Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 11: Najare - Santo Domingo del la Calazda

The day begins early. I decide to leave before sunrise at 5 AM. There are many who leave this early. Partly to escape the midday heat and partly to enjoy the beautiful sunrise. When the sun rose this morning I almost fell down on his knees with joy. This was a really big moment for me. It was a religious moment. Sunrise, the start of a new day, clean air, birds singing, all the colors of the rainbow, and here I stood. I can only say "Baby, hit me one more time".

I come first to the village Azofra, with its 200 inhabitants. Idyllic. The road today is fantastically beautiful. Beautiful fields, flowers, butterflies and a pleasant road to walk on.

I stop often and use time to rest, drink lots of water and eat my tomatoes. I have no hast walking todays  25 km. This was pure pleasure. The environment makes me happy and I enjoy everything. I focus on breathing calmly and try to feel that I'm alive in this moment. I want to remember this moment long after I came home. Maybe I can recognize this happiness the rest of my life? It's all about stretching out my hands, droping everything I'm holding on to, and receive all the new gifts this road is giving me.


I come first a town called Cirueña before I arrive at Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Here I'm gong to stay for the night. A beautiful village, -no it's more like a small town. I stop and buy supplies for todays dinner and fruit for tomorrow at a food store. Wonderful with vegetables and fruit here. I can almost taste the sun in them.

I found a place to stay next to the magnificent church in the city. A very big dormitory with beds for 200 people. But we are few staying here tonight, only 20-30 pilegrims. I wanted to go out again as soon as possible and look around. I wandered down streets like this one and completely forgot the time. Peaceful. Beautiful. Interesting.

I had to find out more about who this Santo Domingo was and why he had a town named after him. The church bears actually his name also. I went into the church and there were two live chickens that were placed in a cage, inside the church. I have not seen live chickens in a church before. The hens seem to enjoy themselves in the church. Next to the chickens, there was a statue of Santo Domingo with two chickens by his feet. There must be an interesting story to hear about this fellow. I found a brochure in the church which told the story of Santo Domingo. He lived from 1019 to 1109. He is actually the one person who has meant most for the pilgrim road throughout history. He was, for unknown reasons, dismissed as a monk in two monasteries. Neither San Millán monastery nor the convent Valvanera wanted him. After being refused as a monk, he decided to help pilgrims the rest of his life. He built and maintained long stretches of the pilgrim road which I am walking on, built bridges, churches and hospitals and took care of pilgrims around the clock.

Where do these two hens come into the picture? Well, the story goes that Santo Domingo met a German pilgrimage family once and they stayed the night with him. A maid tried to seduce the couple's son. She was rejected by him and in a fit of rage she stole a silver cup and put it in his luggage. The boy was taken with a silver cup and convicted of theft. The sentence was hanging, and he was hanged outside the city walls. His parents were very discouraged and went to Santo Domingo and told him what had happened. Santo Domingo said that the boy was alive, even if he was hanged on the gallows. They went to the magistrate to get the body down from the gallows, and said that the boy was still alive. The magistrate, who was seated and about to start eating two freshly baked chickens, exclaimed that if the boy was still alive, that was a miracle. If this was the case, Santo Domingo had to prove it by giving the baked chicken new life. So it was done. The chickens got up and flew away. The son was united with his parents again. To validate this story, so no one should ever doubt that both the young boy and the baked chicken regained their lives by a miracle, there has for hundreds of years since then been placed two live chickens in the Santo Domingo Church. I have seen the live chickens my self, so the story must therefore be true... I rest my case. I sit down a little bit here in the church and think about the story, how people can believe in it. The story is not religious for me. Just a story that could fit well into a fairytale book for children. I look at the beautiful surroundings of the church and think about all the craftmen who have used their lives to build the church. They've done a good job. I think of the Church tax that all the people in the region have paid for many years. Why build such a Church? Even though I don't like the idea that meny people have suffered in building this curch, I can feel that it's good to be here, even though it's a little strange with those chickens. Maybe I shouldn't think so much. Just feel. Feel that it's good to be here. Peaceful. But still, I long for the religious experience I had this morning with the sunrise.

And after church visit: food and a lovely bottle of red wine from the district winery. My foot still hurts and I need to clean the sore very thoroughly. But my stomach is full, my head is full of impressions, and I sleep really well in the dormitory next to the church.

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