Bikes, bulls and saints in Pamplona

Having had a much more relaxed breakfast than yesterday we set off on a walk through medieval Pamplona. We crossed the road from the hotel to the Church of St Fermin. He is the patron saint of the famous bull running festival which is a major feature of life in Pamplona. He was a bishop who was martyred for the faith by being beheaded. So the young men who run with the bull do so with a red neckerchief to symbolise the martyrdom. It was an amazing church and the first place where we saw evidence of the local tradition of encasing statues in silver – mostly brought over from the former Spanish colonies in South America.

The first Camino marker we saw

The first Camino marker we saw

Coming out of the church we found our first Camino marker. We were on the Way. It was a marvellous moment to see the symbol of the shell. But we weren’t going to be doing any proper walking until the afternoon. Instead we headed off to another church, the church of St Cernin. The first part of the church is gothic later extended in the baroque style. Above the original altar was a statue of St James as a pilgrim, with his staff and gourd. Over the newer high altar was a statue of Our Lady of the Camino. This is a place where pilgrims come to say prayers to Our Lady for their protection on the journey.

From there we made our way towards the cathedral, stopping off to see Estafeta, the street along which the bull running takes place. From there it was a short walk to the Cathedral of Santa Maria. The facade, which was a neoclassical addition gives you no idea of the Romanesque glories that lay behind. The high altar is simply gorgeous, set beneath a silver baldacchino surmounted by another silver clad image of Our Lady. It sounds brash but really it was so delicately beautiful it was stunning. We walked round the ambulatory, looking at the various altars. Then we moved into the cloisters which are the jewel in the crown of this stunning cathedral.

The pilgrims in the cloister of the cathedral in Pamplona

The pilgrims in the cloister of the cathedral in Pamplona

We found there a small votive chapel and that is where we said Prayer during the Day. Singing ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’, in an amazing acoustic was a very spiritual experience. We read from the book of Job

He knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

In a place of precious jewels and metals it was a good word for the Way.

Then we all went our way for lunch and a few of us went into the exhibition on the side of the cloister and there we found a tiny chapel with a 13th century statue of Our Lady. It was five minutes early but we said the Angelus, on our own, in a place where pilgrims have gathered. Such a blessing at the middle of the day.

Tango dancers in a Pamplona square

Tango dancers in a Pamplona square

As we left the cathedral the city had come alive. There was a cycling competition in progress through the narrow streets, people were dancing the tango in a sunlit square, the sky was a deep blue and the bells were ringing out. What a place!

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