When you are born and raised in the old part of Orense, all the monuments seem to belong to you, to form a part of your life, of your identity. I could trace my way five different ways from the fountain at Praza do Ferro to the Cathedral—bypassing or facing steep slopes head on or taking the roundabout or direct ways. By each of these routes, I rediscovered the beauty of a city that has always lived both facing and forsaking its patrimony, that has never quite known how to protect it or make it sustainable.
The Cathedral of Orense was my magic place. I went there often, sometimes to accompany my mother, but mostly by myself, to circle its covered walkways and think, to disconnect, or simply to not think at all. Always empty during the day, it was a beautiful place to get lost in the infinity of one’s mind and find answers to questions one has not yet posed. In the old part of Orense, in the midst of the revelry, you could find any dissipation on your way to the Cathedral. In the nineties, going into that space was like entering paradise in the midst of a small hell.
These days, as I read about the intricate visiting system at the Pórtico da Gloria in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, I think about the impact that the restoration of the Pórtico do Paraíso in Orense’s Cathedral had on my way of understanding the church. On the one hand, I invite all of those who wait outside the pórtico of Santiago to continue on the pilgrimage to the pórtico of Orense and see our forgotten jewel. On the other hand, I admit that it’s been a while since I cannot think in this space: the audioguides and group visits that make a museum of the temple bring about certain consequences. I suppose that we shall have to get used to paying to enjoy the beauty of our patrimony, but the price and the ways in which we currently do so make me wonder about the best way to sustain it and share it.