David Griffiths, a pilgrim from Canada, found Santa Susana and met Mother Anna C. Noon in April 2023. He included the following account in the Summer 2023 edition of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims Newsletter. More about the Canadian Company of Pilgrims can be found at https://www.santiago.ca
Santa Susana and Casa Anglicana del Peregrinos
by David Griffiths
An unexpected Find
A lookoff point in tranquil Alameda park is a popular spot for taking pictures of the great cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims who have visited plenty of churches during their camino may feel disinclined to walk to the top of the hill to see yet another, but in April of this year two of us found a visit to Santa Susana worth the effort. In staunchly Roman Catholic northern Spain it came as a surprise, not so much receiving a warm personal welcome from the priest, but that the priest was a woman. But then the story of Santa Susana’s church is full of surprises.
History of Santa Susana
The church was once a pilgrimage destination in its own right, mentioned in the 12th Century Codex Calixtinus and revered as second in importance only to the shrine of Saint James. Saint Susana was popularly recognized as co-patron of the city. Today, the building has taken on new life as an Anglican place of worship.
The story goes back more than nine hundred years. The first Archbishop of Santiago, Diego Gelmírez, was a relentless promoter of his ecclesiastical province. Not content with custody of the prestigious bones of the first of Christ’s apostles to be martyred, he aspired to forestall competition from Braga, the oldest diocese in Portugal, which held bones of no less than five saints. In the year 1102, he made a “pastoral” visit to Braga, professed concern at the lack of care with which the sacred relics were being kept, and had them confiscated and brought to Santiago. There, the bones of four were deposited in chapels of the cathedral, but those of Susana were in a different league. Hers were placed in a small church that Gelmírez had built earlier in a hilltop oak grove overlooking the cathedral near the road from Padrón. It was ultimately rebuilt into the Romanesque church we see today, although the outer walls surrounding the grounds still have medieval elements. Saint Susana’s relics were returned to Braga in 1994, presumably prompting a decline in the building’s importance.
An Anglican presence with an Ecumenical welcome
Last year, Bishop Carlos López Lozano of the Episcopal Church in Spain (Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal) gave permission for Santa Susana to offer Anglican worship and be an ecumenical “place of sanctuary where pilgrims of every kind, believers and seekers, might anchor their Camino journey in Santiago de Compostela.” And then, in May of this year, Friends of the Anglican Centre in Santiago de Compostela purchased a handicap-accessible hotel just a few hundred meters from the Cathedral, and this has now been converted into a lovely pilgrim pensión.
Visit Santa Susana & Casa Anglicana del Peregrinos
If you are spending time in Santiago after your Camino, do think about visiting restful Santa Susana’s. And if you’re looking for a post-Camino place to stay, reflect, and refresh in the old city, you might want to check out the Casa Anglicana del Peregrinos at Rua da Porta da Pena 3, in the historic district of Santiago.
David Griffiths has walked the Camino Francés, Camino Portugués (from Valença), and Camino Finisterre, as well as several caminos in Nova Scotia. He writes, reflects, and bases his peregrinations in Halifax, Nova Scotia.