Wednesday, 2 September 2009

What we do know about the excavations in Compostela... that there were a large number of human remains found. These seemed to lack grave goods – and remember that the Priscillianists eschewed worldly possessions; their grave sites were aligned east to west - again a Priscillianist practice - and inscriptions on these graves were dated between 400 and 650 considered the limits of Priscillianist influence even though Priscillian died in 385.

We are not allowed to posit the vast impact of Priscillianist influence during these centuries but it swept many parts of Spain and even into the south of France and parts of northern Italy. Many followers of Priscillianism were martyred, many had their lands taken away, others were told to convert to the Roman Church or they would lose everything ( bishops included were thus threatened: the Bishopric of Astorga is a case in point) but how long did the movement stay – as we might say today – underground, in Galicia and the north west?

What fascinates me most is, is it still there in any form?

What is certain is that the burial sites in question did not date from the first century even though others nearby may date back well into Roman times as there is evidence for an even older “compostum”: the more accepted form of Compostela – a burial site, i.e. not the Field of Stars, romantic though it may sound. “The excavations under the sanctuary of the Cathedral were unscientifically conducted and far from adequately recorded,” Fletcher concludes.

So who was buried there? Who were buried beside him? When and why? We may never know. But the evidence of graves oriented to the east (as the Priscillianists did) and the number of people who chose to be buried in that region during Priscillianist and even later unofficially Priscillianist times (the Arian conquerors were sympathetic to his ideas), these may be lost to us forever: destroyed by obfuscation and “bad press”. But, what a scintillating idea if all these pilgrimages were to the final resting place of a so-called “heretic”, yet one whose message is more relevant today than it has been for many centuries. This would be an irony indeed.

No wonder the Catholic Church resists the idea of DNA testing of the remains.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tracy,
    Fletcher has an interesting point: 'the said apostolate, alleged to have been in the west of Spain, was not the apostolate of St. James, because that apostle was brought here only after his death'. What were they saying here? See and keep digging!