Santiago de Compostela lies only twenty miles inland from the Atlantic ocean at the far western extremity of the European landmass, known by the Romans as Finis Terra, the end […]
This site is devoted to the medieval pilgrimage to Compostela. The intention is to consider this subject as a broad and diffuse cultural phenomenon. Twenty kilometres inland on the northwestern Atlantic coast of Spain, Compostela has lain claim, for over a thousand years, to hold the relics of the Apostle Saint James at its cathedral. A twelfth century manuscript describes, four roads coming from different directions in France. Converging in Navarre to form the famous Camino, the road continues for another six hundred kilometres to the shrine at Compostela. To this day, important elements of the original pilgrimage roads as described in the twelfth century manuscript are still standing.
The medieval world considered itself to be a continuation of the Roman Empire. That empire was now in its fading stages and its golden age belonged to the remote past.The cult of the saints thrived and as the end times approached, pilgrimage to their shrines was a necessary precondition not only for redemption of the individual but for all of mankind. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela was the most significant of all, for it included the most prestigious shrines of Western Christendom in a journey to what was geographically and spiritually, the end of the world.
Pilgrimage may be as old as man. The idea that there are places on earth, which hold a powerful numinous attraction, be they natural phenomena or the location of the bones of saints, has held a grip on man’s imagination for millennia. In matters of destination there is always the journey. Two sides of a single coin. Here, the medieval pilgrimage to Compostela is the prism through which to view the world it inhabited. This was a sacred topography or if you prefer, a veritable and authentic psychogeography.