Spain & Portugal
Religion has played a great part in the Iberian Peninsula’s chequered history and has also been the source of movements that have had a profound effect on the Christian world. This part of Europe may be principally known for its beaches and resorts but there is a fascinating hinterland full of history and rich in culture, relatively unknown to tourists that provides truly interesting and memorable itineraries.
“The way of St James is fine but narrow, as narrow as the path of salvation. That path is the shunning of vice, the mortification of the flesh, and increasing of virtue.”
Taken from the Liber Sancti Jacobi (The Veneranda Dies).
There are few countries with as many hidden treasures as Spain, and so much remains undiscovered by the foreign visitor. Many of us have been to Spain’s sunny seaside resorts and maybe taken a day-trip inland to the arid plains near the coast to see little but oranges and lemons. If this is your view of inland Spain, however, think again! Pilgrims have been coming to northern Spain to venerate the shrine of St James the Great since the middle ages and magnificent cities such as Burgos and Leon grew up to service them.
In the medieval cities of central Spain we can follow in the footsteps of the great reforming saints, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. The latter also provides a focus for trips to Andalucia. Spain’s spiritual heritage is not just about places, but also the people – the Spanish sense of welcome and friendliness will make any visitor feel at home. There’s an old saying about When in Rome…If we were to follow the Spanish themselves, we would leave the very hot southern coastal areas in the summer and explore the hidden treasures of central and northern Spain which are probably western Europe’s best kept secret. And why do the Spanish seem to keep it a secret? Find out for yourself – you won’t be disappointed!
For pilgrims, the greatest attraction in Portugal is undoubtedly Fatima, where in 1916, three children saw six apparitions by Our Lady. A visit to Portugal, however can easily combine Fatima with Lisbon, coastal delights such as Nazare, or the town of Coimbra, where one of the 'children', Sr Lucia recently died.
The roads of Spain and Portugal have been greatly improved over recent years, enabling some quite imaginative itineraries. Fatima and Santiago can be easily combined, or Santiago and central Spain. Indeed even the combination of Lourdes and Fatima, whilst necessitating some lengthy journeys, is not impossible.