Santiago de Compostelo in northwestern Spain is home to the Cathedral of Saint James the Great, whose massive dimensions dwarf those who journey to view it.
Since the ninth century, it’s been the final destination for Catholic pilgrims along the Way of Saint James. Whether or not the remains of the Apostle James truly lie in the crypt below the massive altar is not at issue here; what’s important is the sense of devotion and faith that’s been evidenced by countless visitors for well over a thousand years.
Today’s pilgrims, with their backpacks and walking sticks, are easy to distinguish from the casual tourist, and everywhere on the narrow stone alleys surrounding St. James.
Some have acquired a “passport,” which has been stamped at various stops along the Way. We inquired about the process at the office near the Cathedral, and learned there are a requisite number of miles one must walk to be entitled to have an official stamp indicating completion of a pilgrimage. While there, we met Seth and Jonathan from Michigan. They had qualified and seemed none the worse for wear, in fact, quite the contrary. (They hadn’t hiked from Michigan, of course.)
I found this inspiring. Back out on the street, I bought some equipment. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make a pilgrimage some day. But for now it went in the back of the Honda and we headed to lunch. All that exercise had taken its toll on me.