Monday 28 July 2008

Pilgrimage of Santiago Compostela - A Seminar

(The following is a handout created for a seminar on the pilgrimage of Santiago Compestela, here is a link to the PowerPoint used during the presentation.)

The Road to Santiago
The Road of Compostela

The Way of Saint James

Catholic Pilgrimage:

o Catholic Pilgrimages go back to the first millennium
o At that time 3 routs wer
e considered sacred, each offered a series of blessings and indulgences for those who traveled their length
o Each of these ancient routes had names, symbols and places associated with it.
o Jerusalem, to the Sepulcher of Jesus Christ, the Psalmists, with the symbol of the Palm branch.

o Rome, to the grave of St. Peter, the wanderers, with the symbol of the Cross.
o San Tiago, to the remains of Saint James, with the symbol of he scallo
ped shells. Also known as Compostela, the field of stars.

"A Few of the more wealthy pilgrims journeyed to the Holy Lands, more went to Rome, though the most popular foreign pilgrimage shrine was that of St. James at Compostela (Santiago de Compostela) in Spain."

Pilgrimages in History:

I h
ave found many and varied accounts of how this became a place of pilgrimage. From the various sources listed in the bibliography my conclusion is; that this is a pilgrimage site that has been around since some where around 850CE. In 1123 French priest Aymeric Picaud walked the route as it is known today. There are four traditional French routes that all meet in or near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Puente de la Reina on the Spain side.

Pilgrimage Routes:

o French Routes
o Tours
o Vezeley
o Le Pay

o Arles

o English Routes
o Two ports on the coast of France, and follow the Northern Route

o Portuguese Route

o On the Spanish Side of the Boarder
o From France there are two routes, the main route from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and the northern route.

Famous Pilgrimages:

The pilgrimage traditionall
y was open to those with the time and or money to pursue them. After the middle-ages, the pilgrimages became more accessible to any person. Though millions perform the pilgrimage there are some more famous pilgrims, in the past and today. From history we have Pope Calixtus II, Saint Francis of Assisi and Isabella of Castile, and more recently, Pope John XXIII, and Shirley Maclean.

Pilgrimage Today:

The pilgrimage today is done many ways; to count as a pilgrimage for an indulgence one must walk the route or use non-motorized transporta
tion. Today the route is done by horse, bike, and walking. It can also be done as a tourist, by car, motorcycle or tour bus. The University of Waterloo even did a pilgrimage tour a few years ago.

o 1985 this route was named a World Heritage Site, it is also considered a First European Cultural route
o 1996 over 100,000 pilgrims made the journey.
o From the border between France and Spain it is roughly an 880Km journey from Paris it is about

o The current Cathedral in San Tiago was completed in 1082 for the previous one had been destroyed in 977

Packing List: "It is vitally important that you take the absolute minimum amount of stuff with you in your backpack. Everybody takes too much and almost always end up sending it home or forward to Santiago in the mail or even just discarding it. It is surprising just how little you really need to take as the shops in Spain are now very good and have all the "modern" stuff that people want such as Shaving Cream, or Suntan Lotion etc. You don't need to take those things, just buy them as you need them. Personally I prefer to do it this way since it keeps the local economy running as well as keeping the backpack lighter. Some local communities seem to rely on the pilgrims walking through for their lively-hood. Some, on the other hand, hide their shops for the use of the locals only. You need to search out those sometimes when a town or village appears to have no shops.

In general, for clothes, take two pairs of everything, one to wear and one in the wash or drying on the back of your backpack.
o Boots - Good ones, well worn in.
  • Wool Socks - 2 pairs. Thin Socks - 2 pairs (to wear inside the thick ones).
  • Light teeshirt for the day.
  • Heavier shirt for the evening.
  • Trousers - 2 Pairs (The ones with the detachable shorts and legs).
  • Light shoes for the evening to give your feet and boots a rest.
  • Shower sandals. (Could combine with the above)
  • Toothbrush. Aeroplane style toothpaste (very small).
  • Sleeping Bag.
  • Paperwork - Passport, money, credit card, credential, maps and a "belly" pouch to put it all in.
  • Wide brimmed Hat.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Sun screen (very important!).
  • Personal Toilet Items (you decide).
  • Shampoo - does for everything, washing hair and clothes.
  • Lightweight backpack.
  • Water Bottle (sometimes it is a long way between fountains)
  • Wet weather gear, poncho, waterproof trousers. (vital for Galicia!)
  • That's It!

Indulgence: "The remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned, which the follower of Christ with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquires through the intervention of the Church, which, as minister of the redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints" (Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences)."

Penance: "The virtue or disposition of heart by which one repents of one's own sins and is converted to God. Also the punishment by which one atones for sins committed, either by oneself or by others. And finally the sacrament of penance, where confessed sins committed after baptism are absolved by a priest in the name of God. (Etym. Latin paenitentia, repentance, contrition.)"

Pilgrimage: "A journey to a sacred place undertaken as an act of religious devotion. Its purpose may be simply to venerate a certain saint or ask some spiritual favor; beg for a physical cure or perform an act of penance; express thanks or fulfill a promise. From the earliest days pilgrimages were made to the Holy Land, and later on to Rome, where Peter and Paul and so many Christians were martyred. From the eighth century the practice began of imposing a pilgrimage in place of public penance. As a result, during the Middle Ages pilgrimages were organized on a grand scale and became the object of special Church legislation. In modern times, besides Rome and the Holy Land, famous shrines such as Lourdes, Fatimá, and Guadalupe draw thousands of pilgrims each year from the Catholic world."

Sin: "A word, deed or desire in opposition to the eternal law" (St. Augustine). Sin is a deliberate transgression of a law of God, which identifies the four essentials of every sin. A law is involved, implying that there are physical laws that operate with necessity, and moral laws that can be disregarded by human beings. God is offended, so that the divine dimension is never absent from any sin. Sin is a transgression, since Catholicism holds that grace is resistible and the divine will can be disobeyed. And the transgression is deliberate, which means that a sin is committed whenever a person knows that something is contrary to the law of God and then freely does the action anyway. (Etym. Old English synn, syn, sin; Old High German sunta, suntea, perhaps to Latin sons, guilty.)"

(PowerPoint used during presentation. You can download a free PowerPoint viewer here if you do not have PowerPoint on your machine.)


  1. A History of the Christian Church: 4th Edition, Walker et. Al. McMillian, 1985, p.414


Walker, Williston. et al., eds. A history of the Christian Church: Fourth Edition New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1985

Egan, Kerry Fumbling: A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief, and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago
New York: Double Day, 2004

Coelho, Paulo The Pilgrimage
New York: Harper Collins, 1995

Harrison, Kathryn The Road to Santiago
Washington DC: National Geographic Society, 2003

Moore, Tim Spanish Steps: One Man and His Ass on the Pilgrim way to Santiago
London: Jonathan Cape, Forthcoming August 2005

Gitliz, M. David & Kay Davidson,
Linda The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago, The Complete Cultural Handbook
New York: St. Martins Press, 2000

Web Pages

(All Sites available March 13th 2005)
(First written for RS272 Sacred Places Winter 2005.)

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