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de Santiago, Triacastela, Lugo, Spain
Augustine the Aleut.
Iglesia de Santiago (Church of St James), Triacastela, Lugo,
Roman Catholic, Diocese
The apse is probably Romanesque, but the rest of the church
dates largely from the 18th century. The tower displays the
three castles that appear on the village's coat of arms. The
interior features a retablo over the main altar, and two side
retablos, presumably formerly over side altars. The aisle between
the pews is very broad; seating is almost an afterthought.
A sagrario (tabernacle) dating from the 15th century is now
in Compostela's Museo das Peregrinacións.
Triacastela marks the end of the most mountainous section of
the pilgrimage road. Nothing remains of the three castles that
gave the village its name. At the east end of this winding village,
strung out along the Camino like many other pueblos of the region,
the church is in a walled compound with cemetery, to the left
and down a lane. Triacastela to Sarria via Samos is likely one
of the finest walks on the planet much like Middle Earth
on a good day. The Benedictines of Samos, however, are a bunch
of old coots in a huge and sterile mock-baroque church, redone
when the monastery was rebuilt in Franco's time. It's best to
just enjoy the walk.
Augusto Losada Lopez is the name I have in my notes.
The date & time:
Wednesday, 14 October 2009, 7.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
There were 18 in the small country church's single nave which
could hold about 30 or so. Unlike most Camino churches, the
majority of the congregation were pilgrims with perhaps only
two or three locals.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I recognised several of the pilgrims from along the way, including
two older Spanish couples, who managed to dress very formally
and respectably out of their backpacks after a day of slugging
over the hills of Lugo province.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was likely handmade locally, and by a carpenter sensitive
to the likelihood that it would be occupied for long stretches.
The bench was wide and the back at a most comfortable height,
to permit if not to encourage lounging during long sermons.
How would you describe the pre-service
Most of the pilgrims there knew each other by sight from the exhausting hilly walk and repeated climbs out of O'Cebreiro and Vega de Valcarce.
What were the exact opening words of the
The customary sign of the cross in Spanish.
What books did the congregation use during the
None, as is the custom.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
I was seated on the gospel side, about four rows from the front,
and had a spooky side-altar retablo to my right that depicted
a female saint about to take off into the ether. Then there
was the cell phone – read on!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was the usual novus ordo mass, overlaid with wandering commentary
and discussion from the priest. He was one of the very few who
deviated in any way from the set text, and addressed himself
specifically to pilgrims. Several were singled out to provide
readings, and we heard the epistle in Portuguese, German, French
and Italian, as well as in Spanish.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 for coherence, 10 for relevance to the congregation. On average,
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Pilgrimage: to walk in shadows so that we learn to walk in light.
To see signs of humanity in our mistakes. To believe in love,
not in fear. To believe freely. To fall so that we learn to
rise. To see the signs around us and seek signs and directions
from angels. To see angels where we do not expect to or want
to. Finally, to seek help all the way along the road, so that
we can learn to help others.
Which part of the service was like being in
A strong feeling of comradeship and community, and enjoying the rest after a long day through rolling countryside.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The priest had led us all into a strong feeling of community
through his words. He continued with the mass as usual, with
the offertory, sursum corda and preface, sanctus and eucharistic
prayer. But then, as he paused at the most solemn moment to
pronounce the words of consecration, a cell phone rang. And
rang. And rang! The priest looked around, hoping that the owner
would turn it off. An Austrian pilgrim, sitting up front, was
the miscreant, but the man was too embarrassed to own up to
it. And so he let the cursed instrument continue to ring away
from inside his pack. It kept on ringing. Eventually a Brazilian
pilgrim got up, took the chirping pack, and walked it to the
back of the church, where she athletically flung it through
the open door. Blushing furiously, the Austrian ran out of the
church to rescue it. A Spanish pilgrim remarked, audibly enough,
that the devil had been cast from the temple. It has since been
suggested to me that the devil can also be cast out of a cell
phone by immersion in the holy water stoup. Alas, a precious
moment and a rare mood had been broken and could not be recaptured.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much. As I left, the Spaniards, ever proper, and I made
eye contact. The Austrian pilgrim avoided us all. Two dashing
Brazilian pilgrims laughed at the insanity of it all and invited
me to dinner.
How would you describe the after-service
None, as usual, so I went with the Brazilians to a local restaurant
and enjoyed some goat in port sauce (quite tasty). A very pleasant
evening, even if I am still not certain if we had a language
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 While I liked the scale of the little building, the
priest's intensity would likely wear on me after a while, but
I would rate the service (aside from the cell phone) a 9/10,
maybe even a 10/10.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
The priest's intense desire that we focus on the spiritual and human rewards of pilgrimage and companionship amid sacrifice helped me remember that this was not a random stroll for one own's amusement.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How the devil, in the form of a cell phone, had been cast from
the temple. Ever since then, I religiously turn mine off as
I enter a church.
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