I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Black Virgin Of Sarrance

Leaving Oloron I passed these 2 donkeys in a cramped, squalid compound. They did not look very happy ...


I was now walking due south along the valley of the river Aspe. I would follow this river for 60 km - almost as far as the Col du Somport and the Spanish frontier. Little by little the valley narrowed and the hills closed in. Despite the approaching mountains - and the notoriously unpredictable Pyrenean weather - the rain still held off. In fact it was another warm and sunny day. The path flirted with the stream -sometimes following the left bank, sometimes the right, sometimes contouring high above the river, sometimes staying on the same level ...

After 20 km I'd reached Sarrance where I hoped to spend the night. A shepherd and a fisherman had miraculously discovered a Black Virgin here (I've written about the cult of the Black Virgin before). You can find her in a side chapel in the Sanctuary of Notre-Dame:


I knew there was a pilgrim gîte adjoining the sanctuary, and eventually located it beyond a door leading off the neglected and overgrown cloisters. No one seemed to be about so I entered and made myself at home. I'd just turned on the shower when there was an urgent banging at the cubicle door. It was one of the church fathers - and he didn't sound very pleased. Apparently the gîte was closed for the season! Later however he chilled out and let us stay - even bringing us some oil and salt and various things missing from the kitchen store cupboard. I say "us" because by this time Steven, a pilgrim from South Africa, had arrived:


Steven made a really tasty soup for our evening meal - out of carrot, potato, caramalised onion, lentils, garlic, yoghurt and a stock cube - then we turned in early. The gîte was very dark and gloomy - and rather sinister. We told each other jokes and anecdotes to keep any lurking evil spirits at bay ...

This picture of Sarrance shows the village fountain (we filled our water bottles from it the next morning - the water was ice-cold and deliciously pure) and the lavoir (on the left). You find these old lavoirs in many French villages. It's where the women of the village used to do their laundry - and doubtless catch up on all the gossip too!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sarrance is a lovely village and the church offers treasures to be seen. This church is to my mind and to my eyes a jewel. A visit there is a MUST if you happen to visit the Aspe valley. Possibility of having a tasty meal at the local inn for little money!!!