As the first rays appeared, we left Monte do Gozo, looking for yellow arrows, shells, and way markers for the last time. Although the air was cool, the skies looked promising. No other pilgrims were in sight, and everything was quiet on an early Sunday.
A dog who had been at the albergue followed us as we made our way towards the outskirts of Santiago. He seemed familiar with the route, as if guiding pilgrims down the streets was a daily routine for him. We were concerned that he didn’t stray too far from Monte do Gozo and near impending traffic so we stopped at a bar for breakfast — the dog stayed near the door for a while, but then Dad saw him trot off after some other pilgrims now starting to enter the city. I hope the dog made it home safely!
Camino signs and sidewalk shells led us right to the cathedral, past the business area and more modern parts and into Santiago’s old historical section. The cathedral towers rose above the museums, iglesias, official buildings, bars/restaurants, and shops selling pilgrim souvenirs. The church is an enormous, ornate Romanesque wonder — no doubt medieval pilgrims felt the months on the road were worth it to reach this magnificent structure. Another pilgrim took our picture in front of the big gate, and soon afterwards, four people (perhaps pilgrims) on horseback rode into the huge Plaza del Obradoiro in front of the cathedral.
After leaving our backpacks at the albergue, we headed to the pilgrim office to receive Compostelas. In the office, volunteer ‘sisters’ from Ireland, Irene and Anne, were there to support pilgrims standing in line after the long journey.
With Compostelas in hand, it was time to go to the pilgrim’s mass at noon. Crowds of people swarmed the square and filled the cathedral’s worship space. Pilgrims were everywhere with their backpacks, walking sticks, shells, and gourds (traditional water containers). Luckily there were seats left in the transcept area with good views of the altar. One of the priests announced the number of people who received Compostelas that day and what countries pilgrims represented (we would have been included in these stats). At the end of the ceremony, Frances and wife Cookie were given a special proclamation from the Pope to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Frances had arranged this momentous presentation as a surprise for her.
After the service everyone spilled out to the square — there were many reunions of people who had met on the path but may not have seen each other for weeks. For lunch we joined a group that included David from Australia whom we had met in Burgos. It was a great way to wind down the morning’s excitement. Hard to believe we won’t be getting up tomorrow and walking again.
This afternoon and evening was spent wandering around this distinctive city. Tomorrow we’ll go to the pilgrim’s mass again in hopes of seeing the giant incense burner, the botafumiero. From other pilgrims’ reports, the thurible was there Saturday but unfortunately not at our service. To swing it eight men (called tirabolieros) pull ropes through an enormous pulley suspended from the cathedral’s arched ceiling. Mañana we also hope to place the last Dala at a spot that was closed today but evidently open in the morning.