Thursday, 16 July 2009

At Large in Santiago...

From Friday July 3: Don Rafael is a Camino god. His many publications include one solely on the Portico de Gloria. He is one of the foremost experts in "Estudios Xacobeos" and has studied and taught in both Rome and Jerusalem.

I was introduced to him by Jose Luis, the very energetic proprietor of the bookshop Follas Novas in Calle Montero Rios just off the Alameda. Don Rafael is 82: he wears his white hair long and has a wine coloured cravat pushed back over his shoulders. His voice is a whisper, soft and sweet. His eyes look at you as though you are the only person in the room.

It occurs to me that he was a ladies man when young. Actually, it occurs to me that he most likely still is! We talk a little about the Portico de Gloria. I tell him that my friend Geert claims it is an "Enigma". "It certainly is," Don Rafael agrees, "it is a story in stone. Look at the musicians. They are not even interested in playing. They are talking amongst themselves and laughing. The angles in between show the way from Alpha to Omega."

He gives me a copy of his book. and then leads me down to Xacobean heaven: the sotono (basement floor) of the bookshop (he is the founder, the very energetic Jose Luis tells me). It is wall to wall, floor to ceiling books about the Camino and things connected. I am speechless. This isn't a bookshop: it's a cathedral!

I tell Don Rafael that I will need a small chair and a corner when I get back at the end of the month. He tells me I will be very welcome and gives me several more of his books. I ask him about Priscillian: "Most of my colleagues agree with you," he tells me, "but I still thnk there is a possibility that maybe, maybe, it might be Santiago after all". He suggests that I might like to meet some of the people he knows.

I leave the bookshop with wings: I have just been in the presence of greatness...

I pick up five newspapers only to see my picture in them which honestly is a bit weird. One of them says as the headline: (in Gallego)... The only thing to do with the Monte de Gozo Albergue is to destroy it!" Talk about out of context... (Needless to say there are some rather pointed comments about this in the paper in days to come.)


  1. Enjoy your walk from Portugal Tracy. Buen suerte with your book-worming!

  2. Dear Tracy,
    What a wonderful time you're having living your dreams on the Way! Thank you for your kind words!
    Please ask Don Ramon when you see him next about the iconographic program for the Portico - if not the whole cathedral; that will surely solve the enigma. I'll give some last clues on the forum soon.
    My other main question would concern the ways and emphasis in which Santiago is shown in various places; I always wondered what (programmed?) message is given there. I feel it has a lot to do with his position in life. We do have a lot to talk about...