Western portal of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at Obradoiro square, Galicia, Spain
Western portal of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at Obradoiro square, Galicia, Spain

»Monte do Gozo. Anticipation is in the air as I reach the ›Mountain of Joy‹. Rain clouds are hanging low and conceal the mysterious pilgrimage site of Catholic Christians. It is still pouring. The small chapel on the hill invites visitors to linger on. Only a few more kilometers to go and I will reach my final destination. Today I will take all the time I need. Anticipation is spreading. Now and then life’s loneliness comes up — and retreats understandingly, doesn’t want to scare me.

Surrounded by an unspectacular suburbia atmosphere I feel like sipping a coffee at one of the meaningless bars before exposing myself to the hustle of downtown. Arriving takes time. It can't be done by flipping a switch.

Entering through the Porta do Camiño I dive into the historic center of Santiago, strolling through its narrow streets. Old buildings so tall that I almost lose my way. Where exactly am I? Where is the cathedral — the destination I have been longing to reach?

The traffic noise does not manage to drown the peaceful sounds of a bagpipe. With each step they become more discernible. The tension grows. Finally I reach the small Jet Bead Square north of the cathedral like all pilgrims do. Covered by the plain north gate passage I walk down the stairs and pass the bagpiper, whose welcoming sounds give me goose bumps.

It's a Friday sometime in June. It has stopped raining. The uneven, partly ancient stone slabs on the huge cathedral forecourt Praza do Obradoiro have been polished by thousands upon thousands of pilgrim steps. I keep going to the center of the square, before I finally turn around marveling at the considerably high front façade of the cathedral with its Western portal. It is literally getting old. The  front looks quite sad. It got marked by heavy weather, dirt and corrosion. Moss and weeds grew wild while the iron gate rusted. And yet there it is. Irrefutable. It symbolizes a place of confidence and acceptance for those who are longing for it. The site of pilgrimage as well as the entire journey reflects ones life. A life full of effort, expectation, disappointment, joy, and hope.

Unbelievable — I have finally made it. I have arrived.«

June 11th, 2010

Photographs taken in 2015. © Donald Walter. 

Photographs taken in 2013. © Donald Walter.