There is much more to see on the Camino than paths, rocks, wheat fields, vineyards, monuments, churches, villages and towns.
While you are walking, look out for a few other interesting things!
Wonderful Weather Vanes/Weathervanes
Even though you have to look down at the path to see where you put your feet, when walking through a village look up every now and then and you will see dozens of charming weather vanes on top of churches and private homes.
A 9th Century, a pope decreed that all churches display a cockerel as a reminder to parishioners of the Last Supper when Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed in the morning. (Luke 22:34). These eventually evolved into weathercocks and weather vanes.
The earliest recorded weather vane, erected in the 1st Century BC, depicted the Greek god Triton on the Tower of the Winds in Athens.
In the Middle Ages flags flying from castle towers served two purposes. They identified the insignia of the resident noblemen and showed archers the direction of the winds. Metal “vanes” - derived from the Saxon word “fane” meaning, “flag” - gradually replaced these fabric banners.
The Bayeux tapestry, dating to the 11th Century, depicts a weathercock being attached to spire of Westminster Abbey.
In medieval France a weather vane was a status symbol and although knights were allowed to place heraldic vanes on their castles, commoners had to wait until 1659 before they were granted the right to erect weather vanes.
The oldest known functioning weather vane in England is thought to be a recently re-gilded, early 14th Century weathercock at Ottery St Mary’s in Devon. There are repairs to two gunshot holes which were allegedly made in 1643 by some of Fairfax’s troops when they were billeted in the town.
In 2002 I noticed a couple of fascinating signs and symbols carved into blocks of stone on the walls of the Augustinian abbey in Roncesvalles. One appeared to be a geometric symbol with a Star of David superimposed on six joined circles. The other carving, just below this symbol, looked like a bird or a shoe.
Chatting to the curator of the museum I learned that stones from the original 12th century hospice had been recycled to construct the ‘new’ abbey and that these were probably reused stones. She suggested that the shoe engraving could be that of the original stone cutter or mason as the shoe mark was often chosen by workers who could not write. She thought that the large symbol could be that of a Master Mason.
Some marks found on stones are positional and indicated where a particular stone should be placed within the structure. Carpenters and other tradesmen also had proprietary marks but few of these have survived as well as the mason marks. Some marks are easily recognizable and appear on different structures in different locations.
Masonic marks are the same all over
So, the next time you walk a Camino, look a little more closely at the walls of the churches, cathedrals and monuments. Those strange drawings, marks or initials you see carved into the stones might not be common graffiti but centuries old mason signs.
For more photos: http://peregrinations.kenyon.edu/vol3_1/photo_essays/stones/stones.html