A group of over 30 S4 pupils, together with teachers and two chaplains, from St Ninian’s High School in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, spent four days visiting the College and its surroundings in September 2016.
Over the past few years, as part of their S4 Spanish programme, pupils have visited the sights of Salamanca, learned something about the “Camino de Santiago” which passes through the city and visited local sites such as Ávila, learning about the life and teachings of St Teresa, and La Alberca, a beautiful little market town in the south of Salamanca province. As the pupils are all learning Spanish, some time is set aside each day for them to speak the language, as well as prayers at Mass and the Daily Prayer of the Church, including the Our Father (or “Padre Nuestro”) and the bidding prayers.
This year’s trip included Mass in the chapel of the Dominican monastery at the top of the Peña de Francia, the site of a famous Marian shrine, a walk along part of the Camino de Santiago and a visit to the pilgrim hostel, and the experience of something of Salamanca’s main festival, which coincides with the Feast of the Birthday of Our Lady (8th September) and is celebrated locally as the feast of “La Virgen de la Vega”. This feast (which means “The Virgin of the Meadow”) honours Our Lady as the patroness of Salamanca, and focusses on devotion to a statue of Our Lady dating from the 12th Century and to which a number of local miracles have been attributed over the centuries, including the retreat of troops who were threatening to sack the city in 1706, during the Wars of the Spanish Succession. The feast marks the beginning of a week of celebrations in the city, which are inaugurated with a floral and musical procession accompanying the statue of “La Virgen” through the city streets and fireworks at night.
In addition, the group were fortunate to find Salamanca enjoying something of a mini-heatwave, so got to leave behind the early autumn chill of home for the sunshine and swimming pool of the Salamanca summer. They left Salamanca early on the final day to travel to Madrid where they enjoyed an overnight stay, which included a visit to the Cathedral and Royal Palace and to the Estadio Bernabéu, home of European football champions, Real Madrid.