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Roy Uprichard

The Chapel of San Caralampio 

A scallop shell, the emblem of the Camino is a symbol that all roads lead to Santiago.

But sometimes, when things go wrong, it can lead you away - to elsewhere, exploring places like A Toxa, an island idyll

south of has a unique treasure: a chapel gleaming like mother-of-pearl, completely covered in thousands of scallop shells.

People gather before its doors, some bow to read names and dates, prayers for healing, while others kneel, writing new

entreaties over old.


From the porch, I lift a leaflet which tells me this twelfth-century chapel is dedicated to the little-known San Caralampio and

the Virgen Del Carmen, patron saint of fishermen.

The porch opens onto a simple nave, a crisscross vault, whitewashed walls inlaid with ships timbers - a place fishermen

would feel at home.

Behind the altar, a small figurine set within a vertical shell shows the Virgin stands like a variant of Botticelli’s Venus Rising. 

I sit near the front, where my eye is drawn to a stained-glass Saint James. But this Saint James seems far from otherworldly.

A fierce face that wouldn’t suffer fools, reminding me of a conversation with a Scottish Pilgrim beneath a similar window in Burgos. ‘He’s my kinda saint.’ He said. ‘Not gazing off into the middle distance as if he’s about tae swoon.’

He wasn’t wrong. This James could easily double as a Calvinist Scot, as ready to swing a sword as staff. A real ‘Son of Thunder’.

Someone sits behind me and brings me back to the present.

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