Camino de Santiago
Posted on 19. Jan, 2012
Camino de Santiago
Historical Background: The Way of the Stars
The tale of the burial of St. James remains is tinged with legend. Tradition has it that two of St. James apostles, Anthanasius and Theodore, collected his body and head, after his execution circa. 44 AD, and took them by boat from Jerusalem to Galicia. After seven days at sea they landed on the Galician coast at Iria Flavia, near the present day town of Padron. From there, the remains were brought and buried in a forgotten location in the Lupario or Francos hillfort, not far from Santiago.
The Tradition continues that around 820, a hermit called Pelayo, who lived in Solovio-where the current Church of Saint Fiz of Solovio is sited in modern day Compostela-in the forest of Libredon, saw, over several nights, radiance and mysterious illuminations which looked like a rain of stars over a knoll in the forest. It also happens that the bones of Saint James were conveniently discovered when Spain’s Christian armies of the re-conquest verily needed them.
The light or star that revealed the existence of the apostle’s tomb became another of the symbols related to Santiago and the pilgrimage cult. But it is not just a star; the impression of the Road to Santiago has always been marked in the Milky Way as its direction also indicates that of the walker to Compostela, which is why this route became known as the Way of the Stars.
The Scallop Shell
Every shrine of renown has an insignia which pilgrims receive on arrival and take home with them when they go. The shell, linked with the Apostle’s arrival in Galicia, is the emblem of the pilgrim to Santiago and a symbol of virtue and good works.
The emblem par excellence of this Pilgrimage cult is the shell of vieira or scallop. Being light and small in size, the scallop shell was ideal for gathering water from a spring or improvising tableware at the side of the path. The pilgrims returning to their homes, which were often far inland, carried the small object back with them as a momento of their long journey to Santiago de Compostela, home of the remains of St. James the apostle.
Santiago de Compostela
This quietly enchanting ancient yet vibrant city of cobbled streets and stone arches is the destination of thousands of pilgrims, on foot and bicycle and horse-back every year… from every corner of the world. They come to travel the Camino de Santiago…they come in search of Spain, of adventure, of cultural enlightenment, of spiritual growth and most will return home with much, much more.
Its appeal is far reaching and its effect is deep and long lasting. The centuries-old pilgrimage to Compostela along the Road to Santiago, created from the very beginning an extraordinary spiritual, cultural and economical vitality: it has bred literature, music, art and history and, on account of it, cities and villages were born, hospitals and lodgings were built, commercial ways and new markets appeared, new roads and bridges were planned and cathedrals and churches, that elevated the Romanesque art to a magnificence not reached by other styles, were built.
In Santiago itself, at the site of the interment of the remains of the saint, a cathedral was constructed, sacked and a greater one still put in it’s place and subsequently the Romanesque structure was renovated, remodeled and redone 4 times with the addition of a new facade for each point of the compass.
The largest being on the Plaza do Obradorio, which encloses one of the great triumphs of medieval art – the Portico de Gloria. This portico was finished in 1188 under the direct supervision of Maestro Mateo and was the apex of Romanesque sculpture. This amazingly realistic rendering of human forms where Christ presides in glory above St. James our interlocutor to the savior and is flanked by the prophets on one side and the apostles on the other. The 24 elders of the Apocalypse surround all. It is a true architectural and sculptural masterpiece