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Closure of holy buildings

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Eternal Now
Over 15 days into this pilgrimage so far and the majority of the holy buildings have been closed, can anyone give more insight or share their own thoughts please? Is this the same situation on other routes and the French way in particular? Regardless of the time they always seem to be closed, it is very frustrating as it's a massive part of making pilgrimage for me personally, visiting holy sites and honouring the sacred energy present that exists within these buildings and is primary to them, the buildings are a secondary feature built on top and reappropriated by the religious order of the age. The clergy are stewards for these sites and supposed keepers/defenders of the faith but the doors remain closed, i think it is high time more questions are asked, know them by their fruit rings true here.
 
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Robo

Veteran Member
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Frances 2015,
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VdlP 2023
I have not walked that route specifically. But in general, I think you will find many buildings/sites are closed. Probably the same across most routes? (certainly the CF)
I think there are a number of reasons. For churches, a lack of priests, meaning they have to cover a number of parishes. And also many of the buildings are cared for by local elderly inhabitants and may have very limited opening hours.

Some of the villages have been severely depopulated over the years due to economic decline, as people move to the cities to find work.

I'm sure Covid must be having an impact too........

When I find some holy buildings/sites open, I am always very grateful. 🙂

The 'sacred energy' I find along the way, all around me, in every step......

But I see you have walked the CP and CF in the past.
Are you finding the Norte has a lot more sites closed by comparison?
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
Another reason many are closed is because of theft. The big museum in Barcelona has many valuable art works taken from churches in Catalonia replacing them with reproductions.

Use some Spanish phrases to locate the local keykeeper and then ask if you can view the church. Comments on the forum say that generally you will be allowed to. Ask where you can leave some money and give a big thanks.
 

dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Over 15 days into this pilgrimage so far and the majority of the holy buildings have been closed, can anyone give more insight or share their own thoughts please? Is this the same situation on other routes and the French way in particular? Regardless of the time they always seem to be closed, it is very frustrating as it's a massive part of making pilgrimage for me personally, visiting holy sites and honouring the sacred energy present that exists within these buildings and is primary to them, the buildings are a secondary feature built on top and reappropriated by the religious order of the age. The clergy are stewards for these sites and supposed keepers/defenders of the faith but the doors remain closed, i think it is high time more questions are asked, know them by their fruit rings true here.
I am afraid it has been this way since at least 2012 (my first camino) and is across Spain, not just along the camino routes. The general reason given is fear of theft - most churches in Spain contain valuable artefacts of one kind or another. Another reason is fear of vandalism. Depopulation and a decline in religious observance mean that many churches are rarely if ever visited or used. We spoke to one priest forlornly sitting outside a church waiting for any locals who needed his services (he was more than happy for us to inspect the inside of the church) who told us he was responsible for 28 parishes. So I have mixed feelings about this. It is not realistic to let these often isolated buildings stand wide open and unattended, but at the same time the church could perhaps be a bit more open and welcoming, e.g. by having a local custodian with a key and a phone number on the door you could contact or opening at set times (which they sometimes do). No easy answer, I fear. We can only be thankful for those special occasions when we do find ourselves in one of those special places.
 
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It is not realistic to let these often isolated buildings stand wide open and unattended, but at the same time the church could perhaps be a bit more open and welcoming, e.g. by having a local custodian with a key and a phone number on the door you could contact or opening at set times (which they sometimes do). No easy answer, I fear. We can only be thankful for those special occasions when we do find ourselves in one of those special places.
Use some Spanish phrases to locate the local keykeeper and then ask if you can view the church. Comments on the forum say that generally you will be allowed to. Ask where you can leave some money and give a big thanks
The beaches that the Norte passes bring a lot of sometimes rowdy tourist traffic - more than a lot of caminos. Another reason to take care of valuables, and keep the place locked..

Someone will have the key, though. And often they are happy to show pilgrims into the church- so find out who they are and get in touch. I've been able to get in to an otherwise locked church that way, and once on the San Olav I met the mayor of the village in a bar and he not only showed me the church btu gave me a tour of the village.
 

dick bird

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Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
The beaches that the Norte passes bring a lot of sometimes rowdy tourist traffic - more than a lot of caminos. Another reason to take care of valuables, and keep the place locked..

Someone will have the key, though. And often they are happy to show pilgrims into the church- so find out who they are and get in touch. I've been able to get in to an otherwise locked church that way, and once on the San Olav I met the mayor of the village in a bar and he not only showed me the church btu gave me a tour of the village.
There is always someone with the key, and they will be immensely pleased and proud to show you round. But it will take time to find them. I think many pilgrims would just like some quiet time for prayer and contemplation. It would be nice if they could just slip in to a church and sit or pray alone for a while. I think that is what the OP regrets, and I don't have an answer for them.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Future
Over 15 days into this pilgrimage so far and the majority of the holy buildings have been closed, can anyone give more insight or share their own thoughts please? Is this the same situation on other routes and the French way in particular? Regardless of the time they always seem to be closed, it is very frustrating as it's a massive part of making pilgrimage for me personally, visiting holy sites and honouring the sacred energy present that exists within these buildings and is primary to them, the buildings are a secondary feature built on top and reappropriated by the religious order of the age. The clergy are stewards for these sites and supposed keepers/defenders of the faith but the doors remain closed, i think it is high time more questions are asked, know them by their fruit rings true here.
We are currently on the Camino Frances…we are in Villa Franca Montes D’Oca, walking for almost 2 weeks, and we’ve found most of the churches have been open. When we walked the Camino Portuguese last March, the majority of churches were closed. We’ve been very grateful to be able to slip in to the churches and offer a quick prayer.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Others have referred to the problem of theft-- in the 1990s this was quite an issue and in several places in Aragon, the thieves had trucks to cart off woodwork, altars, and paintings. Insurance companies ended the practice of open doors in many places. There are several diocesan museums where much artwork was transferred over the years-- one notable one on the Camino del Norte is in Santillana del Mar, and on the Cami Catalan in Huesca. If the pilgrim is passing through either place, do not miss them.

There is also a history of politically-motivated destruction of churches which, while pretty well extinct as a practice, left a cultural memory.

In any case there is always a person with a key for the church. The hospitalero or barkeep will know whom to call-- like others, my experience is that they are only too happy (as in, really pleased) to open the church for you. In a few places, retired teachers do this and if you wish (and sometimes when you don't!) you get a potted tour. I usually give the doorkeeper a euro or two for their courtesy.

As far as clergy go, many pueblos no longer have a resident priest-- I remember talking with the priest at Fonsagrada (on the Primitivo) who had more and more villages assigned to him over the years and he now manages an 8-point parish. For better or worse, they have come to share their stewardship with layfolk on a wide range of issues. While the RC bishops have worked to ensure that most Camino Francese pueblos have pilgrim masses and polyglot priests, they are not easy to find on other Camino routes.
 
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On the Francés May-June of this year, from SJPP to Santiago, found many of the churches to be open and even Mass many evenings. Sometimes the hospitaleros will know, but often easiest thing to do is just go to the church and if not open, there was often a sign stating what time it would be open and/or what time Mass was scheduled.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
1993 Francés, 2020 Francés, 2022 Francés
Over 15 days into this pilgrimage so far and the majority of the holy buildings have been closed, can anyone give more insight or share their own thoughts please? Is this the same situation on other routes and the French way in particular? Regardless of the time they always seem to be closed, it is very frustrating as it's a massive part of making pilgrimage for me personally, visiting holy sites and honouring the sacred energy present that exists within these buildings and is primary to them, the buildings are a secondary feature built on top and reappropriated by the religious order of the age. The clergy are stewards for these sites and supposed keepers/defenders of the faith but the doors remain closed, i think it is high time more questions are asked, know them by their fruit rings true here.
We have been walking the CF for about 4 weeks. Currently in Arzúa.

Our experience has been that the churches are generally open between 10 and 12. And typically later in the afternoons around 4pm through the evening (after mass if it is on). Some also do specific tours (eg monastery at Samos).

There are some religious buildings that don’t open (eg the Capel of San Roque in Melide).

Keep an eye out for open times posted on doors. If there is a tourist information office in the town check with them. Hospitaleros may also be able to help.

Also there are brochures for dioceses with mass times etc available. Maybe check the websites.

Hope this helps

Buen Camino
 

pjacobi

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015, St. Jean Pied de Port to Burgos
2016, Burgos to Ponferrada
2017, Ponferrada to Atlantic Ocean
Mass times are usually posted at the door of the church. Be sure to know the days of the week in Spanish and the 24hr clock.


-Paul
 
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smarreel

New Member
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Over 15 days into this pilgrimage so far and the majority of the holy buildings have been closed, can anyone give more insight or share their own thoughts please? Is this the same situation on other routes and the French way in particular? Regardless of the time they always seem to be closed, it is very frustrating as it's a massive part of making pilgrimage for me personally, visiting holy sites and honouring the sacred energy present that exists within these buildings and is primary to them, the buildings are a secondary feature built on top and reappropriated by the religious order of the age. The clergy are stewards for these sites and supposed keepers/defenders of the faith but the doors remain closed, i think it is high time more questions are asked, know them by their fruit rings true here.
We are currently in Mondeñedo on the Del Norte.

I asked this very question to a docent paid by the church at the Cathedral in Laredo a couple of weeks ago. She was the first interpreter I had seen. She told me that at one time the elderly women of the town would care for the church, but many are gone so the church must hire people and there just aren’t enough for every heritage site. Spain is third in the world for heritage sites - 1) China 2) Italy 3) Spain. She also shared that serious acts of vandelism, not just stealing, but spray paint has locked the doors.
 

David with new Kit!

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019, 2021, 2022
We have been walking the CF for about 4 weeks. Currently in Arzúa.

Our experience has been that the churches are generally open between 10 and 12. And typically later in the afternoons around 4pm through the evening (after mass if it is on). Some also do specific tours (eg monastery at Samos).

There are some religious buildings that don’t open (eg the Capel of San Roque in Melide).

Keep an eye out for open times posted on doors. If there is a tourist information office in the town check with them. Hospitaleros may also be able to help.

Also there are brochures for dioceses with mass times etc available. Maybe check the websites.

Hope this helps

Buen CaminoIgrexa de Santa Eulalia de Arca

We have been walking the CF for about 4 weeks. Currently in Arzúa.

Our experience has been that the churches are generally open between 10 and 12. And typically later in the afternoons around 4pm through the evening (after mass if it is on). Some also do specific tours (eg monastery at Samos).

There are some religious buildings that don’t open (eg the Capel of San Roque in Melide).

Keep an eye out for open times posted on doors. If there is a tourist information office in the town check with them. Hospitaleros may also be able to help.

Also there are brochures for dioceses with mass times etc available. Maybe check the websites.

Hope this helps

Buen Camino
If you are in Arzúa tonight you are most likely in O Pedrouzo tomorrow. Church Igrexa de Santa Eulalia de Arca did a pilgrim mass last year and we will look out for it again in two days time (we are in Sobrado) It's unique because the alter is a massive scallop shell.

Try to visit, even to see the altar
 

trevorcc

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
SJPD to Santiago 2013,2014, Camino de Levante Sept. 2016, Frances March 2018, planning 2020
I have not walked that route specifically. But in general, I think you will find many buildings/sites are closed. Probably the same across most routes? (certainly the CF)
I think there are a number of reasons. For churches, a lack of priests, meaning they have to cover a number of parishes. And also many of the buildings are cared for by local elderly inhabitants and may have very limited opening hours.

Some of the villages have been severely depopulated over the years due to economic decline, as people move to the cities to find work.

I'm sure Covid must be having an impact too........

When I find some holy buildings/sites open, I am always very grateful. 🙂

The 'sacred energy' I find along the way, all around me, in every step......

But I see you have walked the CP and CF in the past.
Are you finding the Norte has a lot more sites closed by comparison?
I find if you stop and look around you are in his best place,
 
Time of past OR future Camino
1993 Francés, 2020 Francés, 2022 Francés
If you are in Arzúa tonight you are most likely in O Pedrouzo tomorrow. Church Igrexa de Santa Eulalia de Arca did a pilgrim mass last year and we will look out for it again in two days time (we are in Sobrado) It's unique because the alter is a massive scallop shell.

Try to visit, even to see the a
Mass times are usually posted at the door of the church. Be sure to know the days of the week in Spanish and the 24hr clock.


-Paul
B89722C0-CC1F-473E-8858-405652B8AA0C.jpeg
 
Time of past OR future Camino
From Porto, Portugal, through Tui, Spain, in 2015.
Northern route in August/September 2017
I walked the Norte in 2017, and happily discovered that almost every town had one church with Mass in the evening, usually, but not always, around 7:00 or 7:30 pm. The church would open before then, and remain open briefly after as well. The time was usually posted.

As for what the church "should" do...Please remember that Spain, and the towns and villages we pass through, do not exist for our pleasure. The people of Spain are generally wonderful in my experience. But the idea that each town should leave someone constantly on call on the off chance, a pilgrim might want to visit, pray, or simply tour a church is -- dare I suggest it -- entitled?
 
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Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Time of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
I hold the church key in our little town.
We open the church every morning in the summer, from 8 am to 1 p.m.
Hundreds of pilgrims pass by. Usually fewer than 20 will stop.
Our priest lives 25 km away, and cares for 9 parishes. He does his best to offer a Mass every couple of weeks in our little town, and we are grateful to still have one.
The desires of passing "pilgrims" and curiosity-seekers who feel there's something holy in there and the current church has hijacked its power? Keep moving, brother. The juju is all around you if you have a feel for it.
 
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Eternal Now
I hold the church key in our little town.
We open the church every morning in the summer, from 8 am to 1 p.m.
Hundreds of pilgrims pass by. Usually fewer than 20 will stop.
Our priest lives 25 km away, and cares for 9 parishes. He does his best to offer a Mass every couple of weeks in our little town, and we are grateful to still have one.
The desires of passing "pilgrims" and curiosity-seekers who feel there's something holy in there and the current church has hijacked its power? Keep moving, brother. The juju is all around you if you have a feel for it.
Definitely. Not sure about hijacked but when holy buildings are built generally they are to venerate the sacred energy emanating from that spot is my understanding. Good book worth a read

Back To a Future for Mankind: Biogeometry by Ibrahim Kazim.

Also Earth energy and leylines by David Cowan. Enjoyed your book too 👍 Keep up the good work, just frustrating that the open door policy isn't still in place, wouldn't need a keykeeper then. Seems like a more nuanced topic than previously considered.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Eternal Now
I walked the Norte in 2017, and happily discovered that almost every town had one church with Mass in the evening, usually, but not always, around 7:00 or 7:30 pm. The church would open before then, and remain open briefly after as well. The time was usually posted.

As for what the church "should" do...Please remember that Spain, and the towns and villages we pass through, do not exist for our pleasure. The people of Spain are generally wonderful in my experience. But the idea that each town should leave someone constantly on call on the off chance, a pilgrim might want to visit, pray, or simply tour a church is -- dare I suggest it -- entitled?
Entitled? 😅 Whatever floats your boat. There was a time gods temple doors were open to all, clearly not anymore, just find it frustrating albeit amusing.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
Entitled? 😅 Whatever floats your boat. There was a time gods temple doors were open to all, clearly not anymore, just find it frustrating albeit amusing.
Sadly I find nothing amusing in it. As someone who used to have overall responsibility for the safety and upkeep of a couple of churches I am all too aware that times have changed. There may have been a time in the past where a general respect for sacred spaces kept them fairly safe from theft and vandalism. Unfortunately that is long past in most places.
 
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jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2021, 2022
I walked the Norte to the Primitivo to Santiago this summer... and like on the Frances... it seemed most of the churches were locked up during the morning hours. In bigger towns and cities I was often able to go inside the churches/Cathedrals - but the small towns usually had them locked up. And this was in late May through June. And for the Frances I walked June 9- mid-July. Anyway - I have lots of pictures of the outside of churches - but most of them were closed. Perhaps they open in the evenings? I don't know. Maybe they only open on Sundays.
 

henrythedog

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Time of past OR future Camino
My affair
Sadly I find nothing amusing in it. As someone who used to have overall responsibility for the safety and upkeep of a couple of churches I am all too aware that times have changed. There may have been a time in the past where a general respect for sacred spaces kept them fairly safe from theft and vandalism. Unfortunately that is long past in most places.
Even though my nearest church; which I can see even now two fields away from my bedroom window, has suffered theft and vandalism (paving and roof tiles unbelievably) in recent years; the small progressive local community choose to keep it unlocked and make it known as a place of refuge.

On the far too infrequent occasions when I choose to repent for my extraordinary number of sins I confess that I do so at a rather posh priory a couple of miles away full of jolly polite people who lock the door when they leave.

I think I’ll defect.
 

dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
I noticed when I was there that a lot of churches in England were left open, but I also noticed they were obviously used by the local communities for meetings, local activities as well as prayer and worship. Then again, they were in flourishing and well-populated villages. Churches in Spain are often in isolated remote places so the danger of theft, vandalism and misuse is very real. I don't see why they also have to put the adjacent porch under lock and chain in populated areas though, unless it is to stop people sleeping there.
 

dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
when people sleep in the church porch, they also often use it for a toilet.
If a pilgrim needs a place to bed down there is usually a sheltered place somewhere in town.
Good point, but it wouldn't necessarily be the people dossing there: the streets of some Spanish cities after midnight provide ample evidence of the lack of public toilet facilities, sad to say.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
Eternal Now
Sadly I find nothing amusing in it. As someone who used to have overall responsibility for the safety and upkeep of a couple of churches I am all too aware that times have changed. There may have been a time in the past where a general respect for sacred spaces kept them fairly safe from theft and vandalism. Unfortunately that is long past in most places.
The only reason i am able to find humour in it is if you don't laugh you cry, i am in agreement with you, sign of the times!
 

frjuliangreen

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Inglés (2018)
Camino Portugués (2019)
Vía de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés (2020)
Over 15 days into this pilgrimage so far and the majority of the holy buildings have been closed, can anyone give more insight or share their own thoughts please? Is this the same situation on other routes and the French way in particular? Regardless of the time they always seem to be closed, it is very frustrating as it's a massive part of making pilgrimage for me personally, visiting holy sites and honouring the sacred energy present that exists within these buildings and is primary to them, the buildings are a secondary feature built on top and reappropriated by the religious order of the age. The clergy are stewards for these sites and supposed keepers/defenders of the faith but the doors remain closed, i think it is high time more questions are asked, know them by their fruit rings true here.
I know exactly what you mean. On previous short pilgrimages (Camino Inglés and last section of the Portugués) which pass through large villages and towns in Galicia, I found that churches were open at least at time of Mass, and there were daily Masses to be found. (I am a priest and like to join in and concelebrate at local celebrations of Mass). More recently, having walked the VdlP from Seville, I can say I have been shocked at the extent to which the life of the Church has, along with the life of most of the pueblos, dwindled. I trained for the priesthood in Spain over a quarter century ago, and there was still plenty of life out in the villages, but not now. On the VdlP, while still in Andalucía, the villages and towns still had life and the churches were open. In Extremadura and, more particularly, Castilla y León, the depopulation and the consequent downturn in the life of pueblos is obvious. Many beautiful churches and shrines bear witness to past glories. As of now, no doubt these parishes have been combined together to form large multi-parish units, under the care of a priest who probably doesn't even live in the parish. (Very often clergy live in family homes in the city or elsewhere). So these churches remain closed and locked in huge numbers, opened not even on an occasional Sunday, but only used for the funeral of a parishioner. It is truly sad to see the death of rural Spain.

Knowing that there is a lack of priests, it is a shame that local Dioceses do not realise what a great opportunity for outreach the Camino is. There are, of course, legendary priests along the Camino (for example the parish priest of Fuenterroble de Salvatierra on the VdlP) who appreciate that pastoral care and hospitality to pilgrims is a fruitful ministry. Simply getting local lay people to open up churches to welcome pilgrims, for there to be Mass available in certain villages at least occasionally along the way, I would show a willingness to respond to people who are at least spiritually open along the way. For me, with memories of the past, it is a huge sadness to see the death of the church outside the main cities. And to see the huge contrast between the poverty and lack of care of villages in a province like Salamanca contrasted with the evident prosperity and life of the city of Salamanca (where I was a student at one time).

Speaking to local people in pueblos, they are philosophical but deeply sad about the way their beloved churches remain locked. I always say Mass each day on the Camino, but more often that not it's in a hostal or casa rural. I have had the experience of people in a couple of pueblos so happy to know that Mass had been celebrated in their parish, and embarrassed that it could not take place in their own parish church.

If you feel strongly about this issue why not write to the local bishops of the Dioceses you walk through. Maybe they would wake up to the possibilities if they heard there is a desire or need.
 

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