The image above shows the Santiago Cathedral before it was covered with scaffolding. During each of my three visits (2011, 2014, and now 2017), the cathedral has been “under repair” and this time, the main masterpiece, the Pórtico de la Gloria, is covered over — not available to tourists. It, and the main towers, are being restored.
Most pilgrims arrive from the north, taking what is known as the French Camino. They pass through the Praza da Immaculada. The cathedral has the form of a cross and this is the top, northern part. Above the double doors is a statue of the Pilgrim Santiago with Kings Alfonso II of Asturias and Ordoño II of León, praying to him.
I read Chapter 14 of Lao tsu’s Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):
“Look, and it can’t be seen.
Listen, and it can’t be heard.
Reach, and it can’t be grasped.”
[Lao tsu portrays the Tao as beyond imagination; Christianity includes many, many images — which can be seen, heard, grasped.]
Below Santiago are four figures and a blindfolded statue representing faith.
“Above, it isn’t bright.
Below, it isn’t dark.”
[There are elements within faith that are parallel to the Tao — faith has a hidden quality.]
Our experience during this visit was characterized by construction and repair work. These doors were open for the French pilgrims but there is major construction work going on.
it returns to the realm of nothing.”
[Christainity is filled with symbols — many names, ideas, images.]
Walking to the east, clockwise, we come to the Holy Door. Typically, it is closed. Above the door is a statue of St. James and his two disciples (Teodoro and Atanasio). To the left and right of the door are 24 carved figures of saints, apostles, and important religious figures (some of whom appear Asian). The Holy Door is open only on years when St. James’ Day, July 25th falls on Sunday. The exact identity of many of the images is unclear — specific objects have become connected to certain apostles and saints. St. James, for example, is often shown holding a pilgrim’s staff — reflecting his journey to Spain (not historically documented but accepted by believers). St. James stands above the door and is not among the 24 figures.
On each side of the Holy Door are carvings by Maestro Mateo of saints, apostles, prophets, and Asian guys.
Walking to the south, we come to the Plaza das Praterias (Praterias are silversmiths, who used to have their shops here). This is the entrance for pilgrims, like us, who come from the south. There were also shops selling provisions for pilgrims.
“Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.”
[Lao tsu portrays the Tao as something that cannot be seen, heard, grasped, named — beyond conception. The cathedral functions as a kind of teaching tool — bringing the Christian stories into your awareness — but some elements have become obscure for modern listeners]
This plaza is often crowded — there are many tour groups visiting the cathedral.
“See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.”
The cathedral doors in this plaza are surrounded by intricate artwork. On the left, are carvings showing the temptation of Jesus in the desert (note the monsters), on the rights is the “passion of Christ” (but I have not completely figured the exact meaning of many of these images)
“Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.”
We walk to the west and view the Praza do Obradoiro — the famous image on the 1, 2, and 5 cent Spanish coins — but, much is covered by scaffolding. I play with the sun.
We visited many times — sometimes walking from the north. We pass a beggar and listen to bagpipes.
When we visited the Museum, we looked down on the Plaza from a balcony passage.
The camera concludes by looking toward the Plaza de Praterias.
During the many times we walked through this Plaza, we saw many pilgrims arriving. Over 200,000 pilgrims walk the French Camino each year.
We leave the Plaza do Obradoiro, walking south toward the Plaza das Praterias.
We enter — it is time for the Pilgrim’s Mass. You must come early if you want a seat.