above and below
passage of traffic and time
weathering the bridge
Kim M. Russell, 2017
My response to Carpe Diem #1137 The Bridge
January is almost over and we are entering the last stages of our pilgrimage on the Road to Santiago. Chèvrefeuille has called this episode ‘The Bridge’, which links to the following passage in The Pilgrimage:
[…] One morning we arrived at an immense bridge, totally out of proportion to the modest stream that coursed below it. It was early on a Sunday morning, and, since the bars and taverns nearby were all closed, we sat down there to eat our breakfast.
‘People and nature are equally capricious,’ I said, trying to start a conversation. ‘We build beautiful bridges, and then Mother Nature changes the course of the rivers they cross.’
‘It’s the drought,’ he said.
‘What do you know about this bridge?’ he asked me.
‘Nothing,’ I answered. ‘But even with the drought, it’s too big. I think the river must have changed its course.’
‘As far as that goes, I have no idea,’ he said. ‘But it is known along the Road to Santiago as the “honorable passage.” These fields around us were the site of some bloody battles between the Suevians and the Visigoths, and later between Alphonse III’s soldiers and the Moors.
Maybe the bridge is oversize to allow all that blood to run past without flooding the city.’
‘However, it wasn’t the Visigoth hordes or the triumphant cries of Alphonse III that gave this bridge its name. It was another story of love and death.’
‘During the first centuries of the Road to Santiago, pilgrims, priests, nobles, and even kings came from all over Europe to pay homage to the saint. Because of this, there was also an influx of assailants and robbers. History has recorded innumerable cases of robbery of entire caravans of pilgrims and of horrible crimes committed against lone travelers.’
‘Because of the crimes, some of the nobility decided to provide protection for the pilgrims, and each of the nobles involved took responsibility for protecting one segment of the Road. But just as rivers change their course, people’s ideals are subject to alteration. In addition to frightening the malefactors, the knights began to compete with each other to determine who was the strongest and most courageous on the Road. It wasn’t long before they began to do battle with each other, and the bandits returned to the Road with impunity.’ […] (Source: The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho)