Going from the rich heritage of the priory of Salamanca, to the humble origins of the Order is a long road in both the literal and historical sense. One cannot but marvel at the fact that a young man from a little town, in the middle of Spain, would travel the length and breadth of 13th centrury Europe, on foot, and found a new religious order.
We started the day with a brief visit to the Cathedral of Burgo di Osma. It was here that Dominic served as Canon to the Cathedral. In the Cathedral his memories are kept in several places. Personally, I found the most moving was to see his traditional place in the choir stalls, which to this day is commemorated by a statue and light above the seat. But Osma is also proud of another saint as our guide eagerly pointed out: we were given a unique opportunity to see up close the shrine of the first bishop of Osma, Saint Pedro de Bourges (from 1101- 1109). The stone sarcophagus still has its original polychromic paint which gave to the scenes from the live of the bishop a liveliness that took my breath away.
From Osma it took us just under an hour to reach the Dominican priory in Caleruega, where we were warmly welcomed by Fathers Jesus and Ismael. The priory of the brothers was built in the 1950s. However, it is attached to the convent of Dominican Nuns, who have been here since 1270. The whole complex is founded in, and around, the buildings that apparently formed the heart of the estate of the Guzman family. In the middle of it is a big stone tower that formed part of the defence works of both house and town.
Why a tower? Well, when Dominic’s parents settled in Caleruega, the place was on the frontier of the struggle between the rising Christian North and the remains of the internally divided Muslim Caliphate to the South. There was cultural exchange, but also civil strife, and all-out wars, which meant that each estate had to be able to provide soldiers. The capacity to provide soldiers was signified by the numbers of cauldrons in the family crest. The Guzman crest sports ten cauldrons, which signified 100 soldiers. However, the family also had to provide a hospital to take care of the poor and the sick. And the story goes that the young Dominic, together with his siblings, and under guidance of his mother spent most of his time here.
In the priory we were taken to the wine-cellar that belonged to the Guzman-house and a place that the young Dominic would have known. After the lunch with the brethren we visited the house of the Dominican sisters and the adjacent church.
Our able guide, Fr Jesus, then took us down to a chapel under the church, which is said to have been laid out on the ground-plan of the room where Dominic was born. In the middle of this chapel a well of fresh water can be found. And so it seems fitting that this high point of our pilgrimage was concluded by drinking from the waters of this well and singing the ‘O lumen’, praying that this ‘aquam sapientiae’ (water of wisdom) may inspire and support us as we continue our journey on the Dominican way.