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PostWhy You Should Walk to Santiago (Consoly Leon Arias, Spain / Canary, 11/14/22 7:17 am)
Every year more and more people decide to make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. There are many reasons for this. Some of them are religious, but more and more pilgrims are walking the Camino for reasons that have to do with their lifestyle, or their physical and mental well-being.
Whatever your reason, it is never too late to do the Camino de Santiago. Allow me to share several reasons that will help to encourage you for the first time.
Regardless of whether the main reason is religious or not, all pilgrims agree that this pilgrimage helps them to find themselves again. While walking each stage, there is plenty of time to reflect and get to know oneself. This also implies a deep self-analysis, which invites pilgrims to analyze their lifestyle and the environment that surrounds them.
Getting out of one's comfort zone is never easy, and the Camino de Santiago can help you do this. We all build a life process that we repeat every day, as a routine.
Our perspective on life is sometimes conditioned by our environment. It is precisely on the Camino that we have to find our own reasons to move forward and learn to live in a totally different environment.
Although on the Camino de Santiago we often encounter physically hard moments, and I have experienced this personally, it will be the personal challenges that are potentially the most rewarding.
After the first few kilometers, you will notice that the Camino is a reflection of life itself. Each step brings you closer to the end, each step adds up to your goal, but what really matters is not to reach Santiago and embrace the Apostle.
The Camino de Santiago will allow you to meet new people with whom to share this experience. Discovering the motivations of other pilgrims to do the Camino, and what has led them to walk it, is something worth discovering, because each person carries in his or her backpack a life experience.
The Camino de Santiago leads you to discover beautiful cities in the north of Spain, but also small towns, with lots of charm and hospitable inhabitants, places we would never see if it were not for the Camino. You will cross bridges, Roman roads, ancient paths, and of course, incredible landscapes. Whichever route you choose, you will be able to enjoy unique places. From the north of the Peninsula, along the French Route, or going into the Cantabrian coast if you walk the Northern Route.
From the crowded French Route, to the Mediterranean routes of the Peninsula or the Via de la Plata, which crosses Andalusia and Extremadura, you have ahead of you an endless number of roads that will take you to Santiago, and that will show you many different faces of the adventure of the pilgrimage to the remains of the "Son of Thunder."
Moreover, the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela does not end with the traditional embrace of the Patron Saint of Spain, because this gesture is often the starting point of a real personal catharsis, a restorative experience. To this we must add its sublime historical/artistic heritage, the exquisite food of northern Spain, its famous wines, delicious pastries, landscapes, culture, and above all, the hospitality of the locals. That was my experience as a pilgrim. An experience that I would gladly repeat at any time.
If you need an escape, leave everything behind for a few days to think, relax, live a mystical experience, get away from the madding crowd, and enjoy a tourist experience. Do not hesitate. El Camino de Santiago, and Spain await you. You will love it.
JE comments: Consoly, in my mind I'm already packing. But mundane, daily obligations intervene. Drats. Regardless, you should share this post with the Ministry of Tourism!
If I may dig a bit (it's my job), are the residents along the Camino universally happy with the pilgrims? The trekkers bring their money to be sure, but what about the disruptions, the crowds, the mess, and the general mayhem? Here's a truism: the locals in any tourist Mecca are always ambivalent about their visitors.
Camino de Santiago: Reflections from an Armchair Pilgrim
(Sasha Pack, USA
11/15/22 10:43 AM)
I have to agree with Consoly León Arias that the enduring fascination with the Camino de Santiago lies in the power of the myths that have shrouded it. I think what is most fascinating is the way that the Camino elevates two different myths about St. James the Elder that seem almost antithetical: the peaceful, wandering evangelist who canoed his way to Iberia sometime around 40 CE; and the crusading "moor slayer," who appeared overhead on a winged horse, sword in hand at the (mythical) Battle of Clavijo of 844. The first captures a universalist impulse, the second, a nationalist one. A contradiction? Maybe not. The crusaders of medieval Europe thought of themselves as pilgrims, and saw it as their to duty to protect pilgrims who followed in their footsteps.
In any case, as Consoly says, the pilgrimage to Compostela is an ancient route. But its initial rise to prominence can be dated to the 12th century, when the ambitious bishop of Santiago, Diego Gelmírez, made the pilgrimage into the centerpiece of his effort to elevate his position in temporal and Church politics. Among other accomplishments, Gelmírez obtained donations from Christian kings and ordinary pilgrims to build a grand new Romanesque cathedral; he established the Order of Santiago as a protection force for pilgrims; he created a public water supply for pilgrims and townspeople; and he gained the support of Pope Calixtus II in converting Compostela into a pilgrimage destination on a par with Rome, or nearly so. And I am leaving out all of his political intrigues in the kingdom of Castile-León.
The Camino's modern revival began in the 1880s. At a time when many Catholic tourist sites were becoming politicized, the archdiocese attempted to keep the focus on the spiritual and patrimonial aspects of the Camino, along with some aspects of Galician regional culture. Perhaps inevitably, the pilgrimage was nevertheless politicized during the 1930s, featuring many nationalist military parades and other political spectacles. In the middle of the Spanish Civil War, in support of Franco's supposed crusade, Pope Pius XI declared 1938 to be a Holy Year, in which indulgence was granted to pilgrims, even though the criterion that St. James Day fall on a Sunday was not met. Other prominent Spanish hierarchs, including two archbishops, criticized these uses of the Camino.
The 1960s saw the pendulum swing back to the peaceful wanderer myth. The focus shifted to a discourse of internationalism and common European heritage. Thus in 1988, the Council of Europe granted the Camino a new kind of special status, Europe's "first cultural itinerary," for whatever that is worth.
I hope to walk the Camino one day, but until then I remain an armchair pilgrim, enjoying it vicariously through others' experiences. Besides the aching feet, the one theme I hear most has to do with the "journey within," the escape from the constraints of community and routine to commune with God, or whomever else. It is personally hard for me to square that sentiment with politics, nationalism, militancy, etc., but I guess that may depend on the time and place and circumstances in which one has lived.
My favorite bit of Camino de Santiago doggerel: ¡Ay, el noble peregrino / que se para a meditar / después de largo camino / en el horror de llegar!
JE comments: Sasha, an excellent historical overview. Maybe someday we'll walk the Camino together. Prof. Hilton would be proud of a WAIS-sanctioned pilgrimage! Anyone else interesting in signing up? I'm in favor of the abbreviated Lugo to Compostela route.
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