It’s hard to fairly put to words a place like Grañón in Spain, on the Camino de Santiago. I had just completed two walking days at 31 and 33km (19 and 20 miles). Now, because I wanted to get to Grañon, it meant doing another 31km walk on this day. Three long days in a row! However, I was feeling stronger, the uphill sections weren’t as demanding in this area, and Grañón has an excellent reputation along the Pilgrim’s Way. I was glad I pressed on.
Grañón is a small charming medieval village that has prospered for 1000 years due to serving Camino pilgrims. The “Hospital” here has cared for pilgrims for hundreds of years, giving them medical help and shelter. Hospitals differ from albergues in that one sleeps on mats on the floor, as in the old days, meals are taken communally together, and there are often special services and prayer times for the pilgrims. I was given two mattresses (thank God, or the tile floor would have been a challenge for me). Hospitals ask only for a donation: you give what you can and be as generous as reasonable.
The Grañón Hospital is literally in the old stone bell tower of the church in the central square. Video here. One enters by climbing the ancient stone spiraling steps, leaving shoes in an alcove on the way. There are only two showers and three toilets for over 50 people, and yet everyone is extremely considerate.
At 7:00pm I attended mass in the inspiring, ancient old church. The priest is welcoming and smiles at us warmly, inviting the pilgrims up to the front of the church for a special blessing. I am touched by the sense of loving kindness that one feels from the priest and the Spanish parishioners.
After Mass the priest opens the back room behind the altar for the pilgrims. We admire the very old books, chalices, religious garb, and even three saint bone relics. This church is deeply powerful.
Then: dinner for pilgrims! It’s staggering how this tiny room can accommodate so many. We enjoy soup, salad, bread, wine, followed by watermelon for dessert. Afterwards everyone helps with the cleanup. The Hospitalero invites us all to join him after dinner (now 9:15pm) in the choir loft, in the same little church where I attended mass earlier. To my great surprise he opens a secret door just off our sleeping room and we all shuffled in, occupying the old wooden choir-member alcoves that encircle each person individually. In the middle of this loft stood a very old statue of Mary. The Hospitalero played Spanish guitar for some time while pilgrims sat in the semi-darkness in prayer and meditation. The only lighting was at the far end of the church, bathing the golden main altar.
Passing a lit candle, each pilgrim offering an inspiration, prayer, encouragement, or whatever inspired them. The beauty of this experience was in the sentiments offered and in the many languages spoken, the unity of spirit and love. The inspiration of the Camino.
Simple, old, and imbued with centuries of devotion, Grañón is a deeply touching place. The blessings seem even more touching now, having walked 232km (145 miles). The joy and depth of the Walk is only beginning to be revealed.
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