La Alberca – Numero Dos

Yesterday, we took a field trip into the past after a snowy walk through the woods to La Alberca. It was nice to have a bit of a break.

Credit: photo by Johannes

The Spanish students needed to rest their brains. And I needed it because I am tired of the sound of my own voice. It was a lovely walk and we all learned a lot and enjoyed the day.

Entering the town from the woods is a different experience. The lintels over the doors and those holding up the corners of many buildings are carved stone. And some of them have significant meaning. Most homes mark their construction date. And perhaps other information key to communicating it’s purpose, or the rank of the inhabitants centuries ago.

One building stands out as a place where torture during the Spanish Inquisition occurred. The carving in the lintel depicts a cross with an olive branch and a sword. The message is clear. Convert to Christianity and enjoy peace. Don’t convert, and torture and death will likely result. There is a tunnel that runs from the torture chamber in the basement of this building to the town church.

Many people were, of course, tortured for other reasons. Witch craft. Women were especially targeted. But some Muslims and Jews ‘converted’. And in an effort to prove their loyalty to their new religion they would gift the town with a pig – an animal considered unclean by both religions.

To commemorate this practice, the town releases a pig each year into the town. The rule is that if the pig is at your door during the day you must feed it. If it shows up at night you must bring it inside, feed it dinner, and allow it to sleep there. Apparently, you can see neighbors as sundown approaches shooing the pig away. No one wants a pig as a houseguest. A statue of the pig has been erected next to the church. On certain fiestas there is a legend that if a boy rubs the pigs bollocks at midnight he will ‘get lucky’.

The church, like so many towns in Spain, is the heart of the community. It has all the requisite alter pieces. And the arched ceiling. But the carvings are remarkable.

The ossuary for poor people is attached to the outside of the building. It allowed those who could not afford a burial in the church to be church-adjacent.

Every night a bell is rung on every corner in this town. It is a tradition that dates back centuries and is passed down thru families to the eldest daughter from her mother. Families take turns by taking an entire month of ringing the bell throughout the town on each corner of the village. And they do not miss a night. No matter the weather. The bell calls the souls of the poor to rest.

There is a legend that a few centuries ago, a young woman was the assigned bell ringer. But a storm blew in and she decided to skip the bell ringing that night. The next morning she was doing her chores in the village and people congratulated her for keeping her commitment to ringing the bell in such bad weather. More and more people came to praise her dedication. They had heard the bell in the midst of the storm. But, it seems the bell had rung itself. Since that day, no one has ever missed their bell ringing responsibilities.

The town is not large. The Plaza Mayor is simple and contains the requisite stone cross. But it also houses the tourist office, now located in the old town jail.

I’ll add a few other random pics. The rain gutters are interesting, too. Animals and art.

And finally, completely unrelated but for my Camino friends. The storm that blew snow and cold down from Siberia on us yesterday in La Alberca, also landed snow at O Cebreiro in the Lugo Mountains on the Camino Frances. I saw this photo in the newspaper and thought you might enjoy it. Imagine hiking through a few feet of snow on your way down to Triacastela. Winter in Northwestern Spain.

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