Pamplona / Puente la Reina

On the way to the El Peregrino hotel, Acácio and Orietta wanted me to see Santa Maria de Eunate, a 12th-century Templar chapel not on the Way to Santiago. I did not go there on my pilgrimage in 1990 because I could not even contemplate anything that took me far from the Camino.

Acácio, however, told me that this is one of the most magical places in all of Spain, so the power of his stories guided me over the sun-scorched plains.

On reaching the chapel, after traveling many kilometers from Saint Jean Pied de Port and planting several works, I spotted a humble but sumptuous building. It was late afternoon and the sun going down behind the mountains bathed everything in its golden cloak.

Eunate, which in the language of the learned means both “one hundred doors” and “the good door”, was fearless on that clear afternoon.

There are stories that say that this is a place of magical initiation where men and women seeking spirituality walk a hundred times around the octagonal construction looking for the gateway that will lead them to the supernatural.

Acácio told me that one of the sides of the chapel is feminine and the other side masculine. And Orietta added that the arches, which could be perfect, are not so for a very simple reason: out of humility, the Templar architects decided not to compete in perfection with the skies.

We walked around the building and I noticed that they both began to walk very slowly. Acácio was looking for the best spot to bury the paintings. I asked why he was walking so slowly and he said that in sacred geometry it is possible for a person to feel the currents of subterranean water in the air. That is how he was looking for the water beds where my canvases could be planted.

However, although I wanted to leave something, I realized that I had no more paintings with me, so I would have to resign myself to leaving nothing there. Now I know that when I come back next year to collect my work I will pass through Eunate with a painting dedicated to this enigmatic Virgin.

We returned to the car and went to the El Peregrino hotel, where I met Ângelo to speak about my work. On reaching this beautiful hotel that he and his family treat with so much care, I explained my project:

“In this first stage I am leaving 27 paintings between St. Jean Pied de Port and the city of Castrojeriz in Castilla Leon. In April of next year I shall come back to collect them and plant others between Burgos and Compostela. So from May of 2007 I want my work from this first stage to be shown in the gallery of your hotel so that those who take the Way can see my “pilgrim” paintings. I am also going to bring out a DVD showing the work process because I sincerely believe that the people who travel this sacred road will be able to understand my intention and share my vision.”

Ângelo liked very much what I told him and accepted to have his gallery host this project for the next two years. This was a blessing because I had to find somewhere along the Camino that could exhibit my paintings. This encounter brought to mind one of the teachings of the Camino: always have an objective to guide your steps.

The following day we went to Alto del Perdón, between Pamplona and Puente la Reina. On that cloud-laden afternoon I remembered another resplendent one in 1990. I had just climbed the mountain when I saw a Basque pilgrim sitting there dressed all in blue and wearing a straw hat. He was contemplating that landscape dotted with green trees and tones that went from yellow to brown. I took a photo of him against that arid background – later on it would become my first painting of the Camino. I gave this painting to the pilgrim Theo and his wife Juanita as a token of our friendship on the Camino.

From this memory I came back to the grey afternoon hovering over Alto del Perdón. Legend has it that the devil tried to tempt the pilgrims there using the trick of offering them water if they would stop walking and give up their faith. The good pilgrim continued on his Way and received God’s pardon.

By coincidence I had brought two water paintings (inspired by a series of kimonos that I left in rivers). These two in particular had been left in the Gave de Pau, a sacred river that runs in front of the grotto at Lourdes. On them I drew golden arrows, the symbol of the Way.

These water works were deposited in the ground through which the water of the source runs. Orietta was astonished that I wanted to leave my paintings in the very place where the devil tempted the pilgrims. I felt, however, that a work that had remained in the holy waters of Lourdes ran no risk and could return to their element.

When we finished planting my work, the heavy clouds emptied from the skies, together with thunder and lightning. I realized the incredible synchronicity of it all. I had just carried water to the foot of the mountain where subterranean rivers flow. From this meeting of the waters was born the rain.

The next day was already time to part, and I left in the gardens of El Peregrino hotel a painting of a mouth with the symbol of the Miraculous Medal. Acácio had told me that by planting a painting there, in the place where my canvases were to be exhibited, I would be inaugurating a cycle, creating an egregor.*

I asked Ângelo to help me. Upon seeing the painting, he asked me about the symbol that looked so much like his signature. I told him it was the symbol of the Miraculous Medal, announced by Our Lady to a French nun called Catherine Laborée.

We picked a spot in the garden near a statue of the Virgin that he had hidden there, and there we planted the twelfth painting.

Before going to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, he asked my niece and me to have lunch with him and gave me a present: a round wooden coat-of-arms with the symbols of Mary the Crowned Queen.

Once again I saw the corresponding symbols and felt with all my faith that the Way was accompanying me.

* A collective being composed of a multitude of influences which unite around a common center. The egregor is always an invisible and spiritual being, which is coupled with a physical entity. When several people on the earth unite around a common idea, they give birth to a collective and intelligent spiritual being.

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