Saturday, 3 July 2010

Le Fete de St Jacques de compostelle!

Yet another celebration in Auvillar this weekend.

All week the locals have been preparing, costumes, sound systems, lighting, scripts etc to celebrate the history and the route of St Jacques de Compostelle, People come from miles around to whitness the spectacle.

Just so you are fully aware of the significance of St Jacques, I thought I would give you a brief rundown (like it or not!)

The route to Santiago de Compostella was a Roman trade route through France to the Atlantic Ocean. One legend holds that walking the route was a pagan fertility ritual; this would explain why the scallop shell is a symbol of the pilgrimage, the scallop being a symbol of birth. An alternative interpretation is that the scallop, which resembles the setting sun, was the focus of pre-Christian Celtic rituals of the area, and that the Way of St. James originated as a pre-Christian Celtic death journey westwards towards the setting sun,terminating at the "End of the World" (Finisterra). To this day, many pilgrims continue from Santiago de Compostella to the Atlantic coast of Galicia, to finish their journeys at Spain's westernmost point, Cape Finisterre. Although Cape Finisterre is not the westernmost point of mainland Europe (Cabo da Roca in Portugal is further west), the fact that the Romans called it Finisterrae (literally the end of the world or Land's End in Latin) indicates that they viewed it as such.

There............ history lesson over.. And back to last night, we arrived at 9.45pm and walked to the church with heavy black clouds looming above. We exchanged pleasantries with friends and took our places for the event to start.

Unfortunately, 10 minutes before kick off (so to speak) the heavens opened and we witnessed a spectacular display from mother earth herself. The roads resembled rivers, the sky was illuminated almost permanently and fork lightening was striking church spires and water towers on a regular basis. The view across the Garonne valley from the look out was awesome.

Then the village took a hit and all the street lights went out. People were scurrying around with torches hurriedly trying to cover the expensive sound systems and salvage anything from the rain they could. I must say, it was slightly eerie to see monks in their habits with hoods up and priests in their regalia running about streets in the semi darkness and splashing through the puddles!

After a short address by the organisers the event was abandoned until Saturday night and everyone dispersed rather quickly to their cars.

We however, returned to my friend Natalie and Pascal’s house to moan about the weather (good old British topic of conversation!), and have a drink to wash away our sorrows!

So tonight round two.... weather still looking suspect, such a shame after two weeks of 30+ degrees!

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