On Wednesday we began our final stretch from Arzua to Santiago with great excitement. This time the walk was only around 20km which was a nice walk by our standards. We stopped short of Santiago one last time at Monte del Gozo (Mount of Joy) and it was here that we could see Santiago for the first time and understood why it was called Mount of Joy. Buzzing with anticipation by the time we entered the picturesque city and finally arrived at the west door of the stunning Cathedral de Santiago. We spent worthwhile time in the square soaking up the atmosphere and the view before us.
We entered the cathedral and walked around the high altar and rested our hands on the shoulders of the statue of St. James as countless pilgrims have done before us, and went down to the crypt and knelt down and prayed at St James' tomb. It was a very moving experience. We arrived at our hotel overjoyed by the fact it was a hotel and not a forty people to one room hostel!
We then relaxed, got cleaned up and had some free time to explore the surrounding city before having one final dinner together in a lovely pizzaria where a platter of pizzas received an early death. A few words of thanks and appreciation were said and then we began a prize giving ceremony where there was a vast range of awards up for grabs ranging from best pilgrim to “getting the digits”.
We awoke the next morning had a hotel breakfast and attended an english speaking pilgrims Mass in the pilgrim office as the Cathedral was under repairs. Two things that stood out was Luke Nicholas’ amazing singing of the Ave Maria and how during the prayers of the faithful, people were invited to stand up and share a short prayer linking their camino experience or their reason for doing it which really opened our eyes.
We got our certificates with a beautiful piece of scripture written in Latin resembling what was given to early pilgrims in the 12th century. We then said our goodbyes to Galicia and the Camino - a place that had been the epicentre of pain but a far greater amount of joy over the course of an unforgettable six day experience to Santiago de Compostela.
By Jack Nolan & Michael Buckley
Photographs of the trip by Padraic Hassett are in the Photos Section