As I’ve mentioned in a past blog post, La Rioja (the province of Spain where we live) has many stops along the Camino de Santiago – The Way of St. James. This camino is a walking, or biking, spiritual journey that many people partake in from all different walks of life (no pun intended). They travel across this sacred land to experience the solitude and intensity of this rather lengthy excursion that can last from weeks to months depending on the chosen route. Peregrinos – pilgrims or travelers – began to make this pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in the 9th century, during mediaeval times, seeking to make the same trek that the Apostle James made while spreading the Word, after the death of Christ. It is believed that the remains of St. James are in the cathedral in Santiago and for this reason, over a thousand years later, people continue to set out to find their own ‘way’ on the Camino de Santiago.
You can see on the map that most of the different routes end up passing through Logroño, our new hometown. And a short 46 km (28 mile) stroll just west of Logroño, the pilgrims pass through another town called Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and this is where our story begins.
My mom and I actually visited the famous Catedral de Santiago when she came to visit a couple of years ago, so I thought I was pretty familiar with both the Camino de Santiago and it’s history, but I was about to learn so much more…
Santo Domingo de la Calzada. What a long name for such a small place, I thought. However, the night that we visited the town, we found out just what that long name was really all about. Jorge wouldn’t stop talking about this amazing musical performance that he had once seen in Santo Domingo de la Calzada with some of his closest friends and how much they all enjoyed it. The name of the show is called Los Milagros del Santo – The Miracles of the Saint – and the minute we found out that the show was playing, we knew we had to go and experience it.
We arrived in Santo Domingo around 8 in the afternoon (yes, 8pm is considered afternoon here) and the show was set to start at 10pm. With plenty of time to spare (we thought), we walked straight over to the town hall, to check out the show’s set in the daylight. I couldn’t believe all the work that had gone into putting this show together; the lighting display was fenomenal, and there was even auditorium seating set up with more than 350 chairs.
Just out of curiosity, we asked a man setting up nearby if we had to get back here early to get a seat, but he practically laughed in our faces. He said, “You don’t already have tickets?”. Uh-oh, I thought, this show really IS a big deal. We frantically asked him where we could go to see if they had any tickets left. He quickly gave us some directions, and as we ran up to the ticket counter, they were just getting ready to close. Coincidentally they had just two tickets left, and in the 6th row!! How lucky!!
After that, we calmly had a couple of tapas in a small plaza nearby, and as we were eating, we began to hear music and singing. What is this?, we thought. Oh, you know, just the entire cast of the play, horses and all, marching through the streets, inviting everyone to the show they would be putting on later that evening. You don’t see that everyday, right? What fun! We couldn’t wait for the show to start! (The video is below, you just have to click the play button.)
We headed back to the central plaza as the bells of the church were ringing signaling 10 o’clock, and the start of the play. We were escorted to our seats by smiling, young faces dressed as 14th century peasants. We sat with anticipation, waiting for it all to begin.
So what is this play all about? I was wondering the same question. And come to find out, it goes a little like this…
It starts off with an old nun rummaging though the streets crying and carrying on about how no one remembers the real reason that the town is called ‘Santo Domingo de la Calzada’ or who ‘Santo Domingo’ really was. She is met by some locals in the street and they try to reassure her that ‘of course everyone remembers who he was and what he had done for the people of the town’, but she is not convinced. So, they decide to tell her stories as they walk through the town meeting different people who tell their own favorite legends of Saint Domingo and his many miracles.
The play seamlessly flashes back and forth between the present (14th century Santo Domingo) and the 11th century (the time that Saint Domingo was alive) The first flashback begins with Domingo as a young boy, in the early 102o’s, learning from the monks that lived nearby. Throughout the flashbacks of his life, he is shown demonstrating many acts of kindness in the town helping both the townspeople as well as passersby from faraway lands. As it turns out, many of these people from afar are on the Camino de Santiago, and Domingo is displayed preparing nightly meals for the pilgrims, building a bridge for them to pass through the town more easily, and even later building a hospital for those who fall ill while on the trail. It is apparent throughout the play that Domingo lived a life of service and selflessness and therefore was later named a saint.
With a dedicated cast of all ages, of over 200 in total, they put together an incredible show; the dances were remarkable, the singing impecable, and they flawlessly made the entire story come to life. What an unforgettable experience!!
So there you have it.
A selfless man = Santo Domingo
that helped people along their
way = calzada
Santo Domingo de la calzada.