Wednesday 20 March 2013

Sea shells in the mountains

 They say this region was once under the ocean, many millions of years ago, that the rocks were shaped by the tides, and the stones contain the outlines of forgotten sea creatures from the dawn of time. I would say there are days when all history stands still and all the spirits gather.

   You can feel it when the air in the valley is so hot it ripples the horizon. The blue hills rise and fall in waves, a mirage of the sea, and the breezes rush and expire like rollers as they form and collapse on distant shores.

                                                     From The Lantern

The snow last week reminded me that I still hadn't shared a photo I took up in the mountains at Risoul of the frieze above the main entrance of the village church. Hearts and scallop shells - I was intrigued. It also seemed a perfect illustration of what I tried to convey in the passage, quoted here, from my last novel.

A little research, of course, provided the explanation for the shell iconography: the scallop shell represents the baptism in the Christian tradition, and a scallop-shaped dish is often used, to this day, to hold the water that will anoint the head of the baptised. It is also a symbol of pilgrimage, worn round the neck by the faithful on their journey, both for the link with the Church and also, perhaps, for use as a bowl when asking for food.

Readers of earlier posts might remember that is was inside this church that I stumbled across the trail of perfume and holy apparitions.


talesfromagarden said...

Very interesting,as I have been watching a documentary on my local TV here in Ireland about an Irishman doing the pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago along the northern tip of Spain from east to west.Pilgrims walk up to 25kilometres a day over flat and hilly terrain and sleep overnight in basic hostels along the route.Pilgrims carry a scalloped seashell attached to their rucksacks as it is a symbol of the walk!Lots more about it,

josina said...

love this, as i am fascinated by "el camino". i wrote a post about it in my blog a different life

Sara Louise said...

There are scallop shells on the old priory in my village as well. I was told that they were a sign to let the pilgrims of St. James know that it was a safe place for them to stay. It's so interesting. I love learning all of these tidbits.

Muriel said...

Your post reminded me of a school trip to the old Olbia village near Hyeres.The sea used to come very close to it, and you could see the shells in the remain of the houses. Have a look here :

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