Tag Archives: Don Quixote

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up Top

Atienza Castle - The Top (1)

The medieval castle of Atienza in Central Spain stands on top of an impregnable fortress hill.  On the top of he highest tower is a flagpole…

Atienza Castle Spain

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

Consuegra Windmills Spain

Three Windmills, Consuegra, Spain…

The windmills are tall cylindrical towers capped with dark cones and four big “sails” that move with the wind.  In days gone by, farmers would haul their grain to these windmills where the structures harnessed the power of the wind to grind grain.

The windmills and the skill to operate them were passed down from fathers to sons. Windows placed around the tower of the windmill provide great views today. But that was not their original use. From these windows, the miller could keep watch on the shifting winds. When the winds changed, the miller would have to move the tiller beam to turn the mill. If he didn’t a sudden strong wind could strip the sails, rip off the top and the whole building could be destroyed by a gusty wind.

Read the full story…

Northern Spain – Pilgims and the Way of Saint James

The Camino Way Spain

Sir Walter Raleigh wrote:

Give me my scallop shell of quiet;
My staff of faith to walk upon;
My scrip of joy, immortal diet;
My bottle of salvation;
My gown of glory (hope’s true gage);
And then I’ll take my pilgrimage.

Burgos lies on one of the principal pilgrim routes of the Camino or the Way of Saint James and during our visit we had to share the streets and the restaurants and the hotel with dozens of foot weary walkers all sharing their hiking tales as they walked towards their ultimate objective – the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous region of Galicia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is located in the most northwest region of Spain in the Province of A Coruña and it was the European City of Culture for the year 2000.  I didn’t know this but after Jerusalem and Rome it is the third most holy city in Christendom and the cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important ninth century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James.

Santiago is such an important pilgrimage destination because it is considered the burial site of the apostle, James the Great.  Santiago was one of the twelve disciples and a devout follower of Christ but in 44 A.D. he became the first of Apostles to suffer martyrdom when Herod Agrippa I arrested and (according to the story) personally beheaded him (this seems rather unlikely to me) in Jerusalem.   According to legend Santiago had preached for a while in Iberia prior to his execution and after his death his own disciples returned his body by boat back to the peninsula.

On the way they were caught in a storm and almost certainly doomed when a ship miraculously appeared, led by an angel, to guide them to land and safety.  They buried the saint near Compostela, ‘field of stars,’ where Santiago lay forgotten for nearly eight hundred years.

The tomb was conveniently rediscovered in the ninth century in a time of great need when Christian political and military fortunes in Spain were at their lowest ebb after they had suffered defeat time and again at the hands of the Muslims, until that is God revealed the Saint’s remains, and inspired them with the confidence that he was on their side, fighting in the battlefield with them through the heroic figure of Santiago and the holy saint became a warrior.

002

People continue to take the Pilgrim trail and there were many here in Burgos who could be instantly identified by the pilgrim staff and the symbol of the scallop shell.   The shell is the traditional symbol of the pilgrimage because the grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, represent the various routes that pilgrims travelled, all eventually arriving at a single destination.  It is also symbolic of the pilgrim because just as the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up on the shores of Galicia, God’s hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela.

I have been giving some thought to perhaps tackling the Camino myself one day and have been looking at the various different routes.  I have to say that I may have a preference for the one that starts in Plymouth in the UK because that would seem to include rather a nice cruise on a P&O ferry across the Bay of Biscay and an evening in the duty free bar followed by a just short stroll from A Coruña to Santiago de Compostela.

Way of St James 1

St James the Apostle is the Patron saint of Spain and if El Cid represents the secular aspects of heroism and military conquest during the Reconquista the spiritual hero representing the religious justification and the Christian ethos of the crusade against the Muslims was Santiago.  In ‘Don Quixote’ Cervantes wrote - ‘St. James the Moorslayer, one of the most valiant saints and knights the world ever had … has been given by God to Spain for its patron and protection.’  Since the reconquest ‘Santiago y cierra España’, which means St James and strike for Spain has been the traditional battle cry of Spanish armies.

The truth was that as the Northern Kingdoms began to assert themselves they needed spiritual assistance and justification and in this era of crusading reconquest there was a need for the living presence of a religious-national figure as an emblem of Christian strength and supremacy that was capable of rallying around themselves the Spanish Christian forces.   This was to be Santiago whose image fulfilled the desire of the Iberian Christians for heroes to emulate, and unite them in their struggle for political and religious independence from Muslim rule.

An important manifestation of the crusading mentality during this time was the creation of an iconic patriotic creation of Santiago and the mythical military contribution of St James to the Reconquista was the inspirational presence of the Saint on the battlefields of the peninsula.

The most famous of these was the legend surrounding the battle of Clavijo in 844, where the vastly outnumbered and demoralised Christian forces were inspired by the appearance of St James in a full suit of armour riding on a galloping white horse with a sword in the right hand and the banner of victory in the left.

Modern historians dispute that there ever was such a battle but the story goes that the night before the encounter, Santiago appeared in a dream to the leader of the Spanish forces, King Ramirez of Castile, and promised him a victory over the Muslims.  The following day, at the height of battle, the warrior-saint appeared on the battlefield, leaving behind him the defeated infidels that he has slaughtered and crushed to the ground and in front of him what remained of the terrified enemy promptly surrendered.  Thus was born the legend of Santiago Matamoros, the Moorslayer.

Camino Way End of The Day

In 1998 I won a competition in the Times newspaper for an all expenses paid weekend to a chateaux in Cahors in France.  This was the result of answering three simple questions about the Apostle Saint James and the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, which were about pilgrimages and seashells

Northern Spain – Alcalá de Henares and Cervantes, The World’s Greatest Novelist!

Cervantes Alcalá de Henares

On returning home I did as I promised and bought a copy of Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote’.  I found it on Amazon for the bargain price of £1.99, I ordered it together with a book on the history of Spain and it arrived three days later.

Since publication in 1605 it is reputed to be the most widely read and translated book on the planet after the Bible. I tried to read it once but found it a bit heavy going so gave up quite quickly but as we walked along I resolved to give it another go upon returning home.

I opened the package and then I remembered why I didn’t finish it at the last attempt.  The book has nearly eight hundred pages and I estimate about four hundred and forty thousand words long and it has that tiny squashed up typeface that makes a book sometimes difficult to read.

It is the story of a man who believes that he is a knight, and recounts his adventures as he rights wrongs, mistakes peasants for princesses, and  “tilts at windmills,” mistakenly believing them to be evil giants.  As one of the earliest works of modern western literature, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published.  In 2002 a panel of one hundred leading world authors declared Don Quixote to be the best work of fiction ever written, ahead even of works by Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.  Cervantes has also been credited with shaping modern literary style, and Don Quixote has been acclaimed as “the first great novel of world literature”.

So, just in case I start it and abandon it again I have decided to carry out some research and do some preparation to try and understand exactly why this is such a good book and why I should enjoy reading it.

don-quixote-book-cover

According to one reviewer Don Quixote is “so conspicuous and void of difficulty that children may handle him, youths may read him, men may understand him and old men may celebrate him”.  I hope that I am at that “men may understand him” part of life whereas previously I was only at the “youths may read him” stage and that this might make a difference.  I think it will also help that I have now visited La Mancha and have some small understanding of the place and the people and this will explain the book when I begin to read it.

The novel begins with :

 ”Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing…

…His fantasy filled with everything he had read in his books, enchantments as well as combats, battles, challenges, wounds, courtings, loves, torments, and other impossible foolishness, and he became so convinced in his imagination of the truth of all the countless grandiloquent and false inventions he read that for him no history in the world was truer.”

 I have read that first page a couple of times but have not yet felt completely ready to carry on so perhaps I will keep it for a holiday read?  I am determined to do it soon and I will let you know how I get on but for now I have got to finish my Bill Bryson book, which isn’t quite such an important work in the history of World literature but has the advantage of being very easy to read.

 

Northern Spain – Alcalá de Henares and the Rain in Spain

Alcala de Henares Central Spain

The plan today was to drive back to Madrid and the airport and stop-over in either Gudalajara or Alcalá de Henares so that we would be close to the airport for the return of the hire car, check in and the late afternoon flight home.

We took the road back to the A2 Autovia through several kilometres of road improvement works and as we drove west the weather just kept on deteriorating until the whole landscape ahead of us was smothered by a cold grey blanket of cloud that obscured the view of the great plain of Castile.

Read the full story…

Northern Spain – The Ruta de Don Quixote

Consuegra Windmills

Don Quixote is the national glory of Spain.  No one who does not know that has the right to call himself a Spaniard.  There is a monument to him in Madrid…he was our first revolutionary.”                                                                                             Gerald Brenan – South from Granada

My previous post described a short encounter with the Ruta de Don Quixote on a drive between the neighbouring towns of Sigüenza and Atienza but this was not the first time that we had followed other parts of the route…

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

Windmills of La Mancha

”Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing…

…His fantasy filled with everything he had read in his books, enchantments as well as combats, battles, challenges, wounds, courtings, loves, torments, and other impossible foolishness, and he became so convinced in his imagination of the truth of all the countless grandiloquent and false inventions he read that for him no history in the world was truer.”

Cervantes – Don Quixote

Read the full story…