When my grandfather José left the banks of the Esla to go and live in León, he built his house by the Trobajo road; and so the French Way was for me, when I was a child, as natural as the sea for those who live beside it. Not only the earthly Way, which included that road fringed with black poplars that linked my grandfather’s house with San Marcos Monastery, and along which I used to walk hand-in-hand with my father, but also the road traced in the sky by its broad milky trail.
‘That is the Way to Santiago. It passes right in front of the house.’
I knew the little window of the cell in San Marcos Monastery where Quevedo –the man famous for his jokes– was held prisoner, and I also knew that this monumental building, with its gold-coloured walls adorned with friezes, medallions and niches, had once been a pilgrims’ hospital. [...]
I also found out that one of the true ends of the Way –without doubt the most poetic one– is the Church of Santiago, in Villafranca, where those pilgrims who, having lost their health and the strength needed to walk through Galicia, breathed their last gasps and waited for death, having gained their jubilee at the Puerta del Perdón, by special privilege.
José María Merino,