The Way of St. James horseback riding

By Sergio González | 10:28

Finnish line of the Way of St. James

The pope Alexander III –who still struggles with the construction of Notre Dame in Paris– has just confirmed to all Christendom that the Jubilee in Compostela is as forgiving as the ones in Rome and Jerusalem.

Anyone who makes the Way and enters Santiago de Compostela Cathedral when the day of St. James -25th of July in Gregorian calendar- falls on Sunday, gains a general pardon for every little sin known as plenary indulgence.

It is the year of our Lord 1179, the third of December in the village of Puente la Reina, in the kingdom of Sancho VI of Navarre.

The first week of my journey horseback riding the Way of St. James was uneasy -I’ve been riding through the fields, avoding as many royal roads as I can till I reach Roncesvalles, in the Pyrenees.

Common sense in these turmoil times would recommend travelling with my squire but it’s safer and faster to go unnoticed and mingle in the pilgrim flows that head to Compostela. My fellow Prius -a young Camargue mare- is all the company I need.

-My king Philip II the Augustus was finally crowned last November the first king of France, thanks to the inherited realms in Vermandois and the lands seized in the South from my father -the Duke of Vasconia- and the Plantagenets.- Our young knight was sharing his sorrows with a fat tavern-keeper and a stew of gout boiled in wine.

The bartender lingered at the words of his sole client. Puente la Reina was the place where all the routes to Santiago converged so it was always lively and full of pilgrims needing meals, but not in winter. Only the fool or the hopeless pilgrim during winter-time. 

What made you start the Way of St. James, my lord?-

I am no lord, but a knight of Philip IIhe was looking for reassurance but his words showed the grief from the lost lands and title of Vasconia.-

-The pious king keeps my deposed mother imprisoned, suffering at Château de Beynac as a grant that we will obey the peace of our new master from Paris. I’m asking St. James to intercede for my mother’s life and prove Philip we are a loyal family. Rumor in the court says Philip is thinking about exiling some families not devout enough.-

-Was not Philip’s father, Louis VII, on a pilgrimage to save his dying prince?-

-Yes and he gained the favor of  recently canonized St. Thomas of Canterbury, saving Philip’s life. That’s why he’s such a devotee.-

Dropping some coins on the table, I left the tavern. I entered the village by the new bridge open for pilgrims, looking for the church of the Holy Cross where the Templars manage a hostel. I could really use a rest but first I need to get into their library and look up the Codex Calixtinus to find about my next stop, Estella.

The codex, an extensive guide for St. James pilgrims, says “Estella is wide in great bread and excellent wine, as in fish and meats. It’s supplied with all sorts of goods and fresh healthy water”. As I was closing the heavy book I knew I couldn’t sleep later, excited by the idea of horseback riding one morning else, another step closer to see the Apostle and save my family’s destiny.

Hey, be careful! Watch ahead!

 Honey? Have you already saddled your horse?

Oh, no mum, I’m sorry. I’m checking out Phelps’  latest marks?

Who?

Michael Phelps? The swimmer that is kicking everybody’s ass at London 2012!

Watch your tongue, William! Turn off your tablet and get your horse ready now! We have to leave Estella early if we want to be in Logroño for dinner. I can’t wait to ride free my beautiful buckskin through this Way valleys again. And try some Rioja wines along, of course.-

This working-mom really needed some time-off, but nothing got done in her family without some pushing. –Roger, darling, remember to ask for the police number in Santiago de Compostela so we get allowed to enter the town and Plaza del Obradoiro riding. Last year was a buzz-killer.– her husband nodded, still feeling dizzy from the excitement of the discovery of a wine fountain at the Monastery of Irache.

William’s horse seemed particularly annoying that morning. The bump he gained on his head for not leaning while passing under a romanic arch still hurt. -God, this medieval people must have been really short- he thought. Mom, can’t we just take a plane? Like everybody else?

It’s not the same, sweetie. You’ll understand when you get older.

Photo Credit: Reservasdecoches.com

Photo Credit: Bill Ward’s Brickpile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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