Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Visiting Santiago de Compostella

Bus group assembles in Noia

The mayor and tour guides
The day before the start of the Irish Cruising Club Rias Baixas Rally, the local dignitaries organized a bus trip to Santiago de Compostela. We had both wanted to go and jumped at the chance. Unbeknownst to us, the bus would also stop in Noia, which made it even more interesting. Noia (Noya in Spanish) was the traditional place where pilgrims coming to Santiago in the Middle Ages would travel to by boat from the British Isles. In fact, I had seen a plaque on the waterfront in Dingle commemorating the mariner's camino route. The ships would land in Noia and the pilgrims would travel up the river by small boat as far as they could, then walk the remainder of the way. Today, Noia is silted in and not navigable by cruising sailboats, but some shallow draft vessels can go part way, we've heard. Portosin is now one of the closest ports in the Rias from which to travel to Santiago.



When we arrived in Noia, the Mayor of the town came out to greet us and we enjoyed a walking tour of the historic parts of the once-walled town, which are being revived. The main church was interesting but the old church which has been turned into a museum, was more interesting. It houses the engraved stone slabs that once adorned the graves of important people. We discovered hundreds more stacked up outside.

The new graveyard, like all modern graveyards in Galicia that we saw, has tombs stacked reminiscent of large ornate filing cabinets. A bit eerie, but well maintained. We were told about the mariner's camino and given a clam shell to wear around our necks. Pilgrims walking the sanctioned camino wear a scallop shell and follow the scallop shells embedded in walls along the many routes. Apparently, the old route from Noia is no longer recognized as official.

The Cathedral at Santiago
As it turned out, after visiting Santiago, we were given a certificate acknowledging our having completed the Mariniero's Camino, albeit via bus although we had arrived from Ireland by boat as required. It was a promotional effort by Noia to get the pilgrims back into the city.

Santiago was interesting but, as I said many times, I was glad we hadn't walked 300 miles or more to get there. The crowds were astounding. The tourist shops overwhelming. The cathedral front was being restored and covered in scaffolding. The pilgrim's Mass at noon was jammed to capacity and we had to stand despite having arrived early per instructions. The queue to visit the statue of St James was appallingly long so we only went to see the tomb in the underground passage which was easy and interesting. We left before the very end of the Mass and heard later that they swung the incense burner after all.

The cathedral itself is devoid of much decoration except the chancel behind the altar which is distressingly ornate with gold everywhere. It really speaks to the excesses of the Catholic Church in contrast with the pilgrims, some walking barefoot to honour the Saint. I can understand the journey of self-discovery, but for it to end through ugly industrial parks on the approach to the city only to find souvenir overload and gilded standing-room-only glory is bitter sweet.

We had a nice lunch at one of the many street side tapas bars, then got on the bus with our certificates and checked Santiago off the list.

Article about attempt to revive the camino in Dingle, 
There is also a tour company promoting the Kerry Camino, a walking trail from Tralee to Dingle, and also the route taken by St. Brendan before his departure to cross the Atlantic in a currach. A film was made for TG4 of a band of men who recreated the voyage in a Kerry currach (naomhóig) and the story was followed by the Irish Times.  A beautiful feature film of their epic journey is scheduled for release in 2018.

Iglesia de San Martiño in Noia (Noya)

Stone slabs in Iglesia Santa Maria Nova Museum

Burial chambers

Old tomb with slab

Inside the church 

Slabs in the museum

ICC members taking it all in.

The modern graveyard

Slabs stacked in back of the museum

Drunken statue in Noia

Arrival at the bus lot in Santiago

Statues everywhere

The extraordinary Parador de Santiago - Hostal Reis Catolicos

The central nave, altar and statue/tomb of St. James in the chancel 

Scaffolding on the Cathedral

Shops sampling their wares on the streets

The Parador on the square across from the Cathedral

Pilgrims singing in the square

Pilgrims everywhere

The back entrance to the cathedral

Wine and tapas 

A quiet corner of Santiago

The main street through the old town

Seen from the Parador balcony

The old town stretching down from the central plaza

Street below the Parador

Tourist Alex
City of Culture


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