Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 26.7.21

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’ 


The UK:  Good news . . . As of August 1, double-vaccinated expats – me for example – will be able to travel to the UK, as the Government plans to recognise foreign jabs from then. Unless, of course, there’s yet another U-turn by Johnson’s hapless government. If it does happen, it’ll mean I can avoid both quarantine and the cost of 2 PCR tests at around 90 quid each. But does the single J&J/Janssen jab count as a double vaccination? And here’s a potential wrinkle . . . “UK nationals who’ve been vaccinated overseas will be able to talk to their GP, about what vaccine they’ve had and have it registered with the NHS – to ensure it is approved in the UK.” What bloody GP? After 20 years, mine is here in Spain. My ex UK GP wouldn’t know me from a hole in the ground.

Second query . . . Will this change remain valid if Spain moves to Amber+?

Cosas de España/Galiza 

The wheels of Spanish justice . . . Right-wingers are fed up with waiting for the verdict of the Constitutional Court on the law of a previous (socialist) government on abortion. I guess you can understand their frustration, as it’s been 11 years already. 

If you’re a student thinking of moving to Spain, this guide is for you.

María’s Not So Fast: Days 20 & 21 Santiago’s Holy Day

Need I say that I don’t subscribe to the ludicrous – but immensely profitable – myth of St James’s headless body coming to Galicia in a stone boat manned by angels. Below is what the famous Protestant George Borrow had to say about Santiago and its cathedral. As you can see, he was wrong about its glory passing. Richard Ford was even more scathing about the myth, as you can see from his long, but learned, diatribe, also below.

The UK  

Weeds are defined as ‘Flowers growing in the wrong place’. In other words, wild flowers that no one wants in their garden. Well, almost no one. It’s reported this morning that, at a  Royal Horticultural Society show in Cheshire last week, ‘a garden full of weeds – labelled Weed Thriller – was awarded a gold medal, despite its creator expecting to receive “nul points”.

A topical headline: Roses out, olives in: the new English garden in a time of climate crisis.

The EU

Richard North this morning avers that this is far more of a ‘regulatory union’ than a trade or political union. A system, he stresses, which devotes a 409-page regulation to specifying the forms to be used by exporters of animals and food products into the EU has to be considered all bad. It’s a system, he adds, in its terminal stage of bureaucratic decay. 

The Way of the World 

Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. One of the reasons he was ‘turbulent’ for the king was that he refused to allow even murderous priests to be tried in civil courts. I was reminded of this when reading that this week, for the first time ever, the Vatican will allow a Cardinal to be tried by professional judges, not other Cardinals. A mere 851 years later. And some say Spanish justice is slow . . .

Finally  . . . 

So, is this Catalan politician unfortunate in having a mop which looks like a rug? 


This article suggests not . . .

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here


Santiago stands on a pleasant level amidst mountains:  the most extraordinary of these is a conical hill, called the Pico Sacro, or Sacred Peak, connected with which are many wonderful legends.  A beautiful old town is Santiago, containing about twenty thousand inhabitants.  Time has been when, with the single exception of Rome, it was the most celebrated resort of pilgrims in the world; its cathedral being said to contain the bones of Saint James the elder, the child of the thunder, who, according to the legend of the Romish church, first preached the Gospel in Spain.  Its glory, however, as a place of pilgrimage is rapidly passing away.

The cathedral, though a work of various periods, and exhibiting various styles of architecture, is a majestic venerable pile, in every respect calculated to excite awe and admiration; indeed, it is almost impossible to walk its long dusky aisles, and hear the solemn music and the noble chanting, and inhale the incense of the mighty censers, which are at times swung so high by machinery as to smite the vaulted roof, whilst gigantic tapers glitter here and there amongst the gloom, from the shrine of many a saint, before which the worshippers are kneeling, breathing forth their prayers and petitions for help, love, and mercy, and entertain a doubt that we are treading the floor of a house where God delighteth to dwell. Yet the Lord is distant from that house; he hears not, he sees not, or if he do, it is with anger.  What availeth that solemn music, that noble chanting, that incense of sweet savour? What availeth kneeling before that grand altar of silver, surmounted by that figure with its silver hat and breast-plate, the emblem of one who, though an apostle and confessor, was at best an unprofitable servant?  What availeth hoping for remission of sin by trusting in the merits of one who possessed none, or by paying homage to others who were born and nurtured in sin, and who alone, by the exercise of a lively faith granted from above, could hope to preserve themselves from the wrath of the Almighty?

Rise from your knees, ye children of Compostela, or if ye bend, let it be to the Almighty alone, and no longer on the eve of your patron’s day address him in the following strain, however sublime it may sound:

“Thou shield of that faith which in Spain we revere,

Thou scourge of each foeman who dares to draw near;

Whom the Son of that God who the elements tames,

Called child of the thunder, immortal Saint James!

“From the blessed asylum of glory intense,

Upon us thy sovereign influence dispense;

And list to the praises our gratitude aims

To offer up worthily, mighty Saint James.

“To thee fervent thanks Spain shall ever outpour;

In thy name though she glory, she glories yet more

In thy thrice-hallowed corse, which the sanctuary claims

Of high Compostella, O, blessed Saint James.

“When heathen impiety, loathsome and dread,

With a chaos of darkness our Spain overspread,

Thou wast the first light which dispell’d with its flames

The hell-born obscurity, glorious Saint James!

“And when terrible wars had nigh wasted our force,

All bright ‘midst the battle we saw thee on horse,

Fierce scattering the hosts, whom their fury proclaims

To be warriors of Islam, victorious Saint James.

“Beneath thy direction, stretch’d prone at thy feet,

With hearts low and humble, this day we intreat

Thou wilt strengthen the hope which enlivens our frames,

The hope of thy favour and presence, Saint James.

“Then praise to the Son and the Father above,

And to that Holy Spirit which springs from their love;

To that bright emanation whose vividness shames

The sun’s burst of splendour, and praise to Saint James.”


The town of Santiago is so named after St. James the Elder; it is also called Compostela, Campus Stellæ, because a star pointed out where his body was concealed. It is impossible to understand many important portions of Spanish fine art and religious character, without an acquaintance with the history of this St. George of the Peninsula, which has never been fully detailed to English readers.

The Spanish legend of St. James the Elder, when not purely pagan, is Muslim. The Gotho-Spanish clergy adapted these matters from the ancients and the Muslim, just as Mohammed formed his creed from the Old and New Testaments, making such alterations as best suited the peculiar character and climate of their people and country; hence the success, and their still existing hold over their followers.

The custom of choosing a guardian over kingdoms and cities prevailed all over the ancient world, and when by the advice of Gregory the Great the pagan stock in trade was taken by its successor into the Roman Catholic firm, the names being merely changed, the system of patron-saints was too inveterate to be abandoned. The Spaniards contend, without a shadow of real evidence, that St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. James, came all 3 to the Peninsula immediately after the crucifixion. Rome, however having monopolized the 2 former for her guardians, Spain was obliged to take the latter. The making his burial-place a place of pilgrimage was next borrowed from the East, and was one of the results of Santa. Helena’s invention (and a rare one it was) of the cross at Jerusalem in 298. The principle of visiting a sacred spot was too inspiring to be overlooked by Mohammed, when he adapted Christianity to Arabian habits, and pilgrimage became one of the 4 precepts of his new creed, Mecca being selected in order to favour his native town by this rich influx. The ill-usage of the Christian pilgrims led to the crusades, in which Spaniards took little part; nay, they were forbidden to do so by the Pope, because they had the infidel actually on their own soil. Yet Spaniard and Moor felt the spirit-stirring effect of a particular holy spot, and determined on having a counterpart Jerusalem and Mecca in the Peninsula itself. The Spanish Moors were accordingly absolved by their clergy from the necessity of going to Mecca, which being in possession of the Khalif of the East, was inaccessible to the subjects of his rival in the West; and Córdoba being the capital of his new state was chosen by Abdu-r-rahman, who, like Mohammed, wished to enrich his new city; and a visit to the Ceca, where some of the bones of Mohammed were pretended to be preserved, was declared to be in every respect equivalent to a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Thereupon the imitating Spaniards, who could not go to Jerusalem, set up their local substitute; they chose their mountain capital, where they, too, said their prophet was buried: thus the sepulchre at Compostela represented alike those of Jerusalem and Mecca. The Aragonese, whose kingdom was then independent, chose for their Ceca their capital Zaragoza, where they said the Virgin descended from heaven on a visit to Santiago; and the religious duty and saving merits of pilgrimage became as much a parcel of the orthodox Spaniard’s creed as it was of the infidels, whom they always fought against with a weapon borrowed from their own armoury. As the Moors had established soldier-monks or Rábitos to guard their frontiers and protect their pilgrims, so the next imitation of the Spaniards was the institution of similar military religious orders, of which that of Santiago became the chief. Founded in 1158 by Fernando II. of Leon, it soon, like that of the Templars, from being poor and humble, became rich, proud, and powerful, insomuch that El Maestre de Santiago, in the early Spanish annals, figures almost as a rival to the monarch. When Granada was conquered their assistance was no longer needed, and Isabella, by bestowing the grand-mastership on Ferdinand, absorbed the dreaded wealth and power of the order into the crown, without having recourse to the perfidy and murders by which Philippe le Bel suppressed the Templars in France.

This was now accomplished without difficulty, for these corporate bodies lacked the security of private properties, which every one is interested in upholding. They were hated by the clergy, because rivals and independent brotherhoods – half priest, half soldier – without being either one or the other, although assuming the most offensive privileges of both. The people also stood aloof, for they saw in the members only proud knights, who scorned to interchange with them the kindly offices of the poor monks; while the statesman, from knowing that the substance was no longer wanted, held the order to be both obsolete and dangerous. All parties, therefore, aided Ferdinand, who was greedy of gold, and Isabella, who was determined to be really a queen, and the order virtually ceased to exist, save as conferring a badge on nobles and courtiers.

But in the medieval period it was a reality, as then a genuine lively faith existed in both Moor and Spaniard; each grasped the legend of their champion prophet as firmly as they did the sword by which it was to be defended and propagated. Proud towards men, these warriors bowed to the priest, in whom they saw the ministers of their guardian, and their faith sanctified and ennobled such obedience: both equally fanatical, fought believing that they were backed by their guardians: this confidence went far to realise victory and especially with the Spaniard, who has always been disposed to depend on others; in the critical moment of need, he folds his arms and clamours for supernatural assistance; thus the Iberians invoked their Netos, and afterwards prayed to the Phœnician Hercules. All this is classical and Oriental: Castor and Pollux fought visibly for the Romans at Regillum; Mohammed appeared on the Orontes to overthrow Count Roger, as Santiago, mounted on his war-horse, interfered at Clavijo in 846 to crush the Moslem. There was no mention of Santiago, or his visit to Spain, or his patronage, in the time of the Goth, and simply because there being no Moors then to be expelled, he was not wanted.

For this Hagiography consult ‘El Teatro de Santiago,’ Gil. Gonzalez. Florez has collected all the authentic facts which different infallible Popes from Leo III. have ratified. The best book is ‘Historia del Apostol de Jesus Christo, Sanctiago Zebedeo, Patron y Capitan General de las Españas;’ Mauro Castellá Ferrer, 1610, for this is the correct title of the apostle in Spain. The conferring military rank spoke the spirit of the age and people when bishops rode in armour and knights in cowls, and a nation of caballeros never would have respected a footman guardian. Accordingly Santiago, San Martin, and San Isidoro are always mounted, and represent the Fortuna Equestris of the Romans.

Froissart felt the full rank of this chief of a religious chivalry, and of a church-militant, and, therefore, like Dante, he calls St. James a Baron—Varon, Vir, a gentleman, a man emphatically, in contradiction to Homo, Hombre, or a mere mortal clod of earth. So Don Quixote speaks of him as “Don Diego,” the Moor-killer, and one of the most valiant of saints. The Cids and Alonzos of Spain’s dark ages at least had the common sense to choose a male guardian to lead their armies to victory; it was left to the enlightened Cortes of Cadiz in 1810 to nominate St Teresa, the crazy nun of Ávila, to be the fit commandress of the Cuestas, Blakes, and suchlike spoilt children of defeat.

According to church-authorised legends, St. James was beheaded at Jerusalem in 42, but his body was taken to Joppa, where a boat appeared, into which the corpse embarked itself, and sailed to Padron, which lies 4 leagues below Santiago; it performed the voyage in 7 days, which proves the miracle, since the modern Alexandria Steam Company can do nothing like it. It first made for Barcelona, then coasted Spain, and avoiding the delicious South. (probably because polluted by the infidel), selected this damp diocese, where the wise prelate Theodomirus, who planned the self-evident trick, resided. The body rested on a stone at Padrón, which hollowed itself out – wax to receive, and marble to retain – although some contend that this stone was the vessel in which it sailed. The corpse was then removed to a cave sacred to Bacchus, and the whole affair was forgotten for nearly 800 years, when, says Florez, “Spain breathed again by the discovery of the body, which occurred after this wise:—Pelagius, a hermit, informed Theodomirus bishop of Iria Flavia, Padrón, that he saw heavenly lights always hovering over a certain site. It was examined, and a tomb found which contained a body, but how it was ascertained to be that of the apostle is not stated: that unimportant fact was assumed. Thereupon Alonzo el Casto built a church on the spot, and granted all the rich land round for 3 miles to the good bishop. In 829 the body was removed for greater security to the stronger town of Santiago, wild bulls coming by “divine inspiration” to draw the carriage, as a delicate compliment to the guardian of the land of Tauromachia. Riches now poured in, especially the corn-rent, said to be granted in 846 by Ramiro, to repay Santiago’s services at Clavijo, where he killed single-handed 60,000 Moors.. This grant was a bushel of corn from every acre in Spain, and was called el Voto and el Morion, the votive offering of the quantity which the Capt.-General’s capacious helmet contained. The deed, dated Calahorra 834, convicts itself of forgery. This roguery in grain recalls that in oil of Hinckmar, who, 360 years after the right date, forged the story of the Sainte Ampoule being brought down by a dove from Heaven for St. Remy in 496 to baptize Clovis at Rheims.

This corn-rent, estimated at 200,000l. a-year, used to be collected by agents, although not much eventually reached Galicia, for grains of gold and wheat stick like oil to Spanish fingers, and Quien aceite mesura le unta las manos. The jokes in Spain on these and other corn-collectors were many: Quien pide por Dios, pide por dos; anda con alforjas de fraile, predicando por el saco. This tax was abolished in 1835. When corn-rents were given to discoverers of bones, revelations never were wanting if the land was good; hence every district had its high place and palladium, which however tended indirectly to advance civilization, for the convents became asylums in a rude age, since in them the lamp of learning, of the arts and religion, flickered. The duty of visiting Compostela, which, like that of a pilgrimage to Mecca, was absolutely necessary in many cases to take up an inheritance, led to the construction of roads, bridges, and hospitals,—to armed associations, which put down robbers and maintained order: thus the violence of brute force was tempered.

The scholar will see in the whole legend a poverty of invention. “Lucida Sidera,” strange constellations, eclipses, and comets, are the common signs of pagan mythology, palmed on an age ignorant of astronomy. These star-indicated spots were always consecrated. Compare this Compostela with the Roman Campus Stellatus. The Galicians, however, of old, were noted for seeing supernatural illuminations, and what was more, for interpreting their importance. Thus, when the gods struck with lightning the sacred hill, gold (not bones) was sought for. But ancient avarice was straightforward and unblushing: the results nevertheless were the same, and the invention of the modern priests gave them the philosopher’s stone, the magnet wherewith to attract bullion.

As to marvellous transportations by sea in miraculously sent ships, Lucian tells us, that the head of Osiris was carried to Byblus by water, and also in 7 days; again Herodotus  records that Corobius was transported by sea, and also to Spain and also through the Straits. Pausanias particularly names Tyre as the port whence an image of Hercules was carried by a ship conscious of its sacred cargo to Priene, and there became the object of pilgrimage; so, according to the Greeks, Cecrops sailed from Egypt in a boat of papyrus. But it would be mere pedantry to multiply instances extracted from pagan mythology, and for every one a parallel might be found in papal practice in Spain.  

That rocks soften on these occasions, all geologists know well. Thus the stone at Delphi, on which the Sibyl Herophile sat down, received the full impression, second only in basso-relievo to that grand stone on which Silenus reposed, and which Pausanias was shown at Trœzene: so among the Moslem, when Mohammed ascended to Heaven, his camel’s hoofs were imprinted on the rock (just as those of Castor were at Regillum); and his own footmark is shown near Cairo, at Attar é Nebbee, and in the Sahara or sanctum of the Haram at Jerusalem. Such a metamorphosis was an old story even in sceptical Ovid’s times.

Some antiquarians, with sad want of faith, have pronounced this stone to be only a Roman sarcophagus; if, however, people can once believe that Santiago ever came to Spain at all, all the rest is plain sailing; yet this legend, the emphatic one of Spain, is not yet disbelieved, for see Mellado’s Guide (1843) on Santiago and his cockleshells; but the Phœnix of the ancients is no bad symbol of the vitality of superstitious frauds, which, however exploded for a time, rise up again from their ashes. As the inventive powers of man are limited, an old story comes round and round like the same tune in a barrel organ. There is nothing new under the sun, said the wisest of kings. The Pontifex maximus of old and modern Rome have alike fathomed the depths of human credulity, which loves to be deceived, and will have it so, “and the priests bear rule by their means:”

The first cathedral built over the body was finished in 874, and consecrated in 899; the city rose around it, and waxing strong, the Córdobans felt the recoil of the antagonist shrine and guardian, even at their Ceca; whereupon Al-mansúr, dreading the crusading influence, determined on its total destruction, and in July, 997, he left Córdoba on his 48th jihad, or holy crusade, having also sent a fleet round to co-operate on the Duero and Miño. He advanced by Coria, and was met at Zamora by many Spanish counts, or local petty sheikhs, who with true Iberian selfishness and disunion sided with the invader, in order to secure their own safety and share in the spoils. Al-mansúr entered Santiago Aug. 10, 997; he found it deserted, the inhabitants having fled from the merciless infidel, whose warfare was extermination; then he razed the city, sparing only the tomb of the Spaniards’ Prophet, before which he trembled: so close was the analogy of these cognate superstitions.

Mariana, however, asserts that he was “dazzled by a divine splendour,” and that his retiring army was visited by sickness inflicted by La divina venganza. Had this taken place before Al-mansúr sacked the town, it would have been more creditable to the miraculous powers of Spain’s great guardian. The learned Jesuit, however, dismisses this humiliating conquest in a few lines, and these contain every possible mistake in names, dates, and localities. Thus he fixes the period A.D. 993, and kills Al-mansúr, whom he calls Mohamad Alhagib, at Begalcorax in 998, whereas he died in 1002 at Medinaceli.

Shant Yakoh, the “Holy City of Jalikijah (Galicia), is thus described by the more accurate contemporaneous Moorish annalists; and it affords a curious proof of the early and widespread effect and influence of the antagonistic guardian and tomb on the Moors. The shrine was frequented even by those Christians who lived among the Moors, and the pilgrims brought back minute reports. “Their Kaaba is a colossal idol, which they have in the centre of the church; they swear by it, and repair to it in pilgrimage from the most distant parts, from Rome as well as from other countries, pretending that the tomb which is to be seen within the church is that of Yákob (James), one of the 12 apostles, and the most beloved of Isa (Jesus): may the blessing of God and salutation be on him and on our prophet!” “They say that the Moslems found no living soul at Santiago except an old monk who was sitting on the tomb of St. James, who being interrogated by Al-mansúr as to himself, and what he was doing in that spot, he answered, I am a familiar of St. James, upon which Al-mansúr ordered that no harm should be done unto him.” The Moslem respected the Faquir monk, in whom he saw a devotee borrowed from his own Kaaba of Mecca. His great object was to destroy the idols of the polytheist Spaniards, as the uncompromising Deism of the Hebrew, and his abhorrence for graven images, formed the essence of Islamism. Al-mansúr purified the temples according to the Jewish law, and exactly as the early Christians in the 4th century had treated the symbols of paganism. Thus, by a strange fate, the followers of the false prophet trod in the steps of both Testaments, while Christianity, corrupted by Rome, was remodelling and renewing those very pagan abominations which the old and new law equally forbade.

Al-mansúr returned to Córdoba laden with spoil. The bells of the cathedral of Santiago were conveyed to Córdoba on the shoulders of Christian captives, and hung up reversed as lamps in the Great Mosque, where they remained until 1236, when St. Ferdinand restored them, sending them back on the shoulders of Moorish prisoners. Al-mansúr is said to have fed his horse out of the still existing porphyry font in the cathedral, but the horse, reply the Spaniards, burst and died. Possibly, coming from Córdoba, the change of diet had affected his condition, and certainly we ourselves nearly lost our superb haca Cordobesa from the “hay and oats” of Galicia.

Al-Mansúr could not find the body of Santiago, at which some will not be surprised; however the soundest local divines contend that the Captain-General surrounded himself when in danger with an obfuscation of his own making, like the cuttlefish, or the Lord Admiral of the Invincible Armada; and to this day no one knows exactly where the bones are deposited. It is said that Gelmirez built them into the foundations of his new cathedral, in order that they never might be pried into by the impertinente curioso, or removed by the enemy. In the same way, it was forbidden among the Romans to reveal even the name of Rome’s guardian, lest the foe, by greater bribes, or by violence, might induce the patron to prove false. The remains of Hercules were also said to be buried in his temple at Cádiz, but no one knew where. However, Santiago lies somewhere, for he was heard clashing his arms when Buonaparte invaded Spain; as Hercules did before the battle of Leuctra, so the old war-horse neighs at the trumpet’s sound. The Captain-General, valiant at Clavijo, had already given up active service in 997, and it could not be expected that such an invalided veteran should put on, like old Priam, his old armour and turn out of his comfortable resting-place to oppose Soult 812 years afterwards. After all it is just possible that the veritable Santiago is not buried at Compostela, for as the Coruñese claimed a duplicate body of Geryon, to the indignation of the Gaditanos, so the priests of St Sernin at Toulouse, among 7 bodies of the 12 apostles, said that Santiago’s was one; and when we remember the triumph of Soult at Santiago and his trouncing at Toulouse, it is difficult not to think that the real Simon Pure is buried at St Seernin, and helped our Duke.

Be this as it may, all Spanish divines lose theur temper whenever this legend is questioned; volumes of controversy have been written, and the evidence thus summed up:—Primo, The scallop shells found at Clavijo, prove that they were dropped there by Santiago, when busy in killing 60,000 Moors. Secundo, If the Virgin descended from Heaven at Zaragoza to visit Santiago, of which there can be no doubt, it follows that Santiago must have been at Zaragoza. However the honest Jesuit Mariana thinks no proof at all necessary, because so great an event never could have been believed at first without sufficient evidence; while Morales concludes that “None but a heretic could doubt a fact which no man can dare to deny;” be that as it may, the Pope soon became jealous of this assumed elevation and Baronius resented pretensions which rivalled those of St. Peter, and were pretty much as unfounded. Accordingly Clement VIII. altered the Calendar of Pius V., and threw a doubt on the whole visit, whereat the whole Peninsula took alarm. The Pontiff was assailed with such irresistible arguments, that his virtue gave way, and the affair was thus compromised in the Papal record: This would not do; and Urban VIII. in 1625, being “refreshed” with golden opinions, restored Santiago to all his Spanish honours.

The see, now an archbishopric, was formerly suffragan to the metropolitan Merida. It was elevated in 1120 by the management of Diego Gelmirez, a partisan of Queen Urraca, who prevailed on her husband Ramón to intercede with his brother Pope Calixtus II. Diego, the first primate, presided 39 years, and was the true founder of the cathedral; and although the people rose against him and Urraca, he was the real king during that troubled period when Urraca was false to him and to every one else. There is a curious Latin contemporary history, called ‘La Compostelana,’ which was written by two of his canons; and none can understand this period without reading it. The city and chapter of Toledo opposed the elevation of a rival Santiago, for as in the systems of Mohammed and the imitating Spaniard, religion went hand in hand with commerce and profit, as it had since the days of the Phoenicians. A relic or shrine attracted rich strangers, while its sanctity awed robbers, and shed security over wealthy merchants; hence an eternal bickering between places of established holiness and commerce, and any upstart competitors: as Medina hated Mecca, so Toledo hated Santiago.

But Gelmirez was a cunning prelate, and well knew how to carry his point; he put Santiago’s images and plate into the crucible, and sent the ingots to the Pope. He remitted the cash to Rome (where no heresy ever was more abominable than the non-payment of Peter’s pence, for, no penny no paternoster), by means of pilgrims, who received from his Holiness a number of indulgences proportioned to the sums which they smuggled through Aragon and Catalonia, then independent and hostile kingdoms, and the “dens,” say these historians, “not of thieves, but of devils,” for Spain in those unhappy times resembled the Oriental insecurity of Deborah’s age, “when the highways were unoccupied, and travellers walked through the byways.”

Following the example of the pagan priests of the temple of Hercules at Cádiz, Gelmirez now extolled the virtues of making a visit and an offering to the new guardian at Santiago. The patron saint became el santo, the saint par excellence, as Antonio at Padua is il santo. He never turned a deaf ear to those pilgrims who came with money in their sacks: and great was the stream of wealthy guilt which poured in; kings gave gold, and even paupers their mites. Thus all the capital expended by Gelmirez at Rome in establishing the machinery was reimbursed, and a clear income obtained; the roads of Christendom were so thronged, that Dante exclaims: Mira mira ecco il Barone Per cui laggiu si visita Galizia!

At the marriage of our Edward I, in 1254, with Leonora, sister of Alonzo el Sabio, a protection to English pilgrims was stipulated for; but they came in such numbers as to alarm the French, insomuch that when Enrique II was enabled by them to dethrone Don Pedro, he was compelled by his allies to prevent any English whatever entering Spain without the French king’s permission. The capture of Santiago by John of Gaunt increased the difficulties, by rousing the suspicions of Spain also. The numbers in the 15th century were also great.  916 licences were granted to English in 1428, and 2,460 in 1434.

But the pilgrimage to Compostela began to fall off after the Reformation; then, according to Molina, “the damned doctrines of the accursed Luther diminished the numbers of Germans and wealthy English.” The injurious effect of the pilgrimage on public morals in Galicia was exactly as at Mecca; it fostered a vagrant, idle, mendicant life; nothing could be more disorderly than the scenes at the tomb itself; the habit of pilgrims, once the garb of piety, became that of rogues. It was at last prohibited in Spain, except under regulations. But smaller pilgrimages in Spain, as among the Moslems, are still universally prevalent; every district has its miracle-shrine and high place. These combine, in an uncommercial and unsocial country, a little amusement with devotion and business. The pilgrims, like beggars in an Irish cabin, were once welcome to a “bite and sup,” as they were itinerant gossips, who brought news in an age when there were no post-offices and broad sheets; now they are unpopular even at Santiago, since they bring no grist to the mill, but take everything, and contribute nothing; they are particularly hated in ventas, those unchristian places, from whence even the rich are sent away empty; hence the proverb, Los peregrinos, muchas posadas y pocos amigos.

A residence in holy places has a tendency to materialize the spiritual, and to render the ceremonial professional and mechanical. Thus at Santiago, as at Mecca, the citizens are less solicitous about their “lord of the apostles,” than those are who come from afar; as at Rome, those who live on the spot have been let behind the scenes, and familiarity breeds contempt. They are, as at all places of periodical visit ancient or modern, chiefly thinking how they can make the best of the “season,” how they can profit most from the fresh enthusiasm of the stranger; and as he never will come back again, they covet his cash more than his favourable recollections. Accordingly the callous natives turn a deaf ear to the beggar who requests a copper for Santiago’s sake, he gets nothing from them natives but a dry Perdone usted por Dios, Hermano! Therefore the shrewd mendicant tribe avoid them, and smell a strange pilgrim, for whom even the blind are on a look-out, even before he descends the hill of St. Marcos. He enters the holy city, attended by an attendant group hoarse with damp and importunity.