If I had to choose one image to represent my journey on the Camino de Santiago, it would be this one. This morning, I walked about 20 km from St. Leonard Noblat to Limoges with Gerwin and Imke, who I introduced in my last post. The photo above is of Gerwin and Imke crossing a very old bridge out of St. Leonard, and to me it represents the mystique of the Way of St. James: in front of you is an ambiguous mist where endless miles, twists and turns await you, but you do not falter. You walk.
The past couple days have been relatively gentle on my body and good for my soul. Happy white clouds accompanied us on our journey into St. Leonard Noblat, a mid-sized town with a tall Romanesque bell tower that touches the endless sky above.
I was more interested in the inside of the cathedral, but found it to be a little disappointing, mostly because it was on the verge of collapse in 1600 and is now covered in buttresses that hide the slender columns and capitals that once held the weight of the vaults above. Although the church didn’t quite live up to my expectations, dinner did: Imke and Gerwin, who are both Dutch, discovered that I can cook (and love to do it) and happily sat back while I whipped up some pasta primavera. Nothing blog-worthy, but it was a feast for us!
Perhaps it is also because they are Dutch, but we were out the door today at 7 AM, and since the French take their weekend rest seriously, we were the only people on the road for a good hour or so. While I was a tiny bit groggy for the first few km, I woke up when I noticed how beautiful everything looked with the dew still clinging to it. For some reason, spiders had encamped on a massive pot of flowers next to the river, and with the sun pointed at their webs they made for quite a sight.
By noon we were only a few miles from Limoges, so we stopped by a small village outside the city to eat our lunch–baguette with cheese, tomato, and avocado. Growing up in San Diego has made me a fiend for avocados, and I can pick one blindfolded–Gerwin and Imke had never tried them on sandwiches before, but I have a feeling they will start trying them on just about everything after today!
Shortly after lunch we arrived in Limoges and crossed that bridge you see there, before making our way to the cathedral. You wouldn’t know it, but the cathedral at Limoges has been under construction at various times over the past 1,000 years or so!
There used to be an 11th Century Romanesque church here, but of that, only the West tower and crypt remain. Here, you see the High Gothic choir, started in 1273 and completed about 50 years later.
There is a tremendous amount of symmetry in the nave elevation of Limoges Cathedral, which you can see clearly here. The arcade below is pretty much 1:1 with the upper gallery and clerestory, and it creates a sense of balance and harmony that would normally be lacking in a cathedral that was built in stages like this one.
The nave itself was built over two periods: two bays in the late 15th century, and the last three in the 19th! Nevertheless, they are both identical (but in a slightly different style than the choir), and they compliment they original architecture quite well.
I think the most pleasant part of today wasn’t the cathedral, it was the miraculous sight of vintage books in English! We were walking through the old city when we came across a used bookstore, and Imke said it was worth a shot to see if they had any books in English. I was a bit skeptical, but her optimism paid off, and I am now the proud owner of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. After going a week without reading any books at all, it will be nice to have some bedside reading again! Tomorrow we leave Limoges, but I’m glad I have a small piece of this charming city to take with me.
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