Sunday, 3 January 2010

A look back at the beginning...Part One:

Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground since I began this blog back in June, literally and figuratively. I’ve covered 240 kms of Portugal and Galicia, and the holy ground of Santiago has been examined in a little more light.

Is Santiago, Jacobus, St. James buried in the cathedral in Compostela or not? Perhaps it doesn’t make an awful lot of difference. To tell the truth I haven’t met many pilgrims who accept wholesale the story of Santiago and the “translation” of the relics, but it takes nothing away from the pilgrimage experience nevertheless.

Now the church would say that is a contradiction in terms: to go on “Pilgrimage” to a holy place presupposes the religiosity of the pilgrim’s beliefs. But I beg to differ. Almost without exception, the pilgrims I walked with, or have come to know in other ways, would say that the journey is to the interior, to the depths of oneself and for that not only is it not necessary to be a Catholic or even a Christian but that a belief in a Divinity is also an option. What is necessary is a desire to enter into some sort of “conversation” with something mysterious: to remain open to the possibility that anything could be, even the miraculous: a conundrum of thought and spirit.

So why then, if the belief in St. James and Compostela are not essential, am I continuing this blog? Good question! I hope I can answer it...

My first book Pilgrimage to Heresy (Peregrinos de la Herejia in Spanish) concerns a 4th century Spanish bishop by the name of Priscillian whose Gnostic beliefs drew the attention of the Roman Church. What the Priscillianists held was a view remarkably similar to those of the Essenes: a view quite likely espoused by Jesus himself. But by the late 4th century, such views were considered heretical and Priscillian and seven of his followers - including Euchrotia, a woman - were executed, with the full knowledge, even approval, of many members of the Roman church. In Pilgrimage to Heresy dovetailed with the everyday concerns and contemplations of a group of modern-day pilgrims on the Camino Frances, I tell his tale.

Many Gallegos believe that it is Priscillian, not Santiago, who is buried in Compostela. I don’t know. But I do not believe it is St. James. So far I have attempted to demonstrate from my research why this is so, and in doing this I am gradually putting together the basis of my upcoming book, Compostela, to be published in 2010.

Starting tomorrow and every day this week, I am going to attempt to summarise what we have learned so far: from 385CE through to 1100 and the consecration of Bishop Diego Gelmirez.

(The accompanying photos, by the way, are all from the Camino Portuguese.)
Click on the link to go to the Camino de Santiago Forum for more information about this wonderful walk.

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