I had a great final day on the Camino Friday!
My final day of walking began early as I was intent on arriving in Santiago mid-morning before the crush of other pilgrims. My “remote” innkeeper, Jose, picked me up at before 6AM and deposited me at the trail head. It was still dark, but I was able pick my way along the trail, and gradually the dawn provided some light to guide me. I reached Monte del Gozo overlooking Santiago de Compostela about 8:30AM and was in the city by 9:30AM. Amazingly, I ran into Hans, my friend from Day 1, as I headed toward the cathedral, and we took some pictures together in the plaza. I visited a small chapel to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for a safe and rewarding Camino, and was able to get my compostela certificate in short order. I finished the morning with a celebratory breakfast of eggs and champagne as I waited for my room to be prepared – then I took a nap. 😉
I’m in a nice hostel near a beautiful city park and just outside the old town. Later in the day I walked back to explore the interior of the cathedral. This ancient church was originally constructed in the 1100’s but is the core of a massive complex of buildings that were constructed over the course of hundreds of years. The cathedral is currently undergoing a major renovation, and its condition looked much improved since my last visit 5 years ago.
This church is not nearly as ornate as the cathedral in Burgos, but it oozes ancient charm. I performed all the pilgrim rituals today which included: walking behind the alter and placing my arms around the bust of St. James to receive his blessing; visiting the crypt just below the alter to spend a moment with his relics resting in a silver coffin; and participating in the evening pilgrim mass. The mass was packed with pilgrims with many of us standing, but the service was beautiful with music from the huge pipe organ and a final blessing using the “botafumeiro” (incense burner). It takes a half-dozen attendants hauling on ropes to propel the large botafumeiro across the length of the transept filling the space with that distinct smell. My guidebook suggests that this practice was originally adopted in the Middle Ages to fumigate the smelly and even disease-ridden pilgrims!
In the evening I had a simple meal with fellow pilgrims Hans and Rosemarie – a nice way to end a great day. Saturday is my last day in Santiago so I plan to do some more exploring and some shopping. Very much looking forward to heading back home on Sunday!