'Dust, mud, sun and rain
It's Camino de Santiago.
Millions of pilgrims
and more than a thousand years ... '(1)
End of August. Summer yawns, preparing suitcases for sightseeing in other latitudes, other hemispheres, in whose hotel has already made the reservation, as usual. Even so, the sun continues beating like hell; warming up viciously, no matter how early in the hour. His caress suffocates in the open field and very few are those who stop to watch the flight of the birds. All, in formation and of course in limited partnership, form a spear point that points towards the East. The pilgrim, backpack on his shoulder and cane in hand, senses it; but it never stops its march, except in the points previously established in its route. He is known as an active pawn in the Great Vital Game in which he is participating and considers his blisters and hardships as stigmas that always test his strength and his faith.
Shortly after dawn, the first pilgrims arrive. By the direction, it is to be assumed that they come from Espinosa del Camino - a name that perfectly defines two initiatory concepts that every pilgrimage implies - descending the hill of San Felices by a rural road that, more or less a kilometer beyond , takes you into that nerve center of the Jacobean Way, which is Villafranca Montes de Oca; or Auca, as it was formerly called.
Alone, in pairs or in groups and seen in the backlight from the ruins of what, back in the ninth century was the proud apse of the church of the monastery of San Felix, could be confused with spirits arising from that primordial light that, assure the who have experienced that uncertain clinical state called ECM (2), is always at the end of the tunnel. Because that, in my opinion, could be a good simile: the Way is that tunnel, in whose attainment, each one has its Light.
On the edge of the road, and a few meters ahead of where the rapine, time and erosion have contributed in their measure to the remains of the apse of the millenary monastery resemble an abandoned casemate, a small landmark with a scallop and an arrow, indicates the direction to follow. As in many other places of the Jacobean Way, and similar to Fontcebadón and the pyramid formed by the stones deposited over the centuries by the pilgrims who came and continue to flock to Santiago de Compostela, the cairn has become a small symbolic altar, in which almost all the pilgrims who pass, remembering an old custom, deposit a stone.
Some people think that this custom may be based on an ancient tradition, pagan, to be more precise, than as a tithe - let's not forget, that even in the Middle Ages the custom of burying the deceased with a coin in the hand or two coins placed in each eye, to pay for the services of the terrible ferryman Charon, placated the gods of the roads, ensuring a happy trip.
I can not help thinking that perhaps here, in the case that concerns us, the stone that even I have deposited -one of the first, although it seems a lie- constitutes, even without knowing it, a kind of symbolic candle in memory of Diego Rodríguez Porcelos : that count who founded the city of Burgos and that, according to the Tradition, was buried right here, in the already non-existent monastery of San Felix (3).
With the sun high on the horizon and an uncertain, perhaps nostalgic sense of loss in my case, we leave behind the hill of San Felices and its historical ghosts, leading us, without leaving the municipality of Villafranca, to another unforgettable when not essential sanctuary of the Camino: the hermitage of Nª Sª de Oca.
Location: Burgos. Castilla y León Community, Spain
(1) Verses of an anonymous pilgrim, written on a wall at the entrance of Nájera. This reference is taken from the book by José Manuel Somavilla: 'Guide to the Camino de Santiago on foot', Editions Tutor, S.A., 2nd edition, 2003.
(2) Near Death Experience.
(3) Others say that he died in the also burgalés village of Cornudilla.
NOTICE: originally posted on my blog MEMORIES OF A PILGRIM. Both the text and the photographs are my exclusive intellectual property. The original entry, where you can check the authorship of juancar347, can be found at the following address: https://jc347.blogspot.com/2011/11/peregrinos-en-villafranca-montes-de-oca.html