To be a Pilgrim ?
Camino - home www.lievesley.co.uk

 

The history of the pilgrimage routes through Europe to Santiago de Compostela are covered in many books. But the gist is well covered in this extract from the WWW …

"According to this tradition St. James the Greater, having preached Christianity in Spain, returned to Judea and was put to death by order of Herod; his body was miraculously translated to Iria Flavia in the northwest of Spain, and later to Compostela, which town, especially during the Middle Ages, became one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in the world."

It is fair to say this story lacks credibility in many ways, but let’s not knock a good story. The winning point with many people, at the time, was that if you completed your pilgrimage you halved your time in purgatory and on holy years it was wiped out.

Today people do the journey for many reasons, and I guess in most cases reasons they could not rationally explain. but few believe in 'time' spent in purgatory... or indeed the notion of purgatory itself.

The Bishop of Le Puy + a bunch of palls, did the pilgrimage himself in AD951 . Doing this, he starting an activity that has been going on with varying degrees of enthusiasm ever since.

The Le Puy route is considered one of the most famous and currently has a good infrastructure to support modern day pilgrims. However pilgrimages to Santiago started wherever you lived in Europe...

Mine (If pilgrimage is the right word?) Starts from Salzburg along the old pilgrimage route, diverts off it for a more interesting and exciting route across Switzerland, then joins the original route at Geneva. Also I walked the Via de la Plata route from Seville going north.

The wearing of a scallop shell was and is the sign of a pilgrim to Santiago, (and also seen on many statues and paintings of St James) although it has now become the universal sign of any pilgrim. What is true today is that the people along the route, especially in Spain, are all keen to help anyone wearing  a scallop shell.

The original route for the pilgrims has been a movable feast over the years, depending on many factors; not least the many wars that ranged over Europe. It is probable that a lot of the original route is now under tarmac, but monasteries and churches along the way testify that the villages, towns and cities have always been on the road.

My own involvement is this?......I had always wanted to go on a ‘little’ walking adventure of my own for a number of years. The interpretation of ‘little’ here is safe, not too demanding, the right quantities not to mention quality of booze and food and does not involve carrying, or sleeping in, a tent. Sadly my wife is not a keen walker, but she was kind to set me loose on a number of occasions.

At the turn of the millennium I was planning my escape from paid employment to paid loafing (a skill I am currently developing into a higher art form) when I came across the whole Camino thing. In truth at the time I was thinking more in the terms of a good walk and the thought of a pilgrimage had not entered into my head. But like many people I met before and on the road, the lines become blurred.…. But with the long list of misdemeanours St Peter is holding for me at the pearly gates; let us not knock any extra possible opportunities that this journey might have.

Early the next year I opened up negotiations with my Leader (Joy) and  eventually gained enough brownie points and had my passbook stamped to undertake the first half of the journey to Santiago… from Le Puy to St Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees.....when I had retired. (Although as you will see I have added joining the walk all the way back to Salzburg & from Seville ).... The next problem was convincing the nice people at Kodak that I really was the most dispensable person they had on their books….  I just needed to work out how to get to the head of the queue, at the right time.

Four years later I cracked the problem and overnight I was gainfully unemployed. Or as my daughter  called me at the time a 'Degenerate Bum'…a job title I have held with some pride ever since.... and off I went.

The journey is now complete, I am contemplating shorter activities.... but it was a great adventure.