|the plaza, Villalon de Campos|
So I packed a bag, girded my loins, and headed out on Friday afternoon. I did fine.
It was not so much the babble of speech, the massive amount of food, the obvious mutual affection, and the kindness of some of them that impressed me. It was the choice of excursions. We went to amazing places that tourists do not usually go, because they are not open to tourists. But for some reason they were open to Paco and his 80 good friends.
We saw inside the big old Jesuit monastery in Villagarcia de Campos. It is a huge complex of buildings hulking over a tiny mud-brick town. Inside it is dark and damp, with a gruesome collection of saints´ relics and slippery stone floors. It was home to a seminary, and an incendiary counter-reformation press meant to fight the Calvinist heresies that popped up in this neighborhood. It was also a safe place for royals to stash their surplus sons.
|Chapel for young Jesuits|
It is an isolated, severe, gray place. It is still a school. I would not send a child there.
The novitiate chapel is an explosion of gold leaf and froufrou, speckled with woodworm, while the relics and the big stone church below are marble neoclassical bas-relief. There was big money here, 500 years back. It is a wonderous place to see. And best of all were the faces -- the saints and martyrs, naked votive baby Jesuses, severed heads, grotesquely realistic images of murdered children. Here is Spanish Catholicism at its most morbid. (It is easy to condemn an age that turned out this ghastly kitsch. Until you turn on the television.)
The faces of many of the statues are faces you see again and again, on the streets of Villalon, in the pension, in Sahagún and Carrión and Madrid. Castilian faces, for Castilian believers.
|Roman martyr, I think...|
|the kid you just want to smack|
|Yes, that IS a severed head in his arms...|
(Blogger does not like me posting too many photos, or I would show you a big ol lineup of them!)
|fun-loving old pope|
We ate empanada, and took a riverboat up the Canal de Castilla. We walked several kilometers to Tamariz de Campos, another mud-brick town on the Madrid route. Here is a thousand-year-old parish church with a huge collection of Madonnas and prophets, some of them of charming, cartoony local make. More neighbors´ faces, hundreds of years´ worth. I was so taken with their faces! Best of all, I think, is Jesus and the Apostles at The Last Supper, the Jewish Passover Feast. In the middle of the table, ready for carving, is a fine fat piglet!
So, it was a great visit with the Camino people, wonderful full-immersion into Spanish language, and a fascinating look at Castilian art and architecture. I didn´t get to the part about the underground passages and the pharmacy that was sealed-up for 50 years after the druggist died, nor did I tell you about Marisol and Lourdes, two new friends I made... But I am already pushing my luck with Blogger!
|It ain´t easy, being a virgin mother...|