Still some flat country.
But soon the land starts to roll up. The country over the next few days will more and more resemble my own part of Australia: humid, hilly, part-forested, maritime.
But we’re still in the Landes: these green folds are only a foretaste of the Béarn.
A mixed group of French had been popping up on the trail for some time…and going slow! It was fate: I meshed into the group, in that vague Camino way.
The Sensacq church stands on its own. It’s dated eleventh century, but built on something much older than that. One wonders about the location of these isolated chapels and churches. Was there a village out here? Was it a big pilgrim stop? My new friends had ideas on that subject.
Here’s the church, which none of us were expecting, and which drew us instantly. With that “wall” bell-tower, or clocher-à-peigne, and the plump Romanesque style of the nave – this was old, and this was pretty. (For my companions, it was something more again.)
It’s not untouched, of course, but the simple interior keeps the feel of its origins.
Restoration works, as I learned later, uncovered this extraordinary boat-hull ceiling.
As we chatted and moved about, I noticed that some of the group were dangling little chains, standing or sitting with a peculiar concentration. One of the ladies, when called by a friend to approach the altar with him, expressed something akin to anxiety.
Soon I observed that they were playing not with keys but with little pendulums.
The French, who guard their homes and offices like fortresses, are very free in exposing their obsessions and loubies. Soon I was made privy to the interest that united the group. This was a club of geobiologists. Géo-bio is a mix of feng shui, geology, divining and medieval studies.
The main focus of my friends’ hobby, as they do a portion of the Camino each year, is to locate and measure the arcane forces and energies within religious sanctuaries. These forces are connected with water, minerals and other known physical substances, but are also celestial and remain largely mysterious in origin and effect. There are special terms. For example, the water influence within a church is referred to as the “Jordan”.
Geobiologists believe that medieval builders took into account these energies and forces when building, and the critical parts of religious places, such as the spot before altars where coffins are placed, tend to be energy centres. Some great churches, such as Chartres, have stupendous energies, others less. The example they gave me of a “null” church with no geo-bio forces might shock some readers inclined to believe in these things. Maybe I’ll leave that till later.
Okay, probably all hooey. So why did I enjoy hanging with these people?
To begin with, they were a likable and mixed bunch. Though one of them was writing a book about the symbolism of chapiteaux in his local cathedral, he was also a commandant of police! There were two other coppers in the group, one who had retired to take up a very senior security position. There was a sales rep, a ceramicist, in short, a genuine variety. They were real world folk, even urbane: one of the group was a skeptic who thought it was all hooey, yet he was welcome on all their outings. Some were catholic, some non-believers.
These were people you could laugh with, who had real jobs and could live with contradiction. Above all, though I can’t get excited about telluric forces, spiritual energy grids and the like, I believe that the purely rational is good for getting us across roads, but not through life. In fact, I’m not even sure it gets us across the road.
But this post is long! I would learn more about geobiology at the next church. And I would see something for the first time, something that would make me babble like an infant.
But before we head off, here’s a long shot of the interior of the église de Sensacq.
Is that a scallop shell reference in the ceiling? Are you here, Messire Jacques?