Saturday, 9 July 2016
Ups and downs on the last day
Friday morning was an exceptional time at the Sanctuary of Our Lady on top of Montserrat. I got there at 8.00am, well before the visitors started to arrive, but by midday sitting with a cup of coffee just people watching, I had a decision to make. I would have liked to stay all day but I also wanted to finish this journey before my feet gave up on me and I still had the walk to Manresa. With a reluctant heart but I hoped sensible head I used the Cremallera to take me back to the beautiful little village nestling below in the shadow of the mountain. The weird and wonderful rock formations look like figures and on my walk up the previous day they reminded me of a simple or primitive form of Mount Rushmere but then I learned that it is called the ridge of angels and that seemed much more appropriate as they guard the village below. The walk along the ancient, twisting village streets was as if I had gone back in time but then too soon I was on the modern sun drenched road that would eventually, about three hours later, lead me to my journeys end, Manresa. Feet in a total mess, due to the heat, the outskirts of the city was a welcome yet daunting sight. Far away perched on a hill stood the vast gothic structure that is the Basilica of La Seu which had been one of the principal sources of inspiration for Saint Ignatius during his eleven month stay between 1522 and 1523, but there was a lot of ground to be walked on before I got there. I crossed the River Cardener on the eleventh century medieval bridge with its eight semicircular arches and suddenly realised that I was actually following his footsteps over the same bridge into the old town, it was a very sobering thought. Parts of the city and its historical significance, not only in European but in World history, cannot be denied and as you walk along Balc street in the medieval quarter the atmosphere can still be felt with its maze of narrow, irregular, poorly lit even on the brightest of days, and so badly ventilated it is almost airless. Narrow arches and overhanging balconies add to the dark sinister feeling that had formed in my mind. I found the Chapel of the Rapture where Ignatius tended the sick and where one of the best known mystical episodes happened. Around the corner and there was my finishing line. The former college of St Ignatius, the second school formed by the Jesuits, which is now a Regional Museum, also houses the pilgrims office where the final stamp is added to your passbook and you are awarded the Ignatian Way Certificate. Several important places to visit, the Basilica and the cave where Ignatius lived and started to write the Spiritual Exercises. The Gothic Basilica of Santa Maria de la Seu built on a hill is the principal architectural and artistic icon of the city and I walked round and round but couldn't find a way in it was locked. There was a group of people looking to get in and one of them asked me and then we chatted. He was a retired archaeologist and had stayed and done work on Carrickfergus Castle, small world. Anyway the Basilica was closed and wouldn't open until 7 and the same news greated me at the cave. It might seem like a disappointing end to a tough journey but it didn't feel that way. I had reached the end and I was ready to go home.