Whenever I see those words, they jump out at me. I’ve walked the Camino de Santiago – the 500-mile pilgrimage route in northern Spain – four times. It has and continues to play an important role in my life. Known by various names, El Camino, The Pilgrim Road, The Way of St. James – and for those who are intimately familiar with it, it is simply The Way.
In 2010, Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez heightened awareness, particularly in the United States, of the pilgrimage with their fictional, yet inspiring film by the same title.
Recently, when I was in Adare, Co. Limerick, I ducked into the cool interior of one of my favourite churches in Ireland, Holy Trinity Church. Centrally situated on the main street, it is a stunning 14th century grey stone structure with simple yet elegant lines. On this visit, I was immediately intrigued when I spotted a cone-shaped, bronze sculpture tucked into a corner at the back of the church.
On first glance it reminded me of the Sorting Hat of Harry Potter fame, so, curious as to why something pertaining to Harry Potter would be in the church, I had to appease my curiosity by getting a closer look.
It was clearly NOT a Sorting Hat.
However, due to the title The Way, my next assumption was to associate it somehow with the now famous Pilgrimage route. The popularity of the Camino has grown immensely in Ireland as well. Wrong again. Despite the title, the fascinating sculpture had nothing at all to do with the Camino de Santiago.
Approximately two feet high, its conical shape represents the hill of Jerusalem. There, the sculptor, John Blakely, obtained a 5 million-year-old piece of marble excavated from the city walls. It is one of only three such stones to have been taken out of Jerusalem adding to the unique nature of this bas relief. The marble stone is embedded near the top of the bronze sculpture, which is actually a representation of a staircase and path leading through the city of Jerusalem, a path which Jesus would likely have used.
So in a manner of speaking, the Camino de Santiago and the Irish Sculpture are related. Pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostela often make reference to Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Or perhaps it is just me – I seem to find correlations to the Camino de Santiago in many strange places.
Nonetheless, this piece is one of many treasures found in Holy Trinity Church. When visiting Adare, with all there is to do and see, it is easy to overlook this beautiful church. Don’t.