Sunday, September 27: Palas de Rei to Ribadiso
Monday, September 28: Ribadiso to Villamaior
Tuesday, September 29: a short 10k walk into Santiago
We arrived around 10:00am with plenty of time to take the requisite arrival photo in front of the Cathedral…
and to wait in line to receive our official “Compostela” certificate. It’s pretty cool, written in Latin with my name spelled Ioannem (who would have guessed?).
Thus, we have completed what amounts to a Catholic “haj.” In the Middle Ages this would have qualified us for indulgences and time out of purgatory, concepts that can only make one raise an eyebrow today. Even this modern pilgrimage got a little weird toward the end; to receive the certificate, you need to walk only the last 100km and get your “credential” stamped twice every day. Thus, a large number of folks started just before the 100km mark; the tenor of the Camino changed over the last couple days, more people, busses, noise, less quiet walking in the countryside.
The cathedral mass at noon today was a fitting summary for our journey. A huge baroque building containing 2000 people in celebration mode. A kindly Spanish priest saying mass with six others from around the world. Singing led by an earnest nun. And the finale, a five foot tall incense burner, suspended from the highest point in the cathedral, swung like a pendulum by the acolytes to careen wildly over the heads of the congregation. It was all joyful, and a bit surreal.
Our walk to Santiago has been a great experience: The long walks through the mountains and countryside , wonderful. The Roman/Visigoth/Arabic/Spanish heritage, incredible. The tradition of the Catholic Church, comforting. The culture of the Camino de Santiago, usually communal and lovely, but sometimes a bit odd.
When you fill out the administrative survey to receive your Compostela, the last question asks whether your goals were a) religious, b) spiritual, or c) cultural. But can you really isolate those things into separate boxes? Personally, I would add d) physical and e) environmental into that pot of stew as well.
And who knows? Indulgences and time off from purgatory? When it comes to such things, I for one don’t have much room to take chances. It seems like a no-brainer Pascal’s Wager Lite proposition. So when it came to our turn, I gratefully accepted my certificate with a big smile and will hope for the best.
We’re not completely done yet. After a two day rest in Santiago we begin a three day walk to the Atlantic coast at Finnesterre. This will be a very Celtic-green part of Spain and should make for a beautiful walk. A Druid dessert after our Catholic stew. What the heck; if the Pascallian-wager doesn’t pan out, what a fun way to hedge the bet.