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Feels odd going back to it now as today has been very different.  I was a bit down on pilgrimages by the time I limped into Santo Domingo de la Calzada yesterday and I pretty much slumped off the bike next to this sculpture.

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The one in the background is Toto whose gear injury is invisible, the one in the foreground is how I felt: all in pieces.  The sculpture does deliver drinkable water from that spout pointing toward me and I was sick of my diet of drinking yoghourt and fruit juice so ditched some remaining youghourt and verily happily drank some water and told myself just to sit still in the shade (over to the left of Toto those steps were excellent for the purpose).

After 20 minutes I hauled myself up and found a hotel with an absolutely lovely man who busied himself with his 15 to 20 words of English and my similar vocabulary of Spanish making me and Toto at home.  He even helped me up the stairs with some of the baggage.  Boy do these things make a difference when you’re battered.  I had seen a public laundrette and reasoned that as I had given up mid/late afternoon (not sure exactly when it was now), I should at least go and get my washing done as I had only a day or so’s reserve, and told myself to look at the town a bit.

Laundrette even put its own washing powder in automatically: OK, Santo Domingo legacy of thinking about those on the Camino does live on.  While things washed and then dried I admired buildings.

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OK, you’re right: it’s not the building there.  Just checking to see if you were really reading and looking at this.  To be fair, I suspect that the building is quite a few hundred years old, yes, it was the bikes I was admiring.  Both worked as far as I could see and I certainly saw a man from the shop to right ride the dragster one on the left.  This is the courtyard of my earlier collapse as you can see.  It was a nunnery and is now an auberge for pilgrims.  Apparently OK but a complete warren inside.  I liked the clean, almost military simplicity of the exterion. Bit reminiscent of the simplicity of the exterior at Irache.

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Sculpture minus youngters and minus Toto who was resting in the cool of the hotel garage.  It was still seriously hot though it was now about 18.00.

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This is the Calle Major: main street.

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And this the story of the building with eaves in decay there.  Hope you can read it.  Hope they restore it carefully.

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And these were the walls:

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I wonder how many pilgrims’ hands have stroked those pitted surfaces, adding to the erosion and the character?  Several in a few minutes while I watched.  The Calle Major is the main pilgrim street through the town:

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I like the juxtaposition of guide mark for the modern pilgrim with the drain cover.  Heraldic assertions are all the rage here.  Interestingly for me, that’s true both on lay buildings but seemingly particularly on religious ones.  These are the arms of the town’s mayor who in 1555 ordered the building of this for the order of Saint Domingo so they could continue the saint’s work of looking after pilgrims.

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I can find no right way to introduce the cathedral.  This (terrible ‘photo, the ‘phone doesn’t cope with incident light at all), was what I saw first: lovely “Roman” apsidal chapel.  (I have to adjust to all the signs saying “Roman”, as I did in France: in both countries it refers broadly to what chronologically and architecturally is called “Norman” in the UK.)

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Moving round the East end.   My sort of stuff.  There is just room for a car to get through between the East end and the house next door.  No letting it stand hogging spotlight and glory.  But, if you squint up, above those you see the classical gothic of flying buttresses:

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And that tower is completely separate from the cathedral: added after two earlier ones had fallen down and built there to avoid the problem with the foundations that they couldn’t fix. This is the full sight pressing myself up against a wall further down the street.

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Moving back onto and along Calle Major you get the South transept.

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Here’s the full South face (with a bit of the tower).

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And here’s Santo Domingo himself, well, modern kitsch which amused me.

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And were you to put your head behind him and look back you see the West end:

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I don’t know what to make of that.  It’s open to the skies but clearly wasn’t always.  It’s not a narthex and it’s way, way cruder than the nave and transepts but the documents insist, and I’m sure they know, that it’s a hundred years later than them.

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Inside is famous for its resident black cockerel and white hen.

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It’s invisible there but in the bottom right of that illuminated hen coop, about 25 feet up in the south transcept, the white hen was clearly visible and very much alive.  You can just make her out, occupying about a sixth of the width of the coop there.  There’s a special papal dispensation dating from the sixteenth century that  gives permission for the animals to be kept in the cathedral. I’m not making this up.  Look up “Your son is as dead as the chickens on my plate” for the full background myth.

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A restrained alterpiece.  There’s a lot of this (but wait for Burgos!)

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Is that Judith?  Oh dear, I was a choirboy once, I should know.  So much grimness, so richly done.

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A relic:

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But I prefer this:

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Still grim …

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But so much better with the simpler style and without all that gold.  To me there’s something almost perverse, tipping toward the sadistic, in some of these later depictions of the horror stories from the Bible. This again is more to my taste (the inside of the apse you saw the outside of earlier).

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And I have no idea what was going on here. It looked like Lego.  It wasn’t open yet.

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And here’s a building just opposite that, i.e. just opposite the cloisters attached to the North transept.

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Needs some repair work but that’s a lovely wall isn’t it?  Very traditional grocers, just opposite Toto’s garage:

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Looking back now, just a day on, it’s as if yesterday afternoon and evening, as I got the washing done, looked at the town, marvelled at the cathedral and speculated again on my taste in ecclesiastical architecture (and all ecclesiastical art really) I moved from a battered wimp to someone who spent much of the evening getting all my GPX/Garmin maps done and, sort of, ready for today.

    1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the varied photos, Chris, it’s great to share a little of all you are seeing, and some of the ups and downs of all varieties.
    I noticed a while ago that my beloved Durham Cathedral is described there now as Romanesque, recognising the wider European heritage of the style brought to our shores by the Normans. A poem by Tomas Transtromer for you:

    ROMANESQUE ARCHES

    Inside the huge Romanesque church the tourists jostled in the half darkness.
    Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.
    A few candle flames flickered.
    An angel with no face embraced me
    and whispered through my whole body:
    “Don’t be ashamed of being human, be proud!
    Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
    You will never be complete, that’s how it’s meant to be.”
    Blind with tears
    I was pushed out on the sun-seething piazza
    together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Mr. Tanaka, and Signora Sabatini,
    and inside each of them vault opened behind vault endlessly.

    Tomas Transtromer

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