Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17, 2011: Santiago - Pilgrim's Service, Pork and More Pork, Old Town, Cathedral Roof, Dinner

Today Mark was off to the university to give a talk, so I was one my own for touring about. The weather had gotten colder overnight and there was a steady rain - why didn't I bring some shoes other than sandals? It had seemed impossible to imagine that Spain would be so much damper and cooler than France.

However, the walk into the heart of the city wasn't bad, and then I had a good long visit at the cathedral to warm up. Every morning they conduct a services for the pilgrims, and I wanted to stay to watch it all. There's a censer (that holds burning incense) on a long rope that is lowered, lit, and then swung back and forth - in the past it was necessary to cover the scent of so many unwashed pilgrims (who had been walking, maybe for months, through all kinds of weather, with no change of clothing). Now it's just a fun ritual. They swing it amazingly high, almost to the ceiling. The crowds were huge - standing room only.

After Mark was done for the day we went for a walk around Santiago with Eugenio. It's a beautiful old city with a distinctly different look from France - in particular there are white, glassed-in "balconies" on the top levels of the stone buildings, designed to take advantage of as much sun as possible in this inclement area.

In the evening Mark and I went up on the cathedral roof for an extensive tour. It was better than most roof tours because the roof was actually designed to be walked on, all over - a shallow enough grade and wide stone shingles. Pilgrims traditionally climbed up to the roof to burn their clothing (the church provided new clothing to them). Amazing views and great weather at last - glad the sun was out for this part of the day.

And to eat - more than one kind of delicious pork, and more great seafood! Grilled octopus was particularly amazing - we had it at a very chic hotel restaurant at dinner with friends of Eugenio.

The censer getting started

And the censer high in the air, almost at its peak.

Sunny balconies.

Beautiful old tree.

A park with oddly Japanese wall structures? No - it's a former cemetery, with niches covered up.

Mark in a door meant for midgets?

Burning in hell has never looked so blissful...

I loved the 3D, polychromatic, highly dramatic imagery in this small church 

One of the ubiquitous seashells (a symbol of the pilgrimage, brought home from the seashore as proof of having made it to their destination).

All restaurants have glass-fronted refrigerators displaying their fresh seafood wares to passersby on the street - notice the lovingly draped octopi on the top shelf.

This angel in the cathedral is designed to hold a hanging lamp, but at first I thought it was offering up a microphone at some kind of rock concert - there's something about the place that channels Elvis.

Mysterious markings on the cathedral's stone walls... Actually, Eugenio told us that they're the insignia of stoneworkers, and there's nothing arcane about it at all. But I could see it turning up in some Da Vinci Code style of book.

Up on top of the cathedral.

A view from behind of the statues on the roof.

Our guide pointed out the unusual stepped-pyramid form of these tower roofs - it's unknown why they were designed this way.

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