The Camino Frances

The Camino Frances

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Cathedral

Today I spent most of the day in and around the Cathedral.  It is one of the best conserved historic centers of the world. I began by doing a circumnavigation of the exterior of the cathedral. It has a plaza on all 4 sides, and is opposite San Martin Pinario Monastery, on the side of the Plaza de las Inmaculada. I am going there tonight to meet Annie, whom I met at Rabanal. She is staying there before returning to Ireland and we are going to have dinner. The Obradoiro Plaza is faced by the Parador, where I hope to have a free meal tomorrow. The other sides have the Plaza de Quintana, faced by another monastery, and  the Plaza of Prateras, where there are many souvenir shops.  Prateras translates as silverworker, I think.

 Then I did a walk around the inside of the Cathedral. It is so huge - overwhelming, really, and around a big section of the exterior walls are chapels dedicated to kings, and apostles, and Mary, and El Pilar, who will be celebrated tomorrow. It is a festival day, and most shops will be closed. It combines the day of El Pilar, Columbus´ discovery of America, and Army day ( big parades in Madrid).  The decoration is over the top, and everywhere you look there is carving on the walls, the blocks of stones, and the wood. I visited St James, who is the centerpiece of the altar. You can walk up behind him - he is larger than lifesize - and give him a hug. Then you can visit his bones, which are in a silver box in the crypt underneath the altar.

Then, at 11 am, I had a 2 hour tour of the roof, and upper areas. We actually went onto the roof of several sections of the church. The roof is stone, so even though it rained at least half of the tour, it wasn´t slippery, though I did have a bit of vertigo. Fortunately there were only 4 on the tour, so the guide held on to me several times when I looked nervous. The roof is full of monuments, bell towers, including one where the ringer used to live, and his animals roamed on the roof. There are towers with clocks too. The guide pointed out the chimneys on surrounding buildings. Apparently, the richer you were the bigger the chimneys. We also walked the balconies overlooking the main part of the church. Amazing!

Then I walked around the city, and that is where I  met Annie, who was amusing herself playing her penny whistle in the arcaded parts. I fortified myself with a cafe con leche and a piece of tarta de Santiago - I can only eat that pastry and one other, so I did enjoy it. It is made with almonds, eggs and sugar - did I mention it before? - I think so.

Next, I took a tour of the museum of the Cathedral. 4 floors of exhibits, plus an exterior balcony and the crypt. The audio tour was only 1 euro, so  I took it and I learned a lot.  There  were many pieces of art,  and I especially liked one of Madonna and child with an exposed breast. I will check the museum shop tomorrow to see if there is a reproduction on a postcard. It was a plaster picture in a frame, done by a woman in the 17th century, I think. There were rooms full of tapestries, and some were designed by Goya at the royal workshops for weaving. In the chapter house, there was a real live nun, who I think I saw singing in the service yesterday. She was folding a series of white gowns which I think the priests wear, and laying them out neatly folded over very antique benches. The cloister is where the priests are buried, so the walkway is lined with tombstones, laid into the cement and stone.

So, tomorrow, I will try for the free meal, visit the market, and see a few more museums. Most of them are free, or inexpensive. Then on Saturday, I fly late in the day to Switzerland. So far, I think I have used my time well. I left the albergue this morning at 8 and just now returned to use the internet. It is not a very comfortable place, so I am headed out to find a bank machine, and meet Annie for dinner at 8 pm.

Enjoy your day!

Darlene, the tourist, and recovering pilgrim

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