Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!

My recent literary purchase – ‘Unholy Pilgrims’ by Tom Trumble – is proving to be a rather interesting read.  It is an amusing travel narrative that comes with the added bonus of being chock-full of historical anecdotes on Spain and the Camino.  Being from a completely different continent I know very little about the Spanish inquisition other than it was brutal, lasted hundreds of years and Monty Python included an inquisition sketch or two in their production – Monty python’s flying circus (which I now have a strange desire to watch).  Just incase you haven’t seen it, here’s a youtube clip!

The Monty Python sketch was also referred to repeatedly in ‘Sliding Doors’ a brain-trash movie* starring Gwynneth Paltrow and John Hannah – where John Hannah’s character is a bit of a Monty Python fan.  So that is about the extent of my knowledge of the Spanish inquisition which is kinda sad when you think about it – I am planning on going to Spain to walk the Camino and after all my planning and research I haven’t stumbled across more than two references to the inquisition which is an historical even of about as much importance to Spain as the story of St James (and one that has more basis in fact and less in bible stories).  Bible stories are supposedly based on actual occurrences but with a little more religious significance and the dilution of time combined with the embellishments of storytellers to lend scope for the imagination than the actual event probably had – our knowledge of events like the Spanish inquisition are more concrete and based on significant documentary evidence.  I find it interesting that different denominations of the same faith (Christianity) view bible stories and lessons differently – some as actual irrefutable fact and law, others as open to a bit of personal interpretation as long as the general message/moral of the story gets through.

My lack of knowledge of the Spanish inquisition in reference to the Camino de Santiago is sad because both are integral parts of Spain’s history.  The story of St James (the patron saint of Spain), the stories of all the other saints who became saints because of the pilgrimage and the religious experience that is the Camino de Santiago seem to eclipse all reference to the inquisition which was also, in it’s twisted and macabre way, a religious Christian event.  Ignoring the significance of this episode in history is on par with pretending the Holocaust, Apartheid, Crusades, World Wars I and II and the Stolen generation did not happen.  And yes, I can compare the inquisition to those historical events we would prefer didn’t happen because it involved the trial and execution of thousands of heretics – Pagans, Moors and Jews etc because one religion or people thought their way was superior, was the right and only way and that anybody who believed otherwise should be punished.  I tell you, if there’s one race of people I feel deeply sorry for it is the Jewish people – look at what they’ve had to go through in history!  Being slaves and persecuted in Egypt, walking through the desert for centuries, being hunted in the first crusade, being tortured, killed and then banished from Spain during the inquisition, their treatment in Russia, the Holocaust and they still face anti-Semitism today on different levels in many parts of the globe including (to a certain extent, and I am very embarrassed to admit) Australia and significantly in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

As this journey is not a religious one for me (well who knows what I might find along the way but it is not starting out as being one) I believe it is my duty as a traveller of this historic way to find out more about Spain’s history – particularly in relation to Galicia and the Camino de Santiago, more than the light travel guides and religious references say anyway.

I believe I am off to a good start with my travel planning in terms of historical points of interest.  So far I am going to be visiting the Cathedral of Burgos (one of the architectural wonders of Spain), the cathedral in Leon designed by Gaudi (one of Spain’s most famous architects), the Orbigo Bridge outside Hospital D’Orbigo (centuries old, this bridge has seen about as much as a bridge can), an annual historical re-enactment of the story of the knight who inspired the tale of Don Quixote as part of a medieval festival also in Hospital D’Orbigo, the Bishops palace in Astorga also designed by Gaudi (why a bishop needs a palace I have no idea – don’t a lot of the main teachings of christianity focus on charity, humility, poverty etc?), the chocolate museum in Astorga (it’s a chocolate museum, as if I wouldn’t!), a Templar castle in Ponferrada, the historical wonders of Santiago de Compstela including the cathedral and statue of St James and then finally – Finisterre, the end of the world.  Then of course there is also Paris and London to explore!

Here is an example of Gaudi’s work – possibly his most famous work; the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

* ‘Brain Trash’ – defined by Claire as; A movie you don’t need your brain to watch, that makes as much difference to your life and intellect as not watching it would have, or has a potentially negative effect on you intellect.  Basically the perfect kind of movie to watch when you’re having a bad brain day or have CFS and can’t get off the couch but need something to keep you occupied.


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