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A city around a tomb

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The *traslatio* of Saint James, on a stone relief on Padrón’s Municipal Chamber.

Every city has its origin on some cause or pretext: natural or human
resources, stages and crossroads between them; power, oil, harbors…
most of them seem to have been placed by nature itself, arbitrarily.

Compostela, instead, was founded for a different a very particular
reason: the fact of there being buried a man, in a place that had been
previously nothing closer to a city than a derelict necropolis, abandoned in the top of a forested mount called Libredón, with some enigmatic ruins standing out, that were later found to be an early Christian temple. As tradition goes, the remains of the apostle arrived by sea from Jaffa to Iria Flavia, an ancient settlement on the confluence of the rivers Sar and Ulla, and from there to the necropolis on an oxcart, centuries before being discovered by a hermit called Paio on a distant day of the year 813.

Since it was found out that one those ancient tombs was lodging nothing
else than the remains of James, son of Zebedee, the Jesus’ Apostle that
had been beheaded in Jerusalem on 44 AD, the sepulcher has been receiving an unending tribute, and surrounding it were built, first a small shrine, then an inconspicuous monastery and a settlement surrounding it, encouraged by a royal privilege that, in a full feudal era, made a free man of anyone who had remained inside the city for 40 days without being claimed as his vassal by any feudal lord. Many things have happened since, up to the city we know today, surrounding a cathedral that surrounds an ancient tomb. A long —yet relatively short— history, with battles against Vikings, Arabs
and French invaders, a five times centenary university, and the lengthy
litigations to preserve its status as the holiest city in Western
Europe.

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The urn with the apostle’s remains.

Few cities as Compostela can be so sure of the exact reason why they are here and now. And there is it still, the tomb of the Apostle James the Elder, his remains and those of his two faithful companions Athanasius and Theodore within a richly engraved silver urn in the crypt beneath the cathedral’s high altar.

Visiting the tomb of Santiago is one of those inescapable pilgrimage
rituals in Compostela; regardless of any debates about historical
truths, and no matter which one’s own beliefs may be, the sepulcher of Santiago is a spiritual and cultural symbol with a universal value.

The Camino Portugués

As we announced a few months ago, Caminofácil has started providing services in the Camino Portugués through our friends at TransferTaxi, beginning in Porto. The stages we cover are:

  1. Porto – Vilarinho
  2. Vilarinho – Barcelos
  3. Barcelos – Ponte de Lima
  4. Ponte de Lima – Rubiaes
  5. Rubiaes – Valença do Minho
  6. Valença do Minho – Tui
  7. Tui – Porriño.
  8. Porriño – Redondela.
  9. Redondela – Pontevedra
  10. Pontevedra – Caldas de Reis.
  11. Caldas de Reis – Padrón.
  12. Padrón – Santiago de Compostela.

 

You can make your reservations now in our website.

Pontevedra
Picture via José Antonio Gil Martínez

The Camino Portugués.

After the Camino Francés, the portuguese way is currently the most popular one among pilgrims, and it has a long history behind it, stretching back to the discovery itself of the apostle’s tomb. By the XII century, when Portugal declared independence from the kingdom of Galicia, the route was already well established, and during the following centuries, important personalities like Santa Isabel (queen of Portugal) walked its roads to reach Santiago.

During the early years of XX century, with the appearance of the sanctuary in Fatima, the Camino experienced a dip in popularity, due to the “competition” from another pilgrimage site in Portugal, but in the last few years, it has benefitted from the renewed interest in the Caminos, as well as the work of associations and amateurs who have documented its history and marked the traditional routes. Today, the pilgrim can choose a variety of paths through Portugal (coastal, inland…) in order to reach Santiago and receive the “compostela”.

 

The botafumeiro

We start the year in this blog talking about one of the elements most closely associated with the Compostela pilgrimage: the botafumeiro, the enormous incense burner (or thurible) in Santiago Cathedral that swings

Botafumeiro

What does “botafumeiro” mean?

The name “botafumeiro”, in galician language, means “smoke expeller”, though strictly speaking, a more correct expression would be “bota fume” or “fumeiro”.

Where does it come from?

The botafumeiro was installed in Santiago cathedral for the first time in the XIII or XIV century, in order to alleviate the odor caused by the masses of pilgrims that spent the night at the cathedral after their long voyage. Santiago wasn’t the only place with a similar device: in the past, the cathedrals of Orense, Zamora and Tuy also had their own botafumeiros. Nowadays, however, it’s only used in the latter in special occasions (and in Santiago, of course).

Through history, the temple has had four botafumeiros: the first one was used until 1530, when a new one was made of silver thanks to a donation from king Louis XI of France. This one, however, was stolen by the french troops during the Peninsular Wars in 1809, and it was replaced by a new one made of iron that was in comission until 1851, when the current one was built by José Losada, the same craftsman who made the urn where the remains of the apostle Santiago are kept.

What is the size of the botafumeiro?

The botafumeiro weights 80 kg. and measures 1.60 m. of height. Every time it’s used, it has to be filled with 40 kg. of charcoal and incense.

When the botafumeiro is used, seven “tirabuleiros” pull the ropes and make it swing, thanks to the elaborate system of pulleys in the cathedral. The botafumeiro swings for about 15 minutes, which is the time it takes for the priests to walk around the nave and aisles of the cathedral.

When can I see the botafumeiro?

The botafumeiro is used oficially during the opening and closing of the Holy Year of Jubilee, as well as in the most important religious celebrations. During the year 2016, these will be:

  • Epiphany, Jan. 6.
  • Easter (Resurrection Sunday).
  • Feast of the Ascension.
  • Apparition of the Apostle Santiago – Clavijo, May 23.
  • Pentecost.
  • Santiago Day, Jul. 25.
  • Assumption of Mary, Aug. 15.
  • All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1.
  • Feast of Christ the King.
  • Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8.
  • Christmas.
  • Moving of the body of the Apostle Santiago, Dec. 30.

The Camino Portugues with Caminofacil and TransferTaxi.es

We are hard at work preparing the upcoming season of the Camino, and today we can announce that, as part of our services, next year we will be providing luggage transfer services in the Camino Portugues (Portuguese Way) through our friends at Transfertaxi.es.

transfertaxi

Transfertaxi.es is a cab service located in Pontevedra which provides 24 hours transports and covers the airports of Vigo, Santiago and Porto. Transfertaxi.es also offers day trips through Galicia, services for events and all kinds of transport and messaging services.

The Camino Portugués starts in Lisbon, and passes along the portuguese cost through Coimbra and Porto before entering Spain through Tui. Caminofacil and Transfertaxi.es offer our services in the following stages:

  1. Porto – Vilarinho
  2. Vilarinho – Barcelos
  3. Barcelos – Ponte de Lima
  4. Ponte de Lima – Rubiaes
  5. Rubiaes – Valença do Minho
  6. Valença do Minho – Tui
  7. Tui – Porriño.
  8. Porriño – Redondela.
  9. Redondela – Pontevedra
  10. Pontevedra – Caldas de Reis.
  11. Caldas de Reis – Padrón.
  12. Padrón – Santiago de Compostela.

 

If you are going to walk the Camino Portugués and need your backpack carried for you, call us! We will be delighted to help you.

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Photo via Michael Rinkevich

Inocencio Bocanegra Radio Broadcasting Museum

When one thinks of all the historical sights that can be visited along the Camino de Santiago, what comes to mind are usually churches, cathedrals, abbeys… It’s quite less common to think, for example, about a soviet spacesuit from the 1960s:

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Or a reconstruction of a british trench from World War I…

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And yet, both things can be found by the pilgrim along the Camino, in the town of Belorado (Burgos), in the Inocencio Bocanegra Radio Broadcasting Museum.

The museum, created by the eponymous industrialist, hosts his personal collection of radio equipment: from the 1920s crystal radios, to military units used in all the conflicts of the XX century (german, american, soviet radios…)

 

 

In addition, and given the relationship of the collection with the military world, the museum also contains several mementos from that field, like a M-60 Patton tank, or a detailed reconstruction of a british trench during World War I, the biggest such in Europe.

 

 

The museum is installed in Belorado’s old grain silo, which has been restored, keeping all the machinery that it contained when it was in use.

In order to visit the museum, you have to make a previous appointment in the Belorado Tourism Office.

The legend of Eunate and Olcoz

As we mentioned when talking about the church of Santa Maria de Eunate, there is a church in the nearby village of Olcoz with an almost identical portico. This unique fact in romanesque art has caused lots of legends to sprung around these two works; here we will recount one of them.

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According to it, the portico in Santa Maria de Eunate was started by a master sculptor from the templar order, who after doing a large part of the work, had to leave for unspecified reasons. The local authorities called another local sculptor to finish the work, which he managed to do in only three days (according to some versions, this second sculptor was a giant, which would explain a lot, as we’ll see).

When the original sculptor came back from his voyage, he was angered by what he saw as an usurpation of his work. The local authorities challenged him then an identical portico in the same time that it took his substitute. Faced with such a challenge, the master had to resort to the black arts.

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(Pictures courtesy of TaxNavarra).

It was the midsummer night (St. John’s day). Following the advice of a witch that lived close to the nearby river Nekeas, the master hid himself close to the river, and waited until a huge snake appeared. The snake left a moonstone that it was carrying on its mouth on the shore. The master waited until the snake had submerged into the river, then picked up the moonstone and ran away to the unworked portico, which was already raised in front of Eunate. He put the moonstone in a cup full of the river’s water, put the cup under the portico, and waited…

…And when the moon reached its apogee, the portico’s stones started taking by themselves the shapes of the sculptures, columns… that existed in the original portico, only reversed. The only problem happened when the second sculptor found out. Angered by the copy that his competitor had made in just one night, he kicked the portico with such force that it flew away from Eunate to Olcoz, where it is now…

And indeed, the current portico in Olcoz is almost identical to the one in Eunate, except that its features are reversed.

 

San Millán de la Cogolla, origin of the spanish language

SanMillan01

Throught the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim can find many religious monuments (churches, monasteries…), remains of the centuries of tradition and history originated in this route. Among them, however, the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla is special, since it holds the honor of being considered the birthplace of the Castilian language, the most spoken language in modern Spain.

SanMillan02

The Monastery of Suso (one of the two existing monasteries in San Millán) was, in effect, the place where the “Glosas Emilianeses”, considered the first words written in Castilian (or at least a primitive version of it), were authored. These were notes written on the margin of latin codexes, in order to clarify words or expressions from the main text. Some of these comments were also written in a primitive version of the Basque language, so they can also be considered the oldest existing Basque text.

San Millán de la Cogolla was also the working place of Gonzalo de Berceo, considered the first literary writer in castillian. His main work, “Milagros de Nuestra Señora”, was a compilation of miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary written around 1260, and is considered as one of the first literary works written in Castilian.

Due to these reasons, the Monasteries of San Millán were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1997.

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Santa María de Eunate

Of all the monuments that the pilgrim can find along the Camino de Santiago (St. James Way), one of the most original is probably the Church of Saint Mary of Eunate, one of the greatest achievements of spanish romanesque architecture.

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How to arrive.

Eunate is located 2 km. of Muruzábal, in Navarra. If you are following the Camino Francés, once you reach said town you can take a detour towards the church, instead of going straight to Obanos. Once in the church, you don’t need to backtrack to Muruzábal to go back to the Camino; you can follow the N6064 until you reach Obanos and Puente La Reina.

Why it is special.

The church of Eunate (one hundred doors, in the Basque language) is a romanesque construction from the 12th century, although there’s a lot still unknown about its origins. Since it’s outside the town, and archaeological excavations have found scallops (symbols of pilgrimage) in the burials alongside the church, it’s been speculated that it was used as a hospice for pilgrims.

(Pictures courtesy of TaxNavarra).

The most original feature in this building, aside of the arches that surround it, is its octagonal plan, extremely unusual in romanesque art. This plan, similar to that of other churches founded by the Knights Templar all across Europe, has caused all sort of theories and legends about its association with said military order, despite the lack of evidence.

The legend of Eunate and Olcoz.

Regarding this church and a similar one in the nearby town of Olcoz, there is an interesting legend, which we will recount at a later time…