Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 14 - Santo Domingo de la Calzada - Monday, 4 May 2009

Azofra -> Santo Domingo de la Calzada = 15.5K (638K to go!)

The day never really dawned. I woke late and the grey skies gave no clue to what time it really was.

I made my way down the hall for the usual ablutions, and realized the albergue was empty of other pilgrims. It had the eerie feel of a schoolhouse in summer or a nightclub seen in the light of day.

This albergue provided pilgrims with some privacy. Instead of an open bay filled with bunks, pilgrims shared a small room, designed just for two. What a luxury to have a modicum of privacy (thin plywood walls) and an escape from the usual symphony of snoring and farting and the pre-dawn rustling of plastic bags under the glow of annoying headlamps and flashlights.

So I overslept!

I set out at 0840 as the grey skies morphed into mist and light rain. The temperature dropped. Ahead, I observed a pilgrim disappearing into a taxi cab. (REAL pilgrims carry their bags and walk the entire way, though where these rules are written is a topic of considerable discussion.)  I plodded on up the sloping terrain, eager to find a bar for some hot cafĂ© con leche. By 1215 I was in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The one village I passed through had no bar so I was eager to find a dry, warm place to sip some coffee.

I wandered through the historic district, my red poncho the only splash of color on this dreary day. When I saw the albergue, I decided to stop and call it a day. The Spanish Confraternity runs this establishment with its large dining room and convenient location. It is large and modern and well maintained. I will share a room with about 28 other pilgrims. The grey, overcast sky and penetrating humidity takes its toll. I am sleepy, the room feels muggy and close and the bathroom is like a sauna.

This is the jubilee year of the town’s namesake and as luck would have it, there is a special mass today. St Dominic was an 11th century religious hermit and engineer who spent his life designing and building roads and bridges for pilgrims in this wilderness area on the banks of the Rio Oja (River Oja). His remains are housed in the cathedral.

The motto of Santo Domingo de la Calzada is: “Donde la gallina canto despues de asada.” (Where the hen crowed after being roasted.) So, I am especially eager to see the rooster and hen that are housed in the cathedral and play a significant role in the legends about this community.

The condensed version of the tale goes like this: a young pilgrim, traveling with his parents, spurned the advances of a local barmaid. Angered, the young woman hid some silver in the young man’s knapsack and then accused him of stealing from the tavern. Of course the evidence was there and the young man was marched to the gallows and hanged. The devastated, but devoted parents prayed earnestly to St James and knowing St James would support their innocent son, they proceeded on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, leaving their son strung up on the gallows.

The story does not end here. Once their pilgrimage was complete, the grieving parents return to Santo Domingo de la Calzada and find their son, still hanging and alive. Supporting him from under his feet is the saint. The parents run to the surly judge and ask him to release their innocent son. The judge, who was seated at lunch, scoffed and said if their son was innocent and still alive, the roasted chickens on his plate would stand up and crow. To his great surprise, the roasted chickens did just that! A miracle! St James protects travelers along the pilgrim route and this legend is testimony of that!

I visit the cathedral delight to hear the crowing chickens. Later, I visit the alternate chickens which are housed in the albergue where they wait for their 15-day rotation in the cathedral. I feed these birds bits of bread and feel lucky that they eat my offering. This is considered a good omen, by those who know about omens.

I mingle with other pilgrims and hear the inevitable gossip. About 6 of the pilgrims who I saw at the Azofra albergue last night have shipped their backpacks ahead. Foot and knee problems drive their decisions. My own knee is good now and my backpack (about 8 pounds) is light and not a burden. Some other pilgrims have checked into private hotels for the night rather than deal with the challenges of communal living in the albergue.

Friend Judy's Inspriational Thought for the Day:


Christian Science Hymn 136 (This first verse has many "active" thoughts for May 4th.)

I love Thy way of freedom, Lord,

To serve Thee is my choice,

In Thy clear light of Truth I rise

And, listening for Thy voice,

I hear Thy promise old and new,

That bids all fear to cease:

My presence still shall go with thee

And I will give thee peace.

(This is a favorite of mine and I sing it frequently! - VJP)

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