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.
This morning around the breakfast table we had a lively discussion around cultures and how we perceive them. How come, in Spain, the fiestas are the same every year and children’s birthday parties always have the same cake and the same ritual?
What are the rituals we engage in that someone else from another culture would consider weird. I remember once at theological college a discussion about body odour occurred. One group of students had complained about the odour of another group. The other group replied that white people smelled “sour”. Even our olfactory function, it seems, has a cultural dimension!
Our world-views are shaped by so many different factors; culture, religion, experiences, family upbringing(was it ever ok to lick the bowls and plates in your family?) and numerous other factors. The first argument after my wife and I were married was who would put the rubbish out for collection. In my family my mother did it because dad’s business was very time consuming and my brother and I helped dad with it. In my wife’s family even though the mum did it, the myth was active that dad would have done it if he was still alive. And yes, I lost the argument.
So here we are in Spain with enough time to get a sense of how a small community ticks. If I transferred these people to Hamlyn Heights what would they say to each other in the privacy of their homes about these strange people in Geelong. Where is the bar? Where do they meet without a bar 100 metres from home? And no siesta! The climate is the same so why not? And, they eat so early!
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.
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.
There are two albergues in our small village and ours requires a bit more walking and is not easily seen from the pilgrimage route. But we have a secret weapon – Secundo. Secundo was born in this village and is in his 70s. Moreover, he has taken a liking to the family that runs the albergue I am volunteering in. So he has made it his task to greet pilgrims as they come into Villamayor and direct them to, what he considers to be, the better albergue.
We have heard pilgrims say, as they enter our albergue, that an old man told them to come here. Secundo enjoys talking with the pilgrims, in fact, anyone at the albergue. I am learning the art of ‘Google Translate’ on the run when conversing with Secundo.
The Church Bell
The church bell in Villamayor sounds like small boys throwing rocks at a 44 gallon drum. It still strikes the number of bells for the hour and one every half hour – 24 hours a day. Being hot, the windows are open, so just when you have fallen asleep at night one is unceremoniously awakened by, what seems like, a gang of small boys throwing rocks at a drum. The locals must be used to it but I am still learning to adjust.