The Pilgrims

The first pilgrim known was Godescalc, bishop of Puy, in 950, together with an important retinue. The Duke IX of Aquitaine began the way in 1137; in 1154 Louis VII, King of France, went on the pilgrimage to Santiago and a century later the archbishop of Lyon visited the apostle’ shrine. It is also known that other personalities went on a pilgrimage, like St Francis of Assisi, St Dominic de Guzman, Joanna the Mad and Philip the Handsome in 1506; Charles I and Philip II. The Catholic Monarchs made the pilgrimage in 1486. Their great work favoring the Way was the construction of the hospital of the Catholic Monarchs, started in 1501. And together with these distinguished pilgrims, walked believers of all social positions, increasing the number each time. Mixed with the crowd of peasants, rascals, bourgeoisies and noblemen, then arrived through the Way of St James craftsmen, stonemasons, painters, sculptors and religious orders. That cornerstone of the Reconquest soon became the conduit through which slipped into the Peninsula the aesthetic and cultural vanguards which ruled the Occident world. It was the great contribution of the apostle to the artistic and humanistic development of Spain.

 

The Credencial is a kind of Pilgrim license, which has its origins in the introduction letters that Kings, clerics and authorities granted as an accreditation or safe-conduct to those who made the pilgrimage to Compostela from all parts of Europe. Having this, the pilgrim was under protection and was exempted from paying taxes. The Credencial is delivered exclusively (personally) to those who made the way on foot, by bike or horse. This document is accomplished instantaneously through the Association of Friends of the St James’ Way, Parishes or Brotherhood or in the place where the pilgrimage begins. It allows, although not entitle, the access to hostels, where the pilgrims have to seal the credencial as an evidence of their stay. It also offers special discounts at certain museums, leisure centers and monasteries along the Way. All those pilgrims who have completed at least 100 kilometers on foot or by horse, or 200 by bike, will be granted with a document that certifies the pilgrimage made in the Cathedral of Santiago, on behalf of the Cathedral Chapter and the Pilgrim Office, called “Compostela” (located near the Cathedral of Santiago, at the junction of Rúa del Villar with Plaza de Platerías).

 

Pilgrim Clothing

One of the distinctive marks of the pilgrim, was and is his clothing. At the beginnings, the garments and footwear used had a practical reason, but eventually remained the same and went on become a characteristic attire of the pilgrims of St James. The majority of texts about history and iconography of pilgrimage, talks about that outfit. According to Xosé Ramón Pousa, the pilgrim is represented with seven elements which complete the characteristics of the walker over a thousand kilometers long of the route, and they are: wide-brimmed hat to protect from the sun and rain, coat with short cloak to shelter from cold and snow; strong footwear, to resist millions of footsteps on the stones; the staff which protected them against the wild animals and was useful as a support; the pumpkin in which conserve water or wine for each stretch; the pouch for keeping the food, money and some pieces of cloth; and the scallop shell on the front, holding the wide brimmed hat. But the typical complement, undoubtedly, has been for centuries the shell, scallop or zamburiña, obtained by the pilgrims almost like a trophy at the end of the pilgrimage to Santiago.

Today, a scallop is an implicit reference to the St James’ Way and is part of the treasury signs along the different routes which form it. Equipped in this way, the pilgrim had free way and was well received in the many shelters in the route. He was provided with all the attentions: food, religious and medical assistance, if necessary. We should add that not everything was bright in pilgrimages. Facing widespread goodness for the pilgrim, there was also abuse and trickery on the part of innkeepers and lodging managers. Vagrants and robbers were not missing, who roamed the roads waiting for unsuspecting walkers. The Orders of Santiago and the Temple watched the paths and routes, protecting the pilgrims, even militarily. The majority of texts containing the history of pilgrimages agree that, just as the clothing, the pilgrim is distinguished by the songs that vented all the hardships of the road and the legends who accompanied it. All that, in many cases, was preserved and transmitted from generation to generation. In fact, the songbook became one of the most popular elements in the medieval pilgrimages. The pilgrims sang. A lot. Well or not. But they sang. And their songs, along with Romanesque art, are one of the richest cultural and artistic legacies that have been passed on to subsequent generations. There have been collected and even published numerous songbooks of pilgrimage (the first already in the 12nd century, in the Codex Calixtinus, reproduced in disk today) on which the first examples for more than one voice known in the peninsula appear: the descants. The other traditional element linked to the songs, is the set of legends and miracles that, “passed from voice to voice, served to fill the evenings and inflame the walker, forming a kind of magical aura around the Apostle and his shrine”. The main topic of most of them is the miraculous rescue that James gave to the pilgrims in trouble. The Codex Calixtinus contains a generous sampling of these legends.

The Codex Calixtinus or Liber Sanct Jacobi is the historic text of reference about the St James’ Way, especially the French way. The original document, whose origin is not exactly known but it’s previous to 1173, is a manuscript of 226 pages on parchment. It is divided into 5 parts containing sermons, liturgical texts, stories of miracles performed by the Apostle, the legend of Charlemagne and the Aymeric Picaud Guide, considered the first guide of the Way because of the information given about the different places where it went on. The Codex was restored in 1964 and is stored in the archives of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

 

Historia: Leyendas del Camino

HISTORIA

Seguir una ruta de peregrinación supone emprender un camino a la vez interior y exterior, y la marcha hacia una meta durante la cual el peregrino podrá llegar a adquirir plena conciencia de su propia trascendencia.

A lo largo de los siglos, el Camino se pobló de leyendas de carácter sobrenatural, en su mayor parte, que tejieron el entramado de relaciones simbólicas que el peregrino tendría que establecer para justificar su propia búsqueda de la trascendencia. Las leyendas jacobeas, vienen a ser como la ilustración que acompaña a la letra y música del Camino. Muchos de los edificios emblemáticos del Camino están ligados a alguna vieja leyenda, generalmente con trasfondo religioso.

En el caso de Santa Cristina, según reza la tradición: dos caballeros anónimos, compadecidos por los innumerables peregrinos que perecían en el puerto del Alto de Somport sin recibir los Santos Sacramentos, decidieron levantar un pequeño refugio.

Cuando dudaban del lugar más idóneo para construirlo, se apareció una blanca paloma portando en su pico una cruz de oro, que depositó en el lugar señalado por Dios para levantar la iglesia.

En la plaza de Santiago, al lado de una fuente de tradición jacobea y del templo dedicado al apóstol, sus baldosas plasman las distintas casillas del Juego de la Oca. Según algunos investigadores, tras el juego se oculta una Guía Encriptada, en la que están ocultas las claves que descifran la forma de ir y volver a Santiago por el Camino. Cada casilla correspondería a una de las etapas y la autoría del tablero recae sobre los templarios.

En un alto de Villafranca del Bierzo (León), en el sitio por el que accede el Camino a ésta, hay una iglesia románica, la de Santiago. En la fachada norte hay una puerta de cuatro arcos apuntados. Es la Puerta del Perdón y aquellos peregrinos aquejados de enfermedad, que se postren ante ella están exentos del peregrinaje a Santiago, siendo aún así merecedores de la buscada indulgencia.

La entrada a Galicia se produce tras asaltar un alto montañoso, llegando a O Cebreiro que narra la vieja leyenda de que viéndose sacudida estas tierras por un fuerte temporal, un vecino de Barxamaior ascendió hasta el pueblo alto de O Cebreiro a escuchar misa como acostumbraba. Su gesto, el de acercarse a la eucaristía a pesar de las inclemencias, no fue apreciado por el monje encargado de la liturgia, que afirmó con desdén: “ahí, viene ese en medio de una tempestad, para ver un poco de pan y de vino”. Luego, en el momento de la consagración, el pan y el vino se transformaron en carne y sangre, ante la incredulidad del clérigo.

En el Liber Peregrinationis, capítulo incluido en el Liber Sancti Iacobi o Codex Calixtinus-la guía peregrina del siglo XII-, se hace mención al albergue de Barbadelo y enumera las principales villas por enlazar durante el trayecto jacobeo. En otro libro del Códice de Calixto, se vuelve a citar a Barbadelo y su entorno más inmediato. Esta vez para alertar de la costumbre de los avariciosos hosteleros gallegos de la época, que enviaban a sus criados a buscar clientes entre los peregrinos. Prometiéndoles cuidados en su posada, que no existían y donde eran estafados en todo lo posible de imaginar.

Al salir por la puerta de las Platerías, tras haber visitado la tumba del Apóstol y de haber orado ante ella, los caballos marinos de la fuente indicaban secretamente al peregrino consciente de su viaje aún no había terminado, que su meta verdadera se encontraba más allá, camino del mar. Según designa la tradición, es de buen peregrino, cuando se alcanza, Fisterra, realizar tres sencillos actos: bañarse en el mar, asistir a la puesta de sol en el cabo y quemar la ropa. Son viejos actos que están relacionados con la renovación del espíritu, entendiendo el quemar la ropa como liberación de las impurezas del hombre viejo, para dar paso al nuevo. El cabo Fisterra tiene un ocaso mágico y representó durante milenios una frontera, entre el mundo de los vivos y el de los muertos.