I returned to St. Isidoro to find the Pantheon Real, the burial chamber of many kings reigning from the 10th century over the Kingdom of León. Similarly the Camino pilgrimage started in earnest at this time. A priest directed me to the Pantheon; he radiated a remarkable sense of peace and tranquillity, bordering on an earthly holiness. The purity and benevolence that he imparted – both physically and spiritually – made quite an impression on me.
The burial chamber contains the remains of 11 Kings, 12 Queens and 23 Princes – the high nobility of the Kingdom of León. Several of these had been instrumental in changing Spanish history: King Ramiro II (931 – 951) defeated the Muslim armies in northern Spain and Alfonso IX (1171 – 1230) re-conquered Extremadura. He also founded one of the first universities of Europe in Salamanca and established a parliament with representation by the citizens. He might have been influenced by Islam which, especially under Muhammad in the seventh century, practiced all-inclusiveness of ideas and consultation in communities.
Dating from the eleventh century, the burial chamber has many Romanesque arches with vaulted ceilings, all painted in fresco with themes from the Old and New Testaments. The Last Supper appears prominently above an arch and three evangelists are depicted with animal heads – Mark the Lion, Luke the Bull and John the Eagle, with Matthew as a winged man and Christ preaching to all of them. There are many other fresco scenes in the chamber, of which a twelve month calendar interested me most. It shows agricultural activities such as tilling, sowing, growing, harvesting and watering. In those days, agriculture was the only way of sustenance and life with all its activities revolved around nature and the four seasons. It is consequently not surprising to find a calendar where the months of the year are represented through appropriate activities, such as:
September the harvesting of grapes and most other products
November the slaughtering of pigs ‒ during the cold season when meat can be stored with greater success.
March the pruning of vines and trees
April the spring season for planting
May the season for travelling – or walking the Camino – at a time when crops grow and need little attention
And so the list continues.