The desert Way of St. James

I live in Pamplona, Spain, the first city you reach if you start the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) from France. You usually start in St. John Pied du Port, going through Roncesvalles, a beautiful place in the Pyrenees, known for the death of Roland in 778 during a battle in which the Basque tribes destroyed the rear guard of Charlemagne.

Every year there are thousands and thousands of pilgrims coming from Roncesvalles to Pamplona ready to complete the Way, most of them walking, some biking, and a few riding horses, to reach Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia (500 miles).

The reason for this tradition is that it is believed that in Santiago the Compostela, they keep the tomb of the Apostle St. James.

The pilgrimage has been maintained for many centuries. It started in the Middle Age. People from all over the world come every year with their backpacks and walking shoes, going from shelter to shelter. Usually, it takes a month to do it walking.

We are used to seeing on our streets pilgrims recognizable by their shells in their backpacks (the symbol of the Way) with maps looking for directions, visiting our city, and shopping food and water for their next stage.

But not this year. Our city is empty. We are alone. No visitors of any kind, because of the Coronavirus.

Splattered along the route in our city, there are monuments and landmarks from the Middle Age that early pilgrims built to mark the Way. We are used to seeing them in our streets and fields. The carved cross in the photo is an example of those silent signs which tell the pilgrims where to go. They have seen many events of history: wars and peace, plagues, and prosperity. And now are witnesses of the solitude that this pandemic has spread around the world preventing the people from traveling and came here, walk, find peace, think, meet unexpected friends, and try to find the most inner that dwells in themselves during the pilgrimage.

I hope our streets will be full of pilgrims again soon. we miss them.

FOWC: Landmark

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