Continued from Santiago Highlights: Pilgrim Lunch at the Parador.
Plaza del Obradoiro is where pilgrims gather to celebrate the completion of their Camino journey. The cathedral looms large on one side of the plaza and serves as the backdrop for pilgrim celebrations, victory poses, and tourist group photos.
This sacred space marks the end of the pilgrimage that people have walked for more than 1,000 years. Pilgrims from all over the world have walked between 100 and 1,000 kilometers or more to get to this point. The entire place is steeped in history, and there is a feeling of celebration in the air. It is no wonder pilgrims enjoy hanging out in this vast plaza, laying on their backpacks and gazing up at the sky.
It’s not just about earning a stamped credential or a certificate of completion for walking a Camino. What really matters when a pilgrim is standing in this plaza is the feeling of accomplishment after a long journey that can be both physically and mentally challenging.
As you may recall from my Friday Night in Santiago, when I arrived here I was in no state to stop and take photos. So on the next day, with my backpack stowed in my room at the Hospederia, I proudly held my pilgrim credential for my version of a victory photo. I met a peregrina from Brazil who had just arrived, and she was in that euphoric state of her Camino completion. We took pictures of each other and together.
We congratulated each other and hugged, because while we both walked alone and on different routes, we were united in the spirit of the Camino. And kindred spirits of the Camino will always have that kind of connection.
The facade of the cathedral has been covered in scaffolding for years, as its restoration is a constant work in progress. When I was there in October 2014, you can see in the photo below that both lateral towers were covered with screens that had faux facades. As if we wouldn’t notice!
Fast-forward to May 2016: in the photo below, you can see the left tower’s lighter color. She cleans up well!
The right tower is still covered but there’s no longer a faux facade on it. Still, you can see the cathedral’s grandeur and beauty peeking through all that metal and plastic. I suspect that when I will be there for my Camino next year, the central tower will be covered in scaffolding. One of these years, when the last section of the cathedral will be cleaned, it will be time to start on another section: just like the continuous painting of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Contemplating this big, ceaseless restoration project makes me think about my personal growth. I achieved this incredible goal that had started as a calling just last year. Now what? While I’m still processing my post-Camino life, one thing is for sure: I will be back again next year, the following year, and probably every year after that, God willing. Yes, it was that transformative! The Camino does provide in more ways than I can explain in one blog post.
For me and most pilgrims, the Camino is not just an item to check off a bucket list. Every pilgrim I met has been so moved by the experience that they have already walked more than one Camino or plan to do more. With so many Camino routes the possibilities are endless.
I have heard it said that the real Camino begins after you leave Santiago. After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination. I’ll end this post with a 360° video for a glimpse of that particular moment at the Plaza del Obradoiro.
Peregrinos, how did you celebrate the completion of your Camino? Did you decide to plan another Camino? Share your thoughts and victory moment in the comments below, or email me.
Up next, Saturday weddings in the Plaza del Obradoiro.