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Off topic: Pilgrim's Road to Santiago
Thread poster: Maria Luisa Duarte

Maria Luisa Duarte  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:21
English to Portuguese
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May 29, 2004

Hi everyone!

This year I´ve decided to do the Pilgrimage to Santiago following the route starting in Bilbao. The following describes the History of Santiago de Compostela, I hope you enjoy.
Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain, emerged centuries ago as one of most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe, even rivaling Rome at times. Pilgrims who were unable to travel to the Holy Land to pay homage to their Christian faith often chose to go to Santiago instead. The history and myth of this pilgrimage is one of the most fascinating stories in Christendom.

St. James the Greater was the brother of John the Evangelist. The brothers were converted to Christianity by St. John the Baptist. James was martyred in 44 A.D. in Palestine but that was just the beginning of his story. Although no historical records exist to place James in Spain, tradition has it that before his death he traveled to Iberia as a part of his evangelical mission. Centuries later, in 813 A.D. James' remains were thought to have been found in Galicia, in northwest Spain.

This came at a time when the small Christian community of northern Spain was just beginning its struggle against the advancement of Islam throughout Iberia. A small shrine was built in honor of St. James and he was raised to the status of patron saint of Spain. St. James rose to mythical status as he was sighted on the battlefield in the fight against the Moors. So widespread was the myth of St. James among Spaniards that he was sighted as late as the 16th century helping Spain to conquer the New World!

Although the beginnings of the pilgrimage to Santiago are lost in time, we know that pilgrims or curiosity seekers must have made the trek to Santiago in the 10th and 11th centuries. By 1122 Pope Calixtus II gave pilgrims to Santiago the "plenary indulgence," special indulgences (forgiveness for sins committed and special recompense for pilgrims) for those who made the pilgrimage in a year in which the saint's day, July 25, fell on a Sunday. That tradition continues to this day and, hence, 2004 is a "Jubilee" year for the pilgrimage to Santiago.

So popular was the pilgrimage to Santiago that soon after Pope Calixtus II granted his special privileges to pilgrims, the first pilgrim's "guide" was published, assisting pilgrims on their journey. The guidebook, the Codex Calixtinus, bears the pope's name, though the author was more likely a community of monks with one editor, Aymery Picaud. By the 13th century half a million pilgrims a year were traveling by foot, by horse, donkey, or by cart to visit the shrine of St. James in Santiago. Today, pilgrims who travel to Santiago by foot, horseback or bicycle qualify for these indulgences in a Jubilee or holy year.

If you look at them on a map, the pilgrimage routes to Santiago demonstrate how pilgrims flowed to Santiago from the farthest reaches of Christian Europe in 1200 A.D. In Medieval Europe, these routes marked trade routes, pilgrimage routes and military roads - a literal interstate highway network reborn in Europe after seven hundred years of decay since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Almost all of the routes from northern and central Europe converged on Spain to cross the Pyrenees over the Puerto de Somport or through the French town of St. Jean Pied-de-Port and the Spanish town of Roncesvalles. The final two routes merged into one at Puente la Reina just south of Pamplona.

Today pilgrims bound for Santiago often begin their trek at the crest of the Pyrenees in the small village of Roncesvalles or St. Jean Pied-de-Port. From here it is 744.60 kilometers (462.67 miles) to Santiago de Compostela.

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:21
Spanish to English
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Ultreya! May 30, 2004

Best of luck:-)

I did it (on foot) in 1993 and this year I may well do at least part of the Ruta de la Plata, but by bike, as it's awfully long.

It was probably one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, it was great to worry about nothing other than where to sleep, where to eat....and your feet! Sleeping was an adventure, as the accomodation varied widely and some of the places were very quaint, remote, but the hospitality was always wonderful. Sadly in Galicia the alberges are all very uniform.

My last day I did 58 kms on foot, loads of people do the last part of the Camino to get the Compostolana, and it becomes more a tourist excursion, so I just wanted to get finished. The best part was the first half, we met the same group more or less all the time, sometimes they got ahead or fell behind, but we kept leaving messages in the alberge visitor books. It was fabulous walking past deserted adobe villages that were returning to nature in the most graceful way, walking along spongy grass tracks after road walking, getting up at first light and arriving to a hostal at midday to have a shower, lunch and a siesta....

I learned to love feet as a consequence, and now like to give foot massages:-)

There's a very special alberge in Villafranca, the healer's name is El Jato, gives an incredible foot massage in a highly unusual hostal of plastic tenting cooled by cold water which then goes into the showers as hot water.

And the blister cure, it always worked for me. Sterilise a needle and thread in alcohol, pierce the blister and pull the thread through, then remove the needle and tie up the thread. The skin stays intact, and the thread drains the blister.

I got my first translation job from someone I met on the Camino (thanks Vicente!). Other memories: Michel and Jean Pierre, two great Frenchmen of over 60 who had started in Marseilles, Terry from Belfast doing it for the third time and who managed to sleep in the girl's dorm in the only hostal where dorms were separate (a day we all got legless, cos we arrived in San Juan de Ortega, a village of three convents/churches and one hostel at 12.00 noon - after our day's walking - but the hostal didn't open til we had a lunch that developed into a a massive drinking session of the best kind;-)

Indeed, we often had a shot of aguardiente to keep our legs going mid-morning, and the other trick was to sing lots!

If you enjoy it half as much as I did, you'll have a fabulous time. ¡Ultreya!

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