Time in frozen in Santiago de Compostela, architecturally at least. The Northwest of Spain is a bit... separated, geographically, that is, from the rest of Spain. That's my subjective feeling about this corner of Iberia that is protected by mountainous ranges in the south. But if you happen to find yourself anywhere in this quadrant of Spain, go to Santiago de Compostela. It's nothing short of breathtaking! I'll admit I went with fiscal abandon--springing for the parador known as the "Hotel of Catholic Kings", adjacent to the great cathedral and virtually a museum all by itself!--but every part of this city is simply amazing. I could not capture the feeling of the cathedral with either a photograph or a sketch. So, in this sketch I decided to focus on a small part of what one sees sitting in the back pews.
Oh, and by the way, the kneelers in all the Spanish churches are perfect. First of all, there is more space between the pews. This extra space, combined with the placement of the kneelers, allows a comfortable kneeling position, contrary to all the American churches I've visited where my chest and shoulders are forced back over my center of gravity. American churches simply move the pews too closely together and the kneelers are not extended enough so that my 6 foot plus frame is invariably forced to assume a half sitting position for comfort. Hey, maybe it's just people like me with fat stomachs and a tall frame. The first time I found a good kneeler was in a church in Seville. Shortly afterwards, I noticed that all the churches I visited in Spain shared this welcome quality of ergonomically correct pews.
And one final note about Santiago de Compostela, something almost nobody knows about: A short Mass is served each weekday morning at 7:00 (or perhaps 7:30) AM right in front of the bones of Saint James! Okay, now don't everybody rush out and go to the crypt, which is under the main altar of the church at Santiago de Compostela. There's a catch: Communion is brought only for the religious servants who serve there. Don't let this stop you, though. Be smart; do what I wish I had the presence of mind to do when the priest told me that there was only enough for the people who work there. Say "Por favor, solamente un pedazo pequeno." (Roughly, "Please, just a little piece.") The priest shouldn't deny you that little piece, and he should even be impressed that your faith correctly tells you that one little piece is just as good as, well, one big piece. (Remind him that a woman was once healed simply by touching Christ's garment.) If I ever get back to Santiago de Compostela, that's exactly what I'm going to do. It was an awesome experience attending a Mass in front of the bones of a man who walked with the real, live, flesh and blood Jesus before He was raised from the dead.