The Camino Francès to Santiago de Compostela
The history, legends, development and infrastructure of the stations along the Spanish Camino de Santiago through Navarre, Castile, León and Galicia to the shrine of Saint James at Compostela
In the almost exclusively non-literate culture of the medieval world, the production of a manuscript answered a need to fix and define an oral tradition simultaneously conferring the status of authenticity on the material contained within.
The development of the Camino was a major enterprise supported by influential and wealthy interests.
The Historia Silense and the Cronica Najerense, two twelfth century monastic chronicles of Spanish history, both record that it was Sancho el Mayor who around the year 1030 was the first Hispanic ruler to actively take a hand in the pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela.
Early Royal Patronage of the Camino: After this valley lies the land of the Navarrese which abounds in bread, milk and livestock
The practice of royal patronage established by Sancho el Mayor to encourage the development of the pilgrimage road was certainly a trend continued by his successors.
The legends of Charlemagne and Pamplona resonated in medieval epic poetry. Pamplona was such a vital location, as well as being one of the first cities to be reconquered by the Christians from the Moors, that it was inevitable it should become the locus of legendary...
The large Romanesque bridge which gives its name to the Navarrese town of Puente la Reina is eloquent testimony to the important flow of pilgrims that were travelling from France to Compostela by the first half of the eleventh century.
The pilgrimage road passed through the Navarrese town of Nájera, where in the time of Charlemagne’s Spanish expedition, Roland had vanquished the Saracen giant, Ferracutus.
The legend of Charlemagne and Monjardin and the martyred Frankish warriors was an important episode in the mythology of the emperor’s Spanish campaign.
Martyrdom was a repeated theme of the legends of Charlemagne’s Spanish campaign and the Miracle of the Lances at Sahagún was perhaps the most exemplary episode.
Sahagún lies on the banks of the Cea river on the Castilian meseta between Fromistá and León. The rather empty and desolate place today belies its medieval status as one of the most important monastic centres in twelfth century Spain. The town took its name from the abbey of San Facundo e Primitivo.
According to the Pilgrim’s Guide, Frómista was reached after six days journey from the Pyrenees
In 1090 Sancho Ramirez ruler of the joint kingdoms of Navarre and Aragon established the new town of Estella on the banks of the Ega river, thereby moving the pilgrimage road three kilometres south of the Roman road which had been its previous course.
The Compostelan pilgrim encountered poisonous waters and the treacherous Navarrese at the Río Salado. Chapter six of the Pilgrim’s Guide is devoted to the many rivers pilgrims would encounter on their journey and which had water that was potable and which were poisonous.
The city of León was situated at the confluence of two major Iberian Roman transport arteries; the north south road from Baetica to Asturias met the road from Pamplona heading west towards Galicia. At this important intersection the Roman seventh legion had been stationed, protecting the plains from the Cantabrian tribes.
A short distance south of Burgos in Castille, the Benedictine monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos has a double storied cloister which contains on its north eastern pier one of the most sublime images of the pilgrimage roads.
Roncevaux and the pilgrimage road were bound to each other in an essential way. In order to enter Spain, pilgrims had to cross the Pyrenees.