Sunday, 24 January 2010

A New Broom...

What Diego Gelmirez inherited was far from a happy community. It was a spiritual wasteland and an abandoned building site. The Canons held to no particular rule and by all accounts were a pretty unkempt lot. No-one had been at the helm for the best part of fifteen years and the coffers were dangerously low mainly due to royal encroachment on the cathedral's landed endowments, which admittedly were many.

Furthermore, the number of pilgrims had dwindled to a trickle and with them the source of revenue they had formerly brought to the town. Diego had his work cut out for him. He needed to present himself as a reformer: trouble is, reformers aren't always popular!

Diego realised that in housing the relics of St. James, the cathdral - the old one which was still more or less intact inside the lifeless pile of the planned one - held a tremendous potential resource, and while we may fault him many areas, failure to glorify the Saint was not one of them.

Of course, Diego Gelmirez was no fool. He realised early that while having a saint was good, it was very little use if few people thought to come and pay a visit. Promotion of the Pilgrimage route meant promotion of the town of Compostela - and by implication, Diego himself. He set out to convince his colleagues and those who counted for anything in Compostela of the urgent need for change: by bullying if necessary.

New brooms may sweep clean but they can and often do brush people up the wrong way. The people of Compostela were greatly conservative and set in their ways. They had seen their isolated country disturbed by upland aristocracy. They had lost their beloved bishop, Diego Pelaez. They had seen their mass change from the Visigothic Rite(sometimes called Mozarabic) to the Roman Mass. They had had to surrender Galicia to a Frenchman, Raimundo of Burgundy as the husband of the Infanta Urraca, and now they were obliged to hand over their cathedral to a man whom, while he had served well enough as "vicarius", now presented himself as a bishop with entirely French leanings.

Was he to be trusted? Diego had to think of some way to restore city pride. How he did it would create a division between cities which would last a thousand years...


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