The decision was taken out of my hands when I discovered that the motorway sliproad was blocked for roadworks! Rather than taking the official diversion, of course I headed for my half-remembered little back road... And it really was only half-remembered, because I had totally forgotten that it was part of the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela, part of which runs right across our area, north of the Pyrenees.
The scallop shell was worn by medieval pilgrims on this road. Wikipedia gives this explanation: "The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of James, son of Zebedee and is popular with pilgrims on the Way of St James to the apostle's shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to his shrine often wore a scallop shell symbol on their hat or clothes. The pilgrim also carried a scallop shell with him, and would present himself at churches, castles, abbeys etc., where he could expect to be given as much sustenance as he could pick up with one scoop. Probably he would be given oats, barley, and perhaps beer or wine. Thus even the poorest household could give charity without being overburdened."
It seems they are still being worn, and still being presented!
The sign told me that this little shrine had been set up at the site of a pilgrim hostel, built before 1304, and destroyed (why?) in 1585.The whole thing was, of course, very Catholic, which I'm not.There was a time when I would have seen all this 'alien' imagery and material expressions of faith as evidence of un-Christian superstition. Sorry.But God has taught me something about humility and diversity in worship, and history has taught me that medieval people who didn't have access to the written word of God could still find ways to praise Him, often with concrete actions and tangible expressions of belief. So on Tuesday I was happy to leave a pebble by the cross, adding my prayer of thanks and praise to the others.