Thursday, 30 August 2012

St James´Rooster crows this morning...

Click image to enlarge 
It is ridiculously late (or early depending on your perspective) and I have finally gotten around to posting the announcement of my new book entitled St James´Rooster. I am a night owl. It's when I write. Who, what, where, when and why? Without Archbishop Diego Gelmirez de Compostela your Camino most likely would have not taken place, neither would you be planning it: Rome, maybe. Jerusalem, perhaps. Or maybe you would be headed out to hike in the foothills of the Himalayas or the Appalacian Way, or the Bruce Trail, or ... well the world is a big one. But this curious, almost "secular" "pilgrimage" we call El Camino de Santiago? No, without Diego Gelmirez, that would have been lost in the mists of antiquity and obscurity for want of "proof". You would never have heard of it. There isn't any, proof that is, you see. Between the time of James´execution in Jerusalem and the so-called "discovery" of "his tomb" (the Spanish word is "inventio") not one single historian or churchman spoke of any possibility of his having been buried in Spain and a few not un-notables said he had never preached here at all! And when you think about it, why would the body of a saint who - if indeed he was ever here (and formerly in the Greek it was thought to be St Paul who might have visited Spain) - made at most nine converts then went back to Jerusalem where he met his ultimate fate. Stone boat etc.? Why bring his body back to a Pagan land? The burials around the tomb are 4th century - the time of Priscillian - not first! Anyway to the 12th century: Diego and his "spin doctors", the authors of the Historia Compostelana gave us that proof. And fascinating reading it is too. But not a word is true. Much has been made of the theft last year of the Codex Calixtinus and its recovery (thank Heaven and the Guardia Civil) this year. What is little known though is that this also was written at the behest of Diego Gelmirez and was (falsely) called after Pope Calixtinus who would never have set eyes on it as he died well before it was begun. Likewise, the Historia Compostelana was written to secure a name in history for St James, Compostela and perhaps not least for Diego himself who brought this little known town into international fame as the "final resting place of the remains of St. James". The rest of it - lacking written evidence - he had made up! It took more than 20 years of persuasion to get the Pope to admit that an apostle of Jesus may have been buried there (to gain what was termed Apostolic Status, something no Pope in more than 200 year had been prepared to do) and even then (in 1122) needed a Pope who was kin to the king's son-in-law who just happened to have been Diego´s benefactor but hey: this was the Middle Ages! And the Matamoros story? Historians doubt that this battle ever too place but if it did it was King Ordoño and not Ramiro who fought it and that several years later. The spin doctors got this one quite wrong, but I am sure it served well enough when the Moors were at the gate, and they were not far off. St James´Rooster is the story of this man: Bishop, then with much persuasion, Archbishop Diego Gelmirez, a monster, a genius, a misunderstood reformer but one who always turned up on the winning side, somehow. And perhaps the self-intended architect of an obvious fraud. We don´t know. Does it matter? Maybe not... But his story has been all but lost in English and it deserves to be retold. I started researching him with the idea that I woud dislike him intensely and I ended up with a sincere respect for the man. What remains a puzzle is what happened to him after he died? What happened to the last two years of the Historia Compostelana? This is MUCH more interesting that the Codex Calixtinus...lost or found! How come, ater 40 years as bishop and even more as the most powerful man in the kingdom, could he have just...disappeared...PPFFFF! Like Kaiser Sjose? (You HAVE seen The Usual Suspects???) Where is he buried? Nobody knows... If you are a fan of Pilgrimage to Heresy (or if you have yet to discover the real person whose remains lie in the cathedral in Compostela) you will welcome the return of Felix and his lady, Laura in this mew book.Laura returns to do her doctorate at the University of Santiago but all is not well. Felix finds himself on the Camino again - this time the Portuguese. Armchair pilgrim or planning, about to walk or walking, or an "alumnus"of the Camino: Believe me... this is not like your Brierly, but it is a story you won´t forget. PS: Just for you...first few chapters will be serialised starting September 1st. .

1 comment:

  1. Blogger buggered up my paragraphing again. Sorry. It never used to be this way...