Yesterday, my new friend and I had to push our meet up to 6pm in the evening. She had pressing concerns that lay elsewhere. This was fine with me as I got dressed in warm clothes and headed out for a walk. After a coffee I swung in front of the Cathedral de Santa Maria and saw that they were open for tours. Contactless self-guided. It’s Covid time.
I’m not a Peregrino (a pilgrim walking the Camino de Santiago Primitivo that starts in Lugo) so I had to pay 6 euros. I figured I would spend an hour or so in the church and the small museum upstairs. Then take a long walk. It was not to be.
The church dates back to Roman times and I learned it is only one of two churches in the world (the cathedral in Assisi, Italy is the other) where you can come and pray any day of the year and escape purgatory (the afterlife’s waiting room), going from death straight to heaven. You are ‘wiped clean’ in Lugo Cathedral. In other churches, including Santiago and Rome, you only get this privilege one day a year. So after my visit I’m good to go for any further catastrophes that might befall me going forward. Whew! That was close.
I listened to the audio in English. Very interesting. They have a cross fashioned from an olive tree from Gethsemane with a sliver of the ‘the true cross’ imbedded in it. I continued on to the small chapels. Then they started the service so I stopped and listened – not wanting to disrupt people worshipping. It was a good turn out for a Wednesday at noon. Quite a few parishioners. Communion in the time of Covid involves a lot of hand sanitizer on the tray with the wine and the wafers. It was interesting to watch as it was worked into the usual rituals. Afterwards I continued on to the next bold number on the map. Suddenly, I was tapped on the shoulder. I look down at a small older man and he’s speaking to me rapidly in Spanish. I explained that I only have a little Español but he seems undeterred. He tugs on my jacket and leads me around, explaining things about the church in rapid Spanish and gesturing wildly. He takes me into the sacristy where the priests change their vestments and the ladies who do the flowers are arranging things. All while peppering me with rapid fire explanations. When I don’t respond appropriately he says the same thing again, slowly in Spanish, like I am la idiota – and sometimes it actually worked.
We head up the to museum with more explanations, and then he took me outside to see the façade. More arm waving. He walked me over to the archeological site run by the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela with it’s unearthed Roman house. Great – I think – it’s interesting, and this is all about to end. But no. Outside again, we walk up the ramp onto the wall as he has more medieval buildings to show me. Ok. Again, it’s interesting. I’m a history buff. But I had my fill. I wanted to do something else. Every time I tried, he said ‘No’ and pulled my sleeve. Then he started gathering other people, and like the Pied Piper of Lugo, people just followed him.
Now we were a group snaking our way through the medieval part of the city. Up the wall. Down the wall. Ugh. We entered hotels none of us were staying in just to see historical door frames. He greeted the proprietors like old friends. I was getting tired and hungry, like a toddler who needs a nap. This is just when Jeff would have seen the signs and become nervous. He’s lived it. And I wanted to find a bathroom. We walked on and the old man talked. At one point he pulled out a wad of old keys, which turned out to be actual church keys because he let us into other buildings and churches that were closed. 4 hours later I had new friends from Andalucía and I learned that I understand a boat load of Spanish related to architecture, the renaissance, Spanish history and much more. More than my brain knew. Since Covid I have struggled. Painfully struggled. But having to focus so intensely to understand, the fog on some of it lifted. Could I conjure a coherent sentence? No. But I had to try broken Spanglish and they understood me – mostly. It’s like physical therapy after an accident. It’s going to hurt but you can’t get around it. You have to go through it.
Along the way, I was introduced to the heads of various museums or business people on the street. Priests and nuns. Manuel was hailed by every other person who stopped to chat. He told people I am from California and am touring Spain. I’m sure I never told him either of these things because it’s patently untrue. Even by mistake. But, while I didn’t try to correct him this led to crazy conversations where passersby wanted to instruct me on all the places in Spain I needed to visit – told I should record this in my phone – and they also regaled me of all their adventures in California. Disneyland, Chicago and Las Vegas were favorites. And yes, I know Chicago and Las Vegas aren’t in California. It was all in Spanish and I was mostly keeping up.
But it was exhausting. You can’t keep up that pace for too long. By hour 4 my brain had started to shut down. It was tired and so was I. After he told me for the for the 4th time that Alaska was ‘discovered by Spain and stolen by America’ I was done. My blood sugar was low. I started muttering to myself under my mask. I finally got him to understand that my popping into the church for a little light ecclesiastical history was just that. And while I was so appreciative of his time and knowledge I needed a nap. He walked me back to my hotel and waved me goodbye. It was 4pm and I’d yet to eat. I wasn’t lying about needing a nap.
I don’t know what it is about this city. Every person I meet seems to want to scoop me up and not let go. I know when we moved to Spain I prayed for community. I’ve been in Lugo 5 days during daylight hours and I feel like I’ve already moved here. I want to wear a t-shirt that says ‘Yes, I’m American, but I’m really not that interesting. I promise.’ But the generosity of the people of this small city is amazing and almost unbelievable, at times.
I’ve included some of more photos of my historical walk.