July 20:  Santiago de Compostela

The morning started a little slow, but without the need to put those hiking boots on or tape the feet to prevent blisters!!!  The schedule for the day was to tour the cathedral completely, walk around the old section of the town, visit a few museums and attend the noon Mass that is dedicated to the pilgrims.

Each day at noon the bishop of Santiago holds a pilgrim Mass where he reads the countries, the places of origin and how many pilgrims arrived the day before from each.  It is amazing how many people arrive each day.

We toured the church for over an hour and then settled into a pew in the main section in full view of the altar.  At noon a nun came to the podium and in a beautiful voice taught the congregation the chants that were to be used during the service.  Remember, one does not have to be Catholic to be a pilgrim, so not everyone attending the Mass knows the routine.  Also the Mass was going to be done in Spanish and there were pilgrims from all over the world in attendance.

The procession of priests began just as the bells of the cathedral started to chime.  Over 25 priest climbed high up onto the altar followed by the bishop.  The names were read, and then the Mass officially began.  For about an hour the traditional Catholic Mass proceeded with new meaning to all of us sitting there having just completed the Camino.  The finale, however, was the most impressive.  The incense urn, about four feet high and two+ feet wide was hanging high about the priests throughout the Mass.  At a precise moment 10 monks entered from the side, untied the rope that supported the urn and began to raise and lower it in a rhythm that caused the urn to swing back and forth over the heads of those in the congregation.  At one point the rope was parallel to the ceiling sending the urn and its contents high into the upper realm of the church.  The monks had the system down so perfectly that the urn seemed to be swinging on its own, never coming close to the high stone columns that supported the ceiling five stories above.  It was like a pendulum that was in perpetual motion.  As rapidly they pulled the rope, they slowed the motion with strong tugs.  Slowly the urn settled back down to its spot high above the heads of those performing the Mass.

All in all the ceremony was impressive and emotional.  It was the culmination of a long journey with its hardships and joys.  The Camino del Norte is not an easy venture and the moments of silence while walking or sitting in church give one the time to reflect on what it truly means to be a pilgrim.

Each of us are taking something individually home from this trip.  While they may be different reactions, one can not walk the Camino and not have it effect you. 

Side Altar

Main Altar with Urn

St James Standing Guard over The Entrance to the Cathedral

Frankie and Angela climbing one last time!!!


Angela:  "See, I can make it without stopping!!!!"