by David Sheffler


edieval pilgrims commented extensively on sounds — both sacred and profane. The Pilgrim’s Guide enumerates the host of languages and dialects encountered: the “clever” language of the Poitevins, the “rustic” speech of the Bordelais (Melczer, 90), and the bestial howls and owlish hoots of the Navarrese and Basques (Melczer, 95). Pilgrims carried an array of instruments — bagpipes, flutes, and psalteries, as well as less formal percussive instruments that doubled as cooking pots and storage vessels. In 1407, one onlooker protested the impious cacophony, complaining that with their “singing, and the sound of their piping … and with the barking out of dogs after them, that they make more noise than if the King came there … with all his clarions and many other minstrels.” (Webb, 155) Pilgrims today contend with car horns, traffic circles, and iPhones blasting the latest Europop from overtaxed speakers. Approaching Santiago, pilgrims skirt the airport while commercial jets roar overhead. But the bells persist — marking the passing quarter hours and calling the faithful and curious to Vespers. Spanish, French, German, English, and a smattering of Japanese drift up and down the Camino. Pilgrims still break into spontaneous song; while the sound of horses’ hooves and the deeply personal rhythm of each plodding pilgrim still convey something of the enduring noise of humanity in motion.


Continue reading  about the five senses …

SIGHT    |    HEARING    |    SMELL    |    TASTE    |    TOUCH