Reflections of Santiago
We walked in single file, upwards through a maze of trees, strung out like pilgrims on the road to Santiago. Music whispered from the branches , light played on ruins and, once inside up crumbling steps, candles flickered in enclaves where young priests once dressed for mass, and a broken alter sprawled across the floor.
St Peter’s seminary is a modernist ruin; decaying slabs of architecture daubed with graffiti and darkened by smoke. It’s only half a century old but its role as a college for priests lasted just 15 years before it was abandoned to weeds, the weather and fire raisers. And then, just a few days ago, it reopened briefly to the public as an art installation.
I was carried along in the procession which halted at the centrepiece, an industrial-scale thurible swaying over water, trailing smoke in the semi-darkness. It was the work of my son and – for me at least – an echo of the day we walked together, four years ago, up the steps into Santiago Cathedral to gaze as the botafumero swung above our heads.
The entire work, involving many artists, was called Hinterland and the images it created have been haunting me. The battered copy of Brierley’s guidebook is back beside my bed, my pack is down from the attic and it seems I’m setting off for a stroll in Spain. Again.