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20160605_193122It is not necessary to have visited Santiago de Compostela to imagine it as the end of a long pilgrimage way, often dramatic and occasionally tragic.  It is stated like that in the medieval romance by Don Gaiferos de Mormaltán which apparently was sung by minstrels and blind men at the Cathedral door. Galician-Portuguese language was frequently used by Castilian troubadours, even by kings as Alfonso X ´The Wise´, whose native language was Spanish, to compose lyrical works. But upper classes and Galician Administration, imposed from the Kingdom of Castile, were the ones that started to assume Castilian (Spanish) as the written language a bit later, in the thirteenth century.  Only the people, iliterate, kept  the Galician language alive during the called ´dark centuries´ (all the Medieval Age), until it was taken back for the literary expression during the Romantic movement thanks to writers as Rosalía de Castro (her book ´Cantares Gallegos´ marks the beginning of this rebirth). It was precisely her husband, historian Manuel Murguía, who rediscovered the mentioned romance and published it in 1888, although it is also said that it was written by himself- in that case, wouldn’t it be more logical that it was her wife who wrote it?  It is a beautiful work, anyway, especially if we listen to it with music written by the Galician musician and researcher Faustino Santalices at the middle of the twentieth century.

Given that there are not English subtitles, we will say that this romance tells the story of an old pilgrim, with white beard and green eyes as the sea, who walks accompanied by another walker. This one helps him to keep up on his feet covered in blood, until he gets Santiago, where he is only able to ask St James the Apostle to let him rest forever, wish that it is instantaneously fulfilled because the mysterious companion was St. James the Apostle himself. A study made by historian Isidoro Millán some years ago says that this character really existed, and he was William X of Poitou, Duke of Aquitaine. Mormaltán surname could be a deformation of Mont de Marsan, in the French region of Landes.

But although Don Gaiferos romance is beautiful, we do not want its agonic spirit to take us over. Between January and February 2017 Santiago will not be the end of any way for the ones who come to participate in NEARCHing Factory, but a stop to reflect about the course that we are following. This is connected to the old function of the place where Santiago is now. To what Santiago was before Medieval Age, before becoming a finish line, an end of a pilgrimage way. But we will speak about this origin in our next post…

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