Madisonian travels to Spain

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By Reann Huber


A Morgan County resident took his second spiritual journey of 225 kilometers through the old routes of El Camino de Santiago in Spain as part of his “walk of thankfulness” after having heart problems.

Jim Martin and his grandson, Brendan Ianelli, ventured on the Camino that has been a part of Spain’s history for over 1,000 years. People are welcome to start at various points along the trail with various purposes, but eventually they all end up at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

“Most people do [the Camino] for spirituality,” said Martin. “It’s a very moving thing, the concept of pilgrimage that you go on a long walk and you have a discussion with God about your life and in the walk you learn to lay down things you don’t need anymore.”

As this was Martin’s second journey through the Camino, he still had his purpose set on spirituality and thankfulness of being able to do this after having triple bypass surgery on his heart in 2012, but he wanted his grandson to have more of the original spiritual experience that he had as well.

“I did my first walk in 2014 by myself and it was such a moving experience that I knew I wanted to do it with one of my children or grandchildren,” Martin said. “So I just decided that I wanted to leave experiences with my children other than just things.”

The two of them began their 11 day and 225 km journey in the little village of O’Cebreiro, Spain that was situated on top of a large mountain. They traveled with a company who set up their trip and stayed in several hotels along the way.

“They talk about Madison and their old homes, but we stayed in hotel rooms that were 800 years old,” said Martin.

Martin and his grandson were thankful to be able to travel to small towns of 10 to 20 people to bigger market towns and experience the history of the different places, especially in their churches and cathedrals.

They learned about the history and the people and the most important part to them was meeting the different people along the way. Martin and his grandson talked to people from 20 different countries and around 20 different states and he knew that all those conversations and encounters were valuable.

“There’s an old saying on the Camino, and this is important, ‘there are no coincidences in life,’” Martin said. “So the people you meet on the Camino, you need to anticipate that that meeting was intentional and you need to learn from the experience.”

At the end of their journey in Santiago, the weight of the journey set in for all those who finished and made it to St. James Plaza. People can be seen laying down and crying, or laughing and hugging those they met along the way.

“When you enter, you’re walking and you’ve been walking for days and it’s a very…moving experience when you walk into the plaza beneath the Cathedral of St. James,” said Martin.

Martin and Ianelli proved their completion of their Camino to the administration of the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago. Along their journey, they would get stamps from different places to complete their passport for the Camino and eventually received their Compostela certificate.

With receiving the Compostela certificate, it is a way to mark someone’s penance and have forgiven the errors of their past. Martin is proud to have now received this certificate twice and wishes to do the walk again.

“I had a lot of trouble but after resting for a couple of weeks, I’m ready to go back,” Martin said. “Soon after the journey, you forget about all the pain and all you remember is the good parts.”

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