Parish Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
11-18 February 2012
St James, who saw our Lord transfigured, after preaching in Palestine and then bringing the Good News to Spain, you became the first Apostle to die as a witness to Christ. Witness of Christ's agony in the garden, teach us to represent Christ in our life, bearing willingly our cross after him and working and praying for God's glory. Amen.
The Pilgrims, seen here as they left in the snow, are now safely back from their Pilgrimage to Santiago
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Listen to Fr Martin & Deidre Smith on BBC Essex Radio .. Broadcast 4 March 2012
Day One (Sunday 12 February)
Sarria to Portomarin - 14 miles
Setting off from Sarria .. Only 111 km to go!
Twenty-nine pilgrims, led and inspired by Fr Martin Boland and ably assisted by Fr James Mackay joined together for the Cathedral Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Flying from London to La Coruna, the pilgrims began their epic journey in the town of Sarria in Galicia, northern Spain.
The distance to be covered on the French Way (el Camino Frances) was more than 111 kms or nearly 70 miles over a period of six walking days. The route took the pilgrims through truly beautiful Galician countryside with only occasional parts of the way on small roads.
All along the way the distance was marked on wayside milestones with the number of kilometres remaining to Santiago.
Blue skies and sub-zero temperatures greeted the pilgrims on the first day from Sarria as the path climbed into the surrounding counrtyside.
Along the way several small chapels were seen though sadly few were open for visiting. Here we see the beautiful 12th century Iglesia de Santa María de Ferreiros with its very well cared for cemetery
As the path climbed the pilgrims were treated to wonderful views of the green and pleasant Galician countryside, seen here near Mercadoiro
Stops were relatively infrequent as the pilgrims pushed forward in the brilliant sunshine. Here we see Susan, Roisin, Sue and Mary taking a brief breather
Pilgrims in the distance skirting an idyllic Galician farm
The path wound up and down towards the first over-night stop at Portomarin, and at times the fatigue began to show on some of the pilgrims
Here we see Anne, Fr James, Joe & Margaret visibly relieved after arriving at Portomarin
Francine having crossed the long modern bridge, seen in the background, then climbed the (many) last steps of the old Roman bridge up into Portomarin. The first 14 miles had been completed.
Day Two (Monday 13 February)
Portomarin to Palas de Rei - 15 miles
At Portomarin the pilgrims passed the night at a comfortable hotel. In the evening, before supper, they gathered for Mass followed by evening prayers.
A statue points the way in the town square, while on the right we see some of the pilgrims pausing in the early morning sunshine before setting off on the second day of walking from Portomarin to Palas de Rei, a distance of 15 miles.
The well-marked path took the pilgrims past several pilgrimage crosses, where memorial objects are commonly left by the peregrinos. On the right we see a particularly ancient and attractive example with pilgrims struggling on in the distance.
Fr Martin and Fr James took turns either to lead from somewhere near the front of the group, or else to trail behind, providing essential moral support for the rearguard.
Palas de Rei
Here we see evening Mass being celebrated by Fr James and Fr Martin at the hotel in Palas de Rei
And here the pilgrims are at supper showing very little outward sign of the pain and discomfort experienced during the long walk!
Day Three (Tuesday 14 February)
Palas de Rei to Melide - 9 miles
After breakfast and morning prayers the pilgrims gathered at Palas de Rei under threatening grey skies with drizzling rain. Wet-weather gear appeared from bags as they set off again on the relatively short 'hop' to Melide, a mere 9 miles.
Nice Hat Mary!Nice Little Dog Fr James!
The rearguard are spotted at the half-way point. But there are still 56 kms left before getting to Santiago
Day Four (Wednesday 15 February)
Melide to Arzua - 9 miles
The group are seen here leaving Melide for another apparently easy stretch of about nine miles
Roisin is captured leading the pack up hill out of Melide. But already some stragglers are beginning to gravitate to the rear
Happy Pilgrims .. Down Hill
Aged Pilgrims - Up Hill More Happy Walkers
Cheerful KevinCheerful Priests
The path took the pilgrims through forests of oak, pine and eucalyptus with rustic bridges crossing rivers and streams.
At Boente the pilgrims came across this lovely church dedicated to St James, which they were fortunately able to visit.
The sun had chased away the grey skies by the time the pilgrims had straggled into a wayside bar appropriately named for Santiago.
Pat, Susan, Melrose & David (with Joe and Margaret in the background) seen gathering strength for the next stretch.
Claire in the sunshine
Debbie our ever present and helpful walking representative from New Experience Holidays is seen here with Fr Martin
Day Five (Thursday 16 February)
Arzua to O Pedrouso - 13 miles
After breakfast and morning prayers the pilgrims gathered for the group photo at Arzua
Martin displayed a wonderful pair of Scottish Knees.
He reassured us that he did not have a kilt hidden in his baggage!
Having climbed steadily up from Arzua the pilgrims were treated again to wonderful views of the Galician countryside
The rearguard met an American pilgrim, Richard Gregory Barch, from Virginia who joined us for a few kilometres. This milestone reassured us that there were only 32 Kms to go
As the pilgrims sauntered through tiny villages and hamlets they encountered many animals including this rather aged donkey. Francine is said to have been considering him as alternative transport.
Oh, We Like Sheep ... (We have not gone astray!)
Francine, Claire, Fr James, Anne, Sue and Mary arrive at O Pedrouzo after what felt like a very long and arduous day's walking.
But, dinner at O Pedrouzo showed everyone at their best again, with remarkable signs of cheerfulness and joy. David is snapped here being encouraged with a friendly kiss from the affectionate waitress
Day Six (Friday 17 February)
O Pedrouzo to Santiago - 11 miles
Having been so far behind on the previous day Francine and Graham, after a rapid breakfast, set out at dawn from O Pedrouzo on the last day into Santiago.
Despite their early start, and missing morning prayers, it was not long before they were overtaken by the ever-youthful, fleet-footed Serena
Yve, Francine & Roisin Noreen & David
Eventually the rest of the group began to catch up with the leaders
Passing the village of San Paio
Paul, Jo, Maureen & Jim
Essential rest before the last push to Santiago
Margaret & Joe pausing on the way down into Santiago
First Sight of the CathedralNearly There Anne!
There was a definte spring in the step as the group pushed on through the narrow streets of the old town of Santiago. It was as if the horse could sense the closeness of his stable.
Paul and friends striding up towards the Cathedral
Arrival at the Cathedral in Glorious Afternoon Sunshine
Our Pilgrims Finally Entering the Cathedral
The High Altar in the Cathedral
Saint Mary Salome, wife of Zebedee and Mother of St James & St John
A Side Altar
Saint James in the costume of a Pilgrim
Final Dinner at a Pulperia in Santiago
Roisin presenting small tokens of appreciation from the Pilgrims to Fr James and Fr Martin
Debbie was also presented with a small pilgrim's shell necklace
Day Seven (Saturday 18 February)
Santiago to Brentwood - 732 miles by plane and bus!
The final day began with Mass in a side chapel of the Cathedral dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the simplicity of the Masses celebrated along the way in sometimes noisy restaurants and small hotels, the contrast with the grandeur and solemnity of both the Cathedral chapel and the fine vestments was striking.
Fr Martin and some of the other Pilgrims with their all important Compostela Certificates proving their completion of the Camino
Oh My Feet!
Despite the physical trials and tribulations, the whole Pilgrimage was considered an enormous and spiritually uplifting success by the pilgrims, inspired and supported as we were by Fr Martin and Fr James.
To both of them we offer our sincerest love and gratitude.