga This sturdy structure has six midpoint arches, one of which is underground. It is an impressive example of Romanesque engineering that remains a milestone for Camino travelers. Peregrinos enter the town from the east and often stop at this hostel for the night Across the square is the Church of the Cross, which was originally built by the Knights Templars The Romanesque doorway is elaborately decorated and includes scallop shells on its central archivolt The most striking feature of the interior is an unusual Y-shaped wooden crucifix. One tradition claims that it was a gift from some German pilgrims who carried it on their shoulders on their way to Santiago. Pilgrims make their way along the picturesque Main Avenue with its historic houses and outdoor cafes They often stop at the Church of Santiago with its striking Romanesque doorway and polychrome carving of St James the Greater Visitors who arrive here between July 24th and July 30th can participate in the traditional festivities of the town’s patron saint Travelers leave the town across its historic bridge and head toward Estella. This city was established in 1090 with royal patronage to provide services for Camino pilgrims. During the late Middle Ages, Estella was home to the royal court and a thriving political, religious and economic center for the region. French, Jewish and Navarre settlers each brought their own architectural and cultural traditions with them The town’s prosperity allowed for the construction of Gothic masterpieces like Santo Sepulcro, which lies along the Ega River. The Camino passes directly opposite the church’s front side, which features this tympanum with scenes from the life and death of Christ and sculptures of the Twelve Apostles Nearby is the pointed bridge, a structure of medieval origin with a single arch and two steep sides. The bridge was destroyed in an 1873 battle and rebuilt in 1975 Pilgrims enter the narrow medieval streets of the old town and find shelter in the local albergue Those who wish to explore the town’s historic center find charming apartments, balconies and verandas and several architectural gems. In the plaza de San Martín sits this 12th century Palace of the Kings of Navarre, which now serves as a headquarters for a local museum The palace faces a great staircase at the top of which lies the Cistercian church of San Pedro de la Rúa The church sits next to a serene 12th-century cloister. Its graceful, semicircular arches and capitals are decorated with these geometrical and mythological animal and plant motifs The church’s rather dim interior has some beautiful stained glass windows and this statue of Saint James the pilgrim. The growing interest in the Camino over the past 30 years has fueled an economic resurgence in regions through which the route passes. Local craftspeople like this iron worker sell souvenirs, jewelry, artwork and other crafts to the many pilgrims that walk past their stalls during the main season from April to October The landscape in this part of Navarre is breathtaking and allows for side trips to picturesque villages and natural parks in the area Los Arcos, a municipality of around a thousand people, is a popular pilgrim destination on the long walk to Burgos. Travelers who began in Saint Jean have been on the road for about six days and are taking stock of their experiences so far I had been to Santiago–my daughter was studying in Madrid and I didn’t

understand what the hikers were that were coming into town. But when I researched it and found out for some reason or other my heart just felt that’s for me. I almost felt like called to it and then as I just went through some journeys in my life it felt like that was the next step to take which should make a journey of my own. This is only like our sixth day–our sixth day so I think the first thing that comes to mind is that I I was capable of doing what I did climbing up those Pyrenees Mountains because if I would have been with my husband or one of the kids I would have said, I’m not doing that, I’m done, I’m tired but because I wasn’t I had to find strength inside myself to say–I’m gonna do this, I can do this. So I think that was good Going up was very difficult but coming down also had its challenges because it put so much pressure onto your knees and your–so that has challenges too It wasn’t like we’re going down, it was strenuous as well With every church that we’ve seen I will always go in, say a short little prayer if I can, yeah, definitely So what’s that been like going to the pilgrim’s masses? Wonderful, wonderful I love it. You know we have all these people from all over the world– I mean from so many different countries and we all come together as one and that’s the way it should be, you know we should all have that feeling, yeah. Do you have any special intention at this point for when you reach Santiago, something you’d like to have realized or accomplished? Maybe I hope and pray that my kids will have as strong a faith as I do They’re in their twenties, and I just hope and pray that they will feel that peace that I do I think, you know, the problems of the Catholic Church you know–they don’t like what’s going on. They believe in God, they have a faith, but I think that they should also have a little bit of structure. Everybody needs a little bit of structure. When I go back home I’m going to encourage them to do it I mean I would even say that this should be something that a young couple should do on their honeymoon I’ve actually felt that when I was doing this. I think that it would bring a couple closer together. Even though you’re sharing a room with many people, I think that even as a couple it would make you stronger, by far, yeah Our bodies aren’t happy with us and here they get happy with you after a week or two and it really feels tremendous, I love it I love the just kind of flow of it, you know it is like some people will make lifelong friends here and some people will just be somebody you meet for two days and and you click with and but then they move on and you move on and neither way seems important. It’s just we are like people here at the same time being kind and and having an adventure really I don’t know what’s not to like about that It’s just wonderful to leave your life behind and be yourself in a different environment for a while You really look at the sky, which you forget to look at it home and you really notice it because you’re under it all day long. And you know, the changing landscape, it’s beautiful here right now, in Spring. I think one of the interesting features of this beginning part of the Camino is that this is kind of where people hook up and where they meet each other and where they’re most open to doing that And so between St. Jean and really about here, a lot of the groups that are gonna walk together have formed, you know and later on I think it becomes a little bit harder to click in so this is it, don’t miss your opportunity to meet people and find somebody if you want to walk with somebody in this first stretch I met Julie who lives in Milan, who had a ten year period of just being very unwell and not being able to figure out–doctors couldn’t figure out what it was. She finally was diagnosed correctly so she could be treated, so she’s on the mend and she feels that her period of unwellness is over. And after she felt that this period of unwellness was over she said the Virgin Mary came to her in a vision right before waking and said to her, come with me, and Julie felt it was a true call and she packed her bag and she went to Lourdes and went through the healing rituals in Lourdes and it was a powerful experience for her and then she had another vision there and the Virgin said to her, walk with me, and so she’s having her suitcase

transported between stops and she’s walking the Camino and she told me that every night she prays, you called and I came, kind of looking for, you know, and that’s it, that’s her prayer, you called me and I came And so she is figuring it out as she goes I think also people come here to advance their grieving process for something or another as well as for health issues and they can feel that this will help them move along the road with all the griefs that we are heir to As Pilgrims cross into Rioja province, known for its wines, they come to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, the seat of the bishops of Calzada and Logroño since 1232. The town owes its existence to a local hermit born in 1019, who failed at his monastic studies and so decided to dedicate his life to the service of Camino pilgrims During his 90-year lifespan the saint built first a wooden and then a stone bridge so that pilgrims would not have to wade across the river Oja He also constructed a hospital complex, which today has been transformed into this luxury hotel In front of the hotel is this monument built in 1971 by the sculptor, Vicente Ochoa. The central figure is a pilgrim dressed in traditional garb. His symbols are a staff, a hollowed-out gourd for drinking water, a travel pouch, and the traditional cape decorated with scallop shells. Behind him are sculptures of the Santiago cross and scenes from Saint Dominic’s life The saint became the patron of engineers and the elderly. The town’s landscape is dominated by this 18th century Baroque tower, which pilgrims can climb to get a panoramic vista of the town centre and the surrounding countryside. Next to it is the famed Cathedral of Santo Domingo, which contains Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque elements. A second 13th century entrance dedicated to Saint Peter consists of seven smooth archivolts that project out from the door The interior of the church contains the tomb of Santo Domingo with its covering masterpiece of medieval funerary sculpture. The tomb was a recommended shrine for pilgrims dating back to the 12th century Codex Calixtinus This illuminated manuscript is considered by scholars to be the original guide to the Camino The shrine also contains this more recent sculpture of the saint standing beneath a silver arch The church’s Gothic interior allows abundant light to fall upon the church’s altar, nave and ambulatory. In the early 20th century, a false crypt was added to house the relics of Santo Domingo. The small chamber is accessible down these stairs and was designed for pilgrims to walk around the tomb in the style of a traditional ambulatory On the wall opposite the staircase is this chicken coop with a live rooster and hen inside This unusual structure, which has a Papal permit, has its origins in a medieval miracle story involving Santo Domingo According to the tradition a German couple and their 18 year old son were walking to Santiago and stopped in the town to pay homage to the relics of Santo Domingo. At the inn that evening the owner’s daughter felt hopelessly in love with the teenage son but her affections were not reciprocated To exact vengeance for her suffering the daughter planted a silver vessel in the youth’s baggage The next day she reported the missing cup, and it was discovered in the son’s possession An act of thievery was punished by hanging during this era, and the youth was executed forthwith His grieving parents continued their journey to Santiago and on their way home stopped again in Santo Domingo to visit his grave. When they arrived in the town they were shocked to see their son still hanging on the gallows and alive. The excited son cried out to them, Santo Domingo has brought me back to life. Please go to the mayor’s house and ask him to take me down. His parents ran quickly to the official’s home, found him at dinner and reported their son’s request. He answered, that boy is as alive as these two roast chickens on my table At once the chickens sprouted feathers and beaks and began to crow. The boy was cut down and the family returned in joy to Germany One of the chapels in the cathedral has this image of Santiago as

Matamoros, the Slayer of the Moors Representations of Santiago in this form are found in many churches along the Camino. They reference a miraculous figure who appeared on a white horse at the legendary Battle of Clavijo and helped the Christian army defeat the Moors The story has been shown to be invented centuries after the alleged battle took place Though based on legend, this icon came to represent Spain’s national identity as the protector of the Catholic faith from its enemies Santiago was named the patron saint of Spain in the 17th century but was demoted to patron of the Spaniards by Pope Clement XIII a century later. In his place the Immaculate Conception was declared patroness of Spain as a country The icon of Matamoros has receded in importance in today’s more secular Spain and as the country’s Muslim population has steadily increased The Matamoros statue at the Cathedral of Santiago was slated for removal after the Madrid train bombings of 2004, but the decision was reversed following a public outcry In the 17th century this chapel was built. It contains the relics of many Catholic martyrs. Pilgrimage to the reliquaries of saints was a common practice for Christians during the medieval era It was widely believed that the Saints blessing was especially accessible at these shrines The Camino between Santo Domingo and Burgos flattens out and is filled with picturesque landscapes, wheat fields and historic stone houses At Belorado, the trail crosses next to this medieval stone bridge over the river Tiron Soon the twin spires of Burgos Cathedral come into view Burgos is a thriving commercial, cultural and political center and has played a significant role in Spanish history since its founding in 884 By the 11th century, Burgos had become the capital of the kingdom of Castile Its various rulers played a dominant role in the reconquest of Spain. The Spanish language in its classical form originates in this area. Although many dialects of Spanish exist in the world, it is said that the purest form of the language is found in this region. The Cathedral of Santa Maria is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and sits in the city’s center. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, it is a must-see stop for pilgrims and tourists, many of whom have their photos taken next to this metal statue in the main square. The city provides a welcome hiatus for weary hikers who need a few days rest. Some pilgrims begin their Camino here or resume a Camino from past years The cathedral’s famed western facade draws its inspiration from contemporaneous facades at cathedrals in Paris and other cities in France At the ground level, the 13th century portal of St. Mary consists of three pointed arches. The right door is used by travelers who attend the evening pilgrim’s mass in a chapel just inside and to the right The facade’s 13th century second level contains a Cistercian-inspired rosette, with tracery depicting a seal of Solomon or six pointed star. This symbol, which repeats the six pointed star above the middle portal, was used as a protective talisman in Medieval and Renaissance-era magic and alchemy and denoted mastery over spirit beings and the ability to communicate with the animal kingdom The third level features this elegant gallery containing statues of the first eight kings of Castile and above it a representation of the Virgin and Child. Two identical towers rise up on both sides and are topped with finely fretted spires created by the German master John of Cologne The Gothic Sarmental door is the one most used by visitors and opens out into the Plaza del Rey. This 13th-century portal features a well-preserved tympanum with Jesus enthroned in majesty holding the tablets of the law and surrounded by the four evangelists. The evangelists are represented both symbolically as the lion, bull, eagle and angel, and as humans writing the Gospels at their desks. The tympanum is surrounded by

three archivolts displaying the twenty-four elders of the apocalypse and several choirs of angels. Underneath the evangelists are statues of the 12 apostles and the figures of Aaron and Moses The highlights of the interior include the star-vaulted central dome, the ornate domes of the side chapels, the Virgin crowned in glory from the gold encrusted main altarpiece, the wood-carved renaissance choir stalls, the peaceful cloister, and the alabaster tomb sculptures of the children of Ferdinand and Isabella. Beneath the main dome is the tomb of El Cid, Spain’s national hero and the leader of successful military campaigns against the Moorish kingdoms of Andalucia Pilgrims also can visit the convent of Santa Maria de Huelgas, an architectural gem that today houses a small group of reformed Cistercian nuns. The nuns follow a more rigorous practice of the Rule of Saint Benedict, with frequent and lengthy fasts and vigils The abbey was established by Pope Clement III in 1187 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. From an early period it enjoyed the patronage of the kings and queens of Castile and became the burial place of the royal family and a repository of their religious treasures The ornate royal tombs are still housed in the Abbey Church as seen in this 19th century etching Among the many treasures found in the convent are this ornate fountain and the well preserved Romanesque cloister, with its graceful pillars and decorated capitals. This unusual statue of Christ was used to grant royal authority by moving its right arm up and down with a sword These historical sites along the Camino can have an unexpected impact on today’s pilgrims It’s interesting, like a number of the young people with me wouldn’t be necessarily weekly mass goers or even monthly mass goers But we were talking about it last night and they said they had a very felt experience of walking in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands and millions of pilgrims going back through history over thousands of years making their way to Santiago and they’re part of that story now and it had a profound effect on them because I think in some ways as blessed as we are in this world today one of our greatest problems is of disconnection, so people really struggle to find where they belong and here belonging comes very easily and I think that’s maybe one of the greatest gifts of the Camino For other peregrinos the churches and historical monuments are secondary to the human kindness and connections they find walking the way I mean what I’ve found as well is, I’ve forgotten the names of the towns and villages because they’re just places to me. It’s the feelings that I’ve had that are much more important than the town name or church I mean Steve himself has received lots of help along the way. One chap with his blisters and I don’t think I probably would have made it if people didn’t give me the proper advice. ‘Cause you gotta listen to people cause they know And they’re all doin’ it with a good intention, no ulterior motives. I mean I knew before I done this but I don’t know why but I thought I was gonna be in pain when I was gonna do it but since day one I have been in really bad pain but I’ve had the time of my life, and I want to do it again For me it was about seeing people going through this journey and finding the strength to continue and reflecting on things within their life or things they wanted to achieve with their life. I thought a lot about my mom and my grandmother just because they’re for me tied to my spirituality and my strength as a person and really regaining a trusting in humanity I think, seeing the positivity on the trail, smiles when someone says, buen camino and regardless of their state or how tired they are Pilgrims next walk to Carrion de los Condes and Sahagun This stretch is considered to be one of the most difficult because there are few pilgrim services and it can be quite hot in the middle of summer Because of the low ambient light and arid environment, stargazers have a clear view of the Milky Way in the early morning

Carrion de los Condes is a small town with a popular hostel run by nuns. The nuns organize a concert every night and invite pilgrims to sing songs from their own countries. The 12th century Church of Santiago was rebuilt in 1845 after being destroyed in a war against the French Pilgrims can climb the bell tower and enjoy a panoramic vista of the town, which has roots in the Roman and Visigothic periods. The museum inside features this 13th century polychrome statue of Our Lady of Pilgrims and a statue of Santiago as Matamoros An image of the woman crowned with twelve stars standing on the moon from the Book of Revelation displays a common feature of Baroque Spanish icons, real human hair Pilgrims next come to Sahagun, once a thriving market town with over 30 Romanesque churches. The site has significance for peregrinos simply by the fact that it is about seven kilometers from the geographical halfway point between Roncesvalles and Santiago de Compostela. The actual midway point is this chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Bridge. The chapel is what remains of a former pilgrim’s hospice and cemetery Founded in the 8th century along with the monastery of St. Benedict, Sahagun’s fortunes began to decline at the end of the 15th century along with the Camino itself The town has seen a revival with the Camino’s modern resurgence and now has a variety of hostels and cafes The town also features some restored architectural gems related to the Mudejar style. This style is unique to the history of Spain and represents a meeting point between Christian and Islamic materials, techniques, and formal elements The best example of this style is the Church of Santa Tirso, with its semicircular arches, graceful porticos, brickwork and tiles that illustrate Mujedar’s fusion of Romanesque and Moorish elements The nearby Shrine of Our Lady of pilgrims sits on a small hill overlooking the town at a spot where the French Way intersects with the Madrid Way During the 13th century it was a Franciscan convent of some significance Today it is an educational center and exhibition hall for modern art as well as the place where pilgrims can get the Carta Peregrin, a certificate verifying their visit to this halfway point. A side chapel is decorated with the geometric and floral designs characteristic of Moorish plaster works On the main altar is this statue of the Virgin of Pilgrims, which wears a set of clothes that is changed periodically and jewels that were gifts from over the centuries She also wears symbols of the Camino including a cane, satchel and shell Like other Baroque statues the hair is real, in this case a donation from a young girl with leukemia. During the procession on her feast day of July 2nd, the Virgin sports a wide-brimmed hat and her jewels are removed As the weeks roll by, the Camino passport verifying that one has walked the required distance begins to fill in But for many pilgrims the passport’s importance fades and the relationships with other peregrinos become their most significant experiences The first couple of days I was the first one at all of our base camps, and I wasn’t talking to anybody at that point I would occasionally stop by and chat with people. But I would just walk into a cafe, get a stamp to show that I’d been on the Camino, leave, go to the next point, try to go as fast possible. And I was really just thinking point A to point B to point C, trying to get it all done like a list I’m very organized normally so I was trying to just tick it all off. And the more I walked the Camino, the more I realized that the people around me were the most interesting part. It’s not trying to get to Sarria or any of these other towns that I’m trying to get to and tick off these boxes. It taught me more to enjoy living in the moment. If I walked past these people I might never hear their stories and their stories are fascinating and they teach me so much so I think the Camino was a space, almost like a timeless space,

I didn’t have to worry about some deadline I’d created in my mind, about getting to this next point. We’d all get there eventually, we’re all walking together so so why not enjoy the community. So I also ended up always being last because I was chatting with people There’s a definite sense of caring for each other and so overwhelming that it affects you that you can’t help but take that on The city of Leon has its origins as a Roman military settlement In 910 it became the capital of the kingdom of Leon and played a prominent role during the Reconquista. The city created the first European Parliament in 1188 and was recognized for this by UNESCO in 2013 It continues to be a popular resting place for pilgrims and features several architectural masterpieces. The first of these is the Casa Botines, created by Antoni Gaudí to harmonize architecturally with the city’s Gothic cathedral Its neo-gothic elements include medieval looking towers on its four corners and the sculpture of St. George slaying a dragon that sits above the portal of the main facade. A short distance from this structure is the magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria, a Gothic edifice built over a Roman bath complex and opened in 1302 The cathedral’s design is by the same master, Enrique, who worked on Burgos Cathedral. Called the Pulchra Leonina, or beauty of Lyon, it is also considered to be the most French of Spanish cathedrals. Because of the poor quality of limestone used in its construction and the moisture coming from its foundations, the Cathedral has undergone frequent restorations during its lifespan The main facade features two massive towers, a large rose window, three portals decorated with sculptures including the Last Judgement, and the statue of the White Virgin The most admired elements of the interior are the nearly 1,800 square meters of stained glass windows, the majority of which date from the 13th to the 15th centuries. The blue colors especially stand out and are considered one of the rare treasures of the Cathedral. The glass has undergone a meticulous cleaning over the past 10 years. Another interior masterwork is this neo-gothic altarpiece that incorporates five panels from an older altarpiece created in the Flemish Gothic style Pilgrims also visit the Collegiate Church of San Isidore, a place of great historical and artistic significance The original structure, built over a Roman temple to Mercury, was destroyed during a Moorish invasion and rebuilt during the 11th and 12th centuries The new monastery and Chapel gained prominence when the relics of San Isidore were brought from Seville and installed in 1063. Isidore was the most celebrated theologian and Archbishop of Visigothic Spain This statue of this saint as Matamoros dominates the church’s facade. The facade is also decorated with these representations of the signs of the zodiac, a common feature of Romanesque and Gothic doorways The chapel inside was chosen as the site of the royal burial chamber for the house of Leon in the 11th century. Today it is a museum that houses the tombs of eleven kings and many queens and nobles. This Romanesque funeral chapel features columns crowned with rare Visigothic capitals and well-preserved 12th century painted murals depicting New Testament themes and scenes of rural life The Church museum holds among its treasures the chalice of Dona Urraca Urraca was the daughter of Ferdinand the Great and a contemporary of El Cid. After an active life of royal intrigue, she donated the chalice and her royal jewels to the church and entered a convent in Leon just prior to her death in 1101 The Kings of the Grail, published in 2014, claims the chalice was made in the early Christian era and was preserved in the early Christian community of Jerusalem It found its way to Cairo during the Crusades and was then gifted to Ferdinand as a peace offering by a Moorish ruler. The authors claim it may be the Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus and His disciples at the Last Supper

The body of the chalice is formed by two pieces of Eastern Roman Onyx, one a drinking vessel and one a base. Queen Urraca had the cup decorated with precious jewels, golden filigree and a Roman cameo and shaped into a chalice Mainstream archaeologists point out that there are more than two hundred cups that vie for the title of Holy Grail, but this one has the distinction of having the longest documented historical pedigree. In any case many pilgrims find it a compelling artifact and often wait in line to enter the small chamber that houses it Leon is also the headquarters of the Friends of the Road Association of Santiago This hospitality association is one of many in Spain whose mission is to serve pilgrims at hostels along the Camino. These volunteers are often former peregrinos themselves. Then I became a hospitalero because what it is usually said that I wanted to give back to people in the Camino what the Camino gave me in fact. And I know, I am absolutely sure the Camino has given me many things, many spiritual things, and mental things When you arrive in Santiago you feel really like a different person and the most important thing is that when you go back home you try to do, to work, to act, to behave like a different person

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