Santiago de Compostela, the star-paved city

«The fifteen bells chiming from the Torre de las Campanas of the cathedral awoke me frommy uneasy slumbers, and I was glad to escape from the stifling room which I shared withanother pilgrim.Santiago de Compostela is famed for its wet weather and the natives glory in their dampclimate, saying that there are only thirty fine days in the year, and they claim that itsmediaeval buildings and granite-paved streets display their full beauty only in rain anddrizzle. This day, however, the sun was shining and the dancing sunbeams and mellow bellsroused the colourful crowd of peasants who thronged the narrow street at an early hour; andsome of them had spent the hours before dawn huddled in doorways under the arcades. Manyof the women had handkerchiefs of red, yellow or green draped round their heads and theirmenfolk, dressed in brown and black, added to the riot of colour with their red and orangewaistcoats. The chimes reverberated above the clattering of the countless sabots on the granitepavement, and there was a continual dialogue between the booming bells of bronze and thestrident clattering bells of brass.The bells of Compostella are more melancholy than those of our northern countries with theirmerry carillons; they remind us of our long pilgrimage through history, for these are the bellsthat, when Almanzor sacked Compostella in 997, were carried on the backs of the captivetownsfolk all the way to Córdoba to serve as lamps and perfume censers in the great mosqueuntil the day of Christian reckoning when they reappeared at Santiago de Compostella on theshoulders of the captive Moors.As I threaded my way through the crowded Rúa Nueva towards the cathedral to make mymusical offering to St. James, to my great surprise I bumped into the lame Jacobean pilgrimand his father whom I had met in the spring at Carcassone.“All the roads end in Santiago,” I said. “Now you have earned your rest.”“It was hardly earned,” said the old man. “At one time I was certain we should never get here.My son fell ill in Burgos of pneumonia and had to go to hospital. That delayed us a wholemonth.” “I recovered rapidly,” said the young man testily, “but my father does not believe inthe miracle of penicillin and he would not believe that I was cured.”“Where are you going with your fiddle?” said the father.“I am going to make my musical offering to the Apostle in my own traditional way, but youtwo must come and help me.”When we reached the Plaza del Hospital we ascended the majestic double stairway beneaththe Portico of Glory and saw in front of us, in all its unearthly beauty, the Gate of Glorywhich for the past seven hundred years has been the Porticus Quietis of countless pilgrimsafter their weary tramping along the Jacobean road.Often, on my pilgrimage, I had thought of this moment. As I gazed at the great centraltympanum where Christ sits enthroned and surrounded by angels, saints, and the rest of theglorified company, the words of the Apocalypse came to my mind: ‘And I saw a new heavenand a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there wasno more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out ofheaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’Christ in all His majesty extends His arms, showing the wounds in His hands and in Hisside. A remote, impressive Christ in stature, crowned with diadem; wide-eyed, with noblebrow, flowing hair and venerable beard, but the impressions of a stern frown is mitigated bya touch of gentle thoughtfulness. Draped round Him is the classical pallium, which leavesthe right shoulder bare. He wears the long white robe girdled in accordance with the wordsof Isaiah, ‘and righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins and faithfulness the girdle of Hisreins’.At the feet of our Lord sits St. James the Apostle leaning on a tau-staff. His throne rests on the back of lions, but under his bare feet is green grass, and in contrast to the remote majesty ofthe Saviour, he is benign in expression.“Quelle beauté dans son regard: quelle simplicité,”cried the old Frenchman. “On diraitqu’il a survécu a toutes les faiblesses de l’humanité.”“How different he is to the Santiago Matamoros we saw riding his fierce warhorse atLogroño, or the other ‘sauvage’ at Calzado de los Molinos, trampling upon the heads ofMoors,” said the young man excitedly.“Kindliness, nobility and elegance,” I said, “are the attributes of the Great Wayfarer whoat last has reached his haven of rest in the New Jerusalem.”“Surely the stick the Apostle leans on is not the usual pilgrim staff,” said the youngFrenchman.“Here,” I said, “Santiago has become the interceder and ‘Guide of Souls’ the tau-staffis no pilgrim staff, but a magic wand like that which according to the ‘Great Passion’ in theBook of St. James, he gave to the magician Hermogenes to protect him against the demonswho had been his disciples before his conversion.”“Now I understand,” said the old Frenchman, “why you are so eager to make your musicaloffering. Why, this whole portico echoes with music. This is indeed music frozen into stone.Even our Lord in all His majesty softens His expressions as he listens to the chanting angels,and St. James leaning on his magic wand seems to be waiting for the heavenly orchestra ofthe twenty-four Ancients of the Apocalypse to begin.”»


(Walter Starkie, The Road to Santiago, London: John Murray, 1957, p. 308-310)

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Sprachen und Sprachpolitik entlang des Jakobsweges, Romanisches Seminar der CAU zu Kiel: 28.05.2013
Sprachen und Sprachpolitik entlang des Jakobsweges, Romanisches Seminar der CAU zu Kiel: 28.05.2013
EUROPA AUF DEN JAKOBSWEGEN            KIEL, LANDESHAUS: 22. 11. – 19. 12. 2011 | CENTRE CULTUREL FRANÇAIS, KIEL: 24.01. - 24.02.2012
EUROPA AUF DEN JAKOBSWEGEN KIEL, LANDESHAUS: 22. 11. – 19. 12. 2011 | CENTRE CULTUREL FRANÇAIS, KIEL: 24.01. - 24.02.2012
Congress Santiago (21./22.10.2011)
Congress Santiago (21./22.10.2011)