Medieval Woman



Medieval Woman in the news

The Dresden Files 

Entertainment Weekly - Jan 12 3:06 AM
I am a simple, geeky woman who enjoys watching sexy people in tight pants try to solve mystical riddles while being cosmo-blasted by otherworldly beings.
Classical Music/Opera Listings 
New York Times - Jan 11 5:19 PM

Current Issue: 
California Aggie - Jan 11 2:59 AM
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón Universal Pictures Rating: 4 It's the year 2027 and human beings will soon be extinct. No woman has been able to give birth since 2009 and almost every major city in the world has been destroyed.

Sun King of the oil industry 
Financial Times - Jan 12 9:33 AM
The seemingly never-ending tale of corporate scandal, executive greed and accounting fraud that has unfolded over the past year has pushed some of the world’s most admired corporate titans off their pedestals.

- Medeival Woman

Here is an article on Medieval Woman.

Scallop, St.James' shell, symbol of the Saint and the pilgrimage

The Way of St. James or St. James' Way, often Medival Woman known by its Spanish name, el Camino de Santiago, is the Medeival Woman pilgrimage to the Medeval Woman cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where the apostle Saint James the Great is said Mediveal Woman to be laid to rest.


  • 1 A major Christian pilgrimage route
  • 2 History of St James' Way
    • 2.1 Pre-Christian Meideval Woman history of the route
    • 2.2 The early-Christian pilgrimage
    • 2.3 The route in the Medieval period
    • 2.4 The pilgrimage as penance
  • 3 The modern-day pilgrimage
    • 3.1 Routes to Santiago
    • 3.2 Pilgrims' accommodation
    • 3.3 The Pilgrim's passport
    • 3.4 The Compostela
    • 3.5 Pilgrim's mass
    • 3.6 The pilgrimage as tourism
  • 4 The Way's name in other languages
  • 5 See also
  • 6 Books
    • 6.1 Pilgrim's guides
    • 6.2 Fiction, travelogues and accounts
  • 7 External links
    • 7.1 Cultural organisations
    • 7.2 Pilgrim's associations
    • 7.3 Pilgrim's travelogues
    • 7.4 Pilgrim forums
  • 8 References

A major Christian pilgrimage route

The Cathedral of Santiago is the ultimate goal of the pilgrimage.

The Way of St James has been one of the most important Christian pilgrimages since medieval times and it has existed for over 1000 years. It was considered one of three pilgrimages on which all sins could be forgiven, with the others being the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

There is not a single route—the Way can be one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. However a few of the routes are considered main ones. Santiago is such an important pilgrimage destination as it is considered the burial site of the apostle James the Great. Legend states that St. James' remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. In the middle ages the route was highly travelled. However, the Protestant Reformation and political unrest in 16th century Europe resulted in its decline. In the early 1980s only a few pilgrims arrived in Santiago annually. However, since the late 1980s the way has attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from all around the globe. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987 and inscribed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 1993.

History of St James' Way

Monument to pilgrims, Burgos

Pre-Christian history of the route

Prior to its existence as a Catholic pilgrimage, the route is believed to also have had significance for the ancient pagan peoples of the Iberian peninsula, among them the Celts, and later the Romans who conquered Spain.citation needed] The site of Santiago de Compostela itself may have been perhaps a Roman shrine.citation needed]

To this day many of the pilgrims continue on from Santiago de Compostela to the Atlantic coast of Galicia to finish their pilgrimage at Spain's westernmost point Cape Finisterre (Galician: Fisterra). Although Cape Finisterre is not the westernmost point of mainland Europe (Cabo da Roca in Portugal is further west) the fact that the Romans called it Finisterrae (literally the end of the world, or Land's End in Latin) indicates that they viewed it as such.

Pagan influences can still be seen along the Way; indeed some of the modern-day pilgrims themselves are attracted more to the pagan legends associated with the Way rather than the Christian. One legends holds that walking the route was a pagan fertility ritual; this is one explanation for the scallop shell being a symbol of the pilgrimage.citation needed]

Alternatively, the scallop resembles the Setting Sun, which was the focus of the pre-Christian Celtic rituals of the area. To wit, the pre-Christian roots of the Way of St. James was a Celtic death journey westwards towards the setting sun, terminating at the End of the World (Finisterra) on the "Coast of Death" (Costa de Morta) and the "Sea of Darkness" (ie, the Abyss of Death, the Mare Tenebrosum, Latin for the Atlantic Ocean, itself named after the Dying Civilization of Atlantis). The reference to St. James rescuing a "knight covered in scallops" is therefore a reference to St. James healing, or resurrecting, a dying (setting sun) knight. Note also that the knight obviously would have had to be "under the waters of death" for quite some time for shellfish to have grown over him. Similarly, the notion of the "Sea of Darkness" (Atlantic Ocean) disgorging St. James' body, so that his relics are (allegedly) buried at Santiago de Compostella on the coast, is itself a metaphor for "rising up out of Death", that is, resurrection.citation needed]

The early-Christian pilgrimage

As shown in this picture, St. James is sometimes depicted as St. James the Moor Slayer, as well as 'St. James' the Pilgrim.

There are some who claim that the remains in Santiago de Compostela are not those of St. James, but of Priscillian. Priscillian was the 4th century Galician leader of an ascetic Christian sect, Priscillianism, and one of the first Christian heretics to be executed.

The earliest records of visits paid to the shrine dedicated to St. James at Santiago de Compostela date from the 8th century, in the time of the Kingdom of Asturias. The pilgrimage to the shrine became the most renowned medieval pilgrimage and it became customary for those who returned from Compostela to carry back with them a Galician scallop shell as proof of their journey; this practice gradually extended to other pilgrimages.citation needed]

The earliest recorded pilgrims from beyond the Pyrenees visited the shrine in the middle of the 10th century, but it seems that it was not until a century later that large numbers of pilgrims from abroad were regularly journeying there. The first recorded pilgrims from England arrived between 1092 and 1105. However, by the early 12th century the pilgrimage was a highly organized affair. Four pilgrimage routes coming from France converged at Puente la Reina and from there a single route crossed northern Spain, linking Burgos, Carrión de los Condes, Sahagún, León, Astorga and Lugo to Compostela.

The route in the Medieval period

The daily needs of the large number of pilgrims on their way to, and from, Compostela was met by a series of hospitals and hospices along the way. These had royal protection and were a lucrative source of revenue. A new genre of Romanesque ecclesiastical architecture was designed to cope with huge devout crowds. There was also the now familiar paraphernalia of tourism, such as the selling of badges and souvenirs. There was even a remarkable guide-book published around 1140, the Codex Calixtinus.

The pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela was traversed particularly because of the protection and freedom provided by Kingdom of France, from whence the great majority of pilgrims always came. Enterprising French people (including Gascons and other peoples not under the French crown) settled in the pilgrimage towns, where their names crop up in the archives. The pilgrims were tended by people like Domingo de la Calzada who was later recognized as a saint himself.

Pilgrims would walk the Way of St. James for months to arrive finally at the great church in the main square to pay homage. So many pilgrims have laid their hands on the pillar just inside the doorway to rest their weary bones, that a groove has been worn in the stone.

The popular Spanish name for the Milky Way is El Camino de Santiago. The Milky Way was said to be formed from the dust raised by travelling pilgrims in a common medieval legend.[1]

The pilgrimage as penance

The Church created a system of rituals to atone for sins, including confession, absolution, and penance. It was determined that pilgrimages were suitable form of expiation for some sins, and could be used to punish those who were guilty of certain crimes. As noted in the Catholic Encyclopedia,

In the registers of the Inquisition at Carcassone… we find the four following places noted as being the centres of the greater pilgrimages to be imposed as penances for the graver crimes, the tomb of the Apostles at Rome, the shrine of St. James at Compostella [sic], St. Thomas's body at Canterbury, and the relics of the Three Kings at Cologne.[2]

—Catholic Encyclopedia: Pilgrimages,

There is still a tradition in Flanders of freeing one prisoner a year[3] under the condition that this prisoner walk to Santiago wearing a heavy backpack, and accompanied by a guard.

The modern-day pilgrimage

The modern symbol of the way

Today tens of thousands[4] of Christian pilgrims and other travellers set out each year from their front doorstep, or popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of their Medieval counterparts did on horseback or by donkey (e.g. the British author and humorist Tim Moore). In addition to people on a religious pilgrimage there are many travellers and hikers who walk the route for non-religious reasons such as for enjoyment, travel, sport or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land.

Routes to Santiago

For more details on this topic, see Way of St. James (route descriptions).
A post marking the way

Pilgrims on the Way of St. James walk for weeks or months to visit the city of Santiago de Compostela. They can follow many routes (any path to Santiago is a pilgrim's path) but the most popular route is the French Way or Camino Francés. The most common starting points on the Camino Francés are Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees or Roncesvalles on the Spanish side, however many pilgrims begin further afield from one of the four French towns which are common and traditional starting points: Le Puy, Vézelay, Arles and Tours. Cluny, site of the celebrated medieval abbey, was another important rallying point for pilgrims and in 2002 was integrated into the official European pilgrimage route linking Vézelay and Le Puy. Some pilgrims start from even further away, though their routes will often pass through the four French towns mentioned. Some Europeans begin their pilgrimage from the very doorstep of their homes just as their medieval counterparts did hundreds of years ago.

Pilgrims' accommodation

St.James' shell, a symbol of the route. Taken in Leon, Spain.

In Spain and southern France pilgrim's hostels, dot the common routes providing overnight accommodation for recognised pilgrims, i.e. whoever who holds a credencial. In Spain this type of accommodation is called a refugio or an albergue. The style of accommodation is somewhat similar to those provided by youth hostels, or the French system of Gîtes d'étape; beds are in dormitories and usually cost between 3 and 7 Euros per night, though a few are by donation only. Pilgrims are usually limited to one night's accommodation.

Sometimes these hostels are run by the local parish, sometimes by the local council, and sometimes they are privately owned or run by pilgrim's associations. Occasionally these refugios are located in monasteries, such as the one in Samos, and run by the monks.

The Pilgrim's passport

The credencial is a pass which allows you overnight accommodation in refugios. Also known as the Pilgrim's passport, the credencial is stamped with the official stamp of each refugio the pilgrim stays at - it therefore provides the pilgrim with a complete record of where they stayed overnight.

The credencial is usually available at refugios, some tourist offices, and some local parish houses and costs about 3 Euros.

The Compostela

Pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela who have walked at least the last 100km, or cycled 200km to get there (as indicated on their credencial) are eligible for a certificate called the Compostela from the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago. In medieval catholicism, the "Compostela" counted as an act of indulgence, in that effect that the bearer is entitled a reduction of his time in purgatory by 50%, or when the Compostella was gained in a Holy Year full indulgence was gotten.

Pilgrim's mass

A Pilgrim's mass in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is held each day at noon for pilgrims. Pilgrims who received the Compostela the day before have their countries of origin and the starting point of their pilgrimage announced at the mass.

The pilgrimage as tourism

The Galician government seeks to make the way into a powerful tourism destination. When there is a Holy Compostellan Year (whenever July 25 falls on a Sunday) the government's Xacobeo tourism campaign is reinforced.

The Way's name in other languages

The Way of St. James has an often bewildering variety of different names in various European languages:

  • In Spanish it is usually called El Camino de Santiago or El Camino for short
  • In Galician it is O Camiño de Santiago and often also Ruta Xacobea
  • In Basque it is Donejakue Bidea
  • In Catalan it is called the Camí de Sant Jaume de Galícia
  • In Czech it is called the Cesta Svatého Jakuba
  • In German it is called Der Jakobsweg or the more archaic Der Jakobusweg
  • In French le chemin de Saint Jacques
  • In Italian Cammino di Santiago
  • In Polish Droga (or szlak) świętego Jakuba
  • In Portuguese O Caminho de Santiago
  • In Irish Slí Naomh Shéamais
  • In Hungarian it is called Szent Jakab-út
  • In Slovak it is called the Cesta Svätého Jakuba
  • In Dutch it is called Jakobspad

See also

  • World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France
  • Codex Calixtinus
  • Confraternity of Saint James
  • Order of Santiago


Pilgrim's guides

  • Confraternity of St. James, Pilgrim Guides To Spain 1. The Camino Francés
  • Bethan Davies and Ben Cole, Walking the Camino de Santiago
  • John Brierley, A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino Francés: From St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela
  • David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson, The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago
  • Cheri Powell,The Practical Guide to Practically Everything You Need to Prepare for the Camino de Santiago

Fiction, travelogues and accounts

  • Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage
  • Susan Alcorn, Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago
  • Shirley MacLaine, The Camino
  • James Michener, Iberia, One chapter on Camino de Santiago
  • Nancy Frey, Pilgrim Stories
  • Sue Kenney, My Camino
  • Louise Collis, Memoirs of a Medieval Woman
  • Tim Moore, Spanish Steps

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Way of St. James
  • Pilgrim Wiki, a pilgrim guide written by pilgrims
  • Camino de Santiago page on h2g2
  • Concise English language guide to walking the Camino de Santiago, and additional information on the Le Puy route
  • Saint James' Way (Camino de Santiago) - Entrance of the Pilgrim World
  • The Camino - The pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in pictures
  • Information on the Camino de Santiago
  • ElCaminoSantiago - Vast resources for the Pilgrim to Santiago
  • Xacowebs
  • International Bibliography

Cultural organisations

  • Compostela Group of Universities - a network of Universities preserving the historical and cultural heritage of the route

Pilgrim's associations

  • Confraternity of St. James from the United Kingdom
  • American Pilgrims on the Camino
  • Spanish Federation of Friends of the Way
  • List of Associations in Spain

Pilgrim's travelogues

  • On the way to Santiago
  • Suggestions and experiences of a Brazilian pilgrim
  • backpack45's Camino and Le Puy-en-Velay route help pages
  • Cycling the Camino route
  • Brett Stuckel's Journal and Camino Rhymes
  • St James Way 2005
  • MadmaxII's Camino Santiago de Compostela pages
  • The Camino de Santiago - The More Things Change...
  • A Skeptical Pilgrimage

Pilgrim forums

  • Pilgrim Forum with over 5000 messages and 1150 members
  • GoCamino: The American Pilgrims on the Camino listerv forum
  • ElCaminoSantiago - Vast resources for the Pilgrim to Santiago - 308 members
  • The Yahoo! Santiagobis Pilgrimage Group - 1461 members
  • The Yahoo! Saint James Pilgrimage Group - 265 members
  • The Yahoo! Ultreya Pilgrimage Group - 275 members


  1. ^ Visions of the Milky Way, Giovanni F. Bignami, Science 26 March 2004 303: 1979
  2. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Pilgrimages. New Advent (Dec 1, 2006).
  3. ^ Turismo de Bélgica. Huellas españolas en Flandes.
  4. ^ "The present-day pilgrimage", Confraternity of Saint James, July 26, 2006.
Search Term: "Way_of_St._James"