Sunday, 1 April 2018

Processions and pilgrimages.

Easter Sunday. I read that a church somewhere ordered some posters to put outside today inviting people in to celebrate the resurrection. Unfortunately the printers omitted one important letter and delivered banners which read “Chris is risen”. It’s just as well that someone noticed in time.

The year that we spent the Easter weekend in Salamanca I witnessed the “reencuentro”, the moment when the risen Christ meets the Virgin Mary, in the square below the balcony of our pensión. It’s very cleverly done. The statue of the Virgin comes into the square from one side and the statue of Christ Resurrected from the other. The floats are, of course, carried by men from the various cofradías. As the statues approach each other the men at the front of each float bend their knees so that the Christ and Mary appear to bow to each other in greeting. It must take some practice.

The following morning we set off from our pensión to walk to Salamanca railway station, en route for Mérida and then further south to visit my sister. On the way to the station we stopped for breakfast in a cafe and picked up the local paper. There was a photo of the “reencuentro”. Behind the statues you could clearly see the building with our pensión on its first floor. And on the balcony of the pensión there I was! Fame at last!

The friend I lunched with last week talked a lot about her experience of doing the Camino de Santiago, not from a religious but definitely a spiritual point of view. The BBC has had a bunch of celebrities walking the Camino. One of my sources said they complained about having to go over mountains to get from France onto Spain. This may be one of the reasons I decided not to watch the series.

Fewer people seem to believe in the religious side of it but the numbers of people who find a kind of peace walking the camino are said to increasingly greatly. The British Pilgrimage Trust is apparently getting in on the act, promoting what is described as a mini pilgrimage. They want to re-establish The Old Way, an ancient pilgrimage route which was rediscovered from Britain’s oldest road map. The whole route is 217 miles from Southampton to Canterbury and they say it takes about two weeks to walk it. The last three days go from Ham Street to Canterbury Cathedral, going through ancient woodlands, past a medieval castle, a bit of what used to be the shoreline in ancient Saxon times but which is now miles inland. There are holy wells and incongruously a safari park. I bet ancient pilgrims did not see lions and the like.

As regards the spiritual peace, I sometimes think any long walk, away from the beaten track and away from the stresses of everyday life, will provide it. And although much is made of the community of the pilgrimage, I thoroughly enjoy the solitude of good long walk, letting my thoughts wander where they will.

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