Over the years, where ever we have travelled, I have made it my business to pray for the congregations and leaders of the various church buildings we have encountered. Large or small, magnificent or modest they have all had the Pieter prayer treatment. From my window in the albergue I can see 3 church buildings – all many hundreds of years old, and down the path just over the hill is another. This morning I went to visit that last one and pray for the people who come in and the priest that leads it. But there are many more close by that I haven’t been too. The small village of Luquin actually has a Basilica and a church. I haven’t discovered the history of that yet.
Today, on our day off, we travelled to Pamplona known for its bull runs but in fact far richer in history and culture. The highlight was Pamplona Cathedral, not just for its building but especially for its museum. This was a rich collection of religious and archaeological material presented in a professional and exciting manner. Below are a few photos.
Approaching the cathedral from the centre of the old town
The following photos give you some of the details around the little village of Villamayor de Monjardin.
The comment below comes from a camino website:
The enclave is more popularly known as the village of four lies because its name suggests it to be a great town inhabited by monks and full of gardens: “It is not a town, nor is it great, it has no monks, or indeed a garden.” There is a small grocery shop that opens from March to October. The main site visited is the Romanesque church of San Andrés, from the XII century.
The castle behind Villamayor has a long history. The Romans were here over 2000 years ago and it is believed the castle is built on Roman ruins. Then the Moors came, later the kings of Navarre and also Charles the Great (Charlemagne 742-814) spent time here. There is a story that Charles, unwilling for his men to die in battle asked Santiago (Saint James) which of his men were going to die in a forthcoming battle. Red crosses appeared on the shields of 150 men, so he left these men in the camp. He went into battle and lost no men in battle. When he returned to the camp the 150 men were dead, or so the story goes.
It is clear when you get to the top of the mountain why the castle is here. There are magnificent views in every direction. Anyone who held this point would have a magnificent advantage in battle.
Villamayor is a town with very few people. However, in the summer people come back to their family homes so there are more people around at present than usual. It also seems that some people commute from this village to larger towns for work. The village is made up of very old houses, some empty and falling down and then there are others that are ultra modern with swimming pools and all the mod cons. The old houses still show signs of the barn or stable built up against the house. The building we are in has a 400 year old stable.
I went for a stroll to the cemetery a few hundred metres out of town, Ermita del Calvario (Calvary Hermitage) on the Calle el Calvario (Calvary Street). I noted that the earliest gravestones were from the 1970s. This surprised me as the town has been settled for hundreds of years. Upon further inquiry I learned later that old graves are dug up, the bones collected and the graves reused. The cemetery never needs to get any bigger and has continued to function between the walls.
Apart from the two albergues, the only public facilities are a bar, and shop that is open for only a few hours a day, mainly to support pilgrims.
The church that serves the town is cared for a by a non Spanish priest who has quite a few other parishes to support. Young Spanish men are not interested in the priesthood. During services the men sit on one side of the church and women on the other which is an indication of how traditional it is in this village. There were no children present when my wife went to a Sunday service.
Just as you enter the village there is a large winery, Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin, which I gather has a very good reputation so, clearly, a visit is required before I leave.
The task of the hospitalero is, as the name suggests, to show hospitality. The history of the word is long. In medieval times monks and nuns showed kindness to travellers and others in need of care and accommodation. These institutions, in time, became hospitals.
When it is our turn to do the task of being a hospitalero, we need to register the person – state laws makes this more onerous than in the past, help them cool off their feet if they desire, help them to their bed/bunk and feed them if that is what they want.
We have already cleaned the rooms and bathrooms before they arrive.
Every night sees a new group of travellers. At this time of year the albergue is about three quarters full, when it cools down the numbers increase and then taper off towards the end of October. The buzz is always great as pilgrims greet and get to know each other. Even in their tiredness there is a joy in sharing stories.
After the evening meal at 8:30 there is a Jesus meditation time led by one of the team to assist people to reflect on their journey and to gently point them to Jesus – as the title indicates.
By 10pm most pilgrims are in the land of nod or close to it. We check necessities like toilet paper and then close the albergue to the outside world. Through the wall in our little room room we can usually hear a symphony, a symphony or snores.
One of the joys of volunteering at an albergue is meeting people from all walks of life and so many different countries. Tonight’s meal table had people from Belgium, France, Brazil, Spain and Ireland. There were teachers, lab techs, a man who called himself an impresario, a person recovering from a stroke assisted by his wife and daughter, and more. I think we had about 18 pilgrims altogether.
There is one constant, every story is unique. Every person comes with their own unique history and set of experiences. For some the walk is about exercise, for others a search for meaning and others still have no idea why they are doing it but they have found themselves here.
Our aim at the albergue is to show love to these people for the short time they are passing through and if they wish to speak about the deeper issues of life we are here to listen and give guidance. On the whole I have found the pilgrims amazingly open which is in large part due to the nature of the Camino but also because it is clear that the albergue is run by Christians. My main handicap is my limited language ability although most people have a ‘leetle eenglish’ which is usually quite impressive and far outstrips any knowledge I have of their language.