17 September 2012

Roncesvalles

On a cold and rainy November night, back in the early nineties, I stepped off from a bus coming from Pamplona and started looking for a place to sleep. While walking to the town's only hotel along the desert road, with the sound of the rain and my own footsteps as my only companions, I couldn't help but ask to myself what was I doing in the middle of the Winter in that small Pyrenean village. As soon as I settled down, the answer quickly shined in my mind. I came looking for a legend. A legend of medieval times, of dark ages, of war and Heaven, of courage and fear, of heroism and fate. The legend of a King, the Emperor Charlemagne, and a devoted knight, Roland, dying in his final battle not far away from here.
It's the legend of his courage and his more than legendary sword Durandal striking a final blow on the Pyrenean spine, while attempting to retreat with his army to France, in one of the many religious wars that grassed over our old Europe.
It's the legend of Santiago de Compostela. And the Way of St. James, passing by and leading to it. It's the legend of the Rocesvalles order of warrior monks, protecting the pilgrims to Compostela since the late XII century.
On my second day there, around two coffee mugs in a restaurant nearby, I met the priest of the collegiate church, of the cathedral. We spoke a little. About the History and about the Legend. He asked me if I was a pilgrim. I said that I was not. Just a simple wannabe-freelance journalist on a personal quest for light.
Now, when I look back and think about it, a pilgrim, truly, was what I was. Because there is no way that you can go to Roncesvalles without being in your own pilgrimage.
The altar in Roncesvalles abbey on a quiet November night, almost twenty years ago.
Picture taken with Pentax SF-1 and Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.7 KAF lens.
Agfachrome RS 50 ASA, scanned in Nikon Coolscan V ED and post-processed in Adobe Photoshop CS3.