Tuesday, January 13, 2015



Sant Iago - Miraculous Myths, Fantastic Fables, and the Golden Legend - or "Will the real Santiago please reveal himself!"

Recently I put a post on Facebook listing the numerous places in Europe that claimed to have a relic of St James the Greater.  Santiago wasn't the first town to claim a relic of Saint James - various relics had been around for almost 300 hundred years before he was identified in Spain.

So far I have been able to find three bodies and fifteen heads, two pieces of heads, a number of arms, hands, fingers and other limbs.  I expected to be challenged with denials or disbelief.  But, there has been nothing like that and not one of the 30 or so people who have replied have shown any surprise or contradiction.  

One person wrote, “I don't know about you, but I'm walking to enjoy the spirit of Santiago, and most importantly the Spirit of Christ, whom he loved & served. I'm not walking for random relics or body parts. Just saying. But the research is interesting.” 

Perhaps this reflects what the majority of pilgrims feel about the Camino and about Sant Iago’s relics.  If people don’t know and don’t care, or feel that they do know and still don’t care about the relics being genuine or not, perhaps it is time for the present custodians of the Santiago cathedral to announce to the world that they too have accepted that the legend about the martyred apostle, killer of thousands on two continents is just that, a legend.  What is the point of touting the medieval legend in the 21st century?  

It wasn’t this generation of Santiago church leaders who propagated the legend, or the one that turned the simple fisherman, Apostle of Christ, into an avenging killer, first as a Moor slayer (seen at over 45 battles) and then as an Indian slayer when they took him to the New World.  Ironically, in Peru, the locals turned the iconography of the warrior saint into a killer of Spaniards.

 Santiago as a Moorslayer
 Santiago Mataindianos
Santiago MataEspanois
Santiago Peregrino 

In Spain it is the Moorslayer who they named as their Patron Saint - not the gentle pilgrim we see in stained glass or statues along the Camino.  They, like their medieval counterparts, have perpetuated the myth through the centuries about the apostle Yaakov ben Zebedee’s remains being interred in the cathedral named after him in Compostela and that this is Santiago the Moor Slayer.  What have they got to lose by telling the truth?   I doubt the pilgrim numbers will go down!

The spirit of Saint James the Greater will always be in Santiago de Compostela.  We don’t need a casket containing a collection of unidentified bones to draw us there.  All around the world there are thousands of churches named for Jesus.  None can claim to have a bodily relic but millions of people worship in these churches because His spirit lives there.  

Santiago de Compostela is one of five Holy Cities in Europe, three of them in Spain.  (The other two are Rome and Jerusalem.)  In Spain, Caravaca de la Cruz (Town of the Cross) and Camaleño (the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana) have even more tenuous claims to Jubilee status than Santiago.   

 Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
 Caravaca de la Cruz
Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana
The Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana is one of the most important sites of Roman Catholicism in Europe housing the ‘Lignum Crucis’ believed to be the biggest surviving piece of the true cross.  Tradition has it that Toribio, the bishop of Astorga, brought the piece of the cross measuring 63 centimetres in length and 39 centimetres in width from Jerusalem in the 5th century. In the 8th century, the monks hid the relic in the Liébana valley to protect it from the Moors. Today the cross is embedded in a shrine decorated with gold and silver.

Oscar Solloa, a monk in the monastery, has been asked hundreds of times whether the fragment really comes from the cross on which Jesus was crucified.  'Analysis has confirmed that it comes from a Cyprus[sic] tree in Palestine that was over 2,000 years old, but that is not that important,' he says. 'Many people have found their way back to the faith by coming here.'

Caravaca de la Cruz was granted the privilege to celebrate the jubilee year in perpetuity in 1998 by Pope John Paul II.  It celebrates its jubilee every seven years; the first being in 2003, when it was visited by the then Cardinal Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict XVI.

The Holy relic here is two pieces of wood, also supposedly from the true cross, kept in a reliquary in the shape of a cross with two horizontal arms.  The cross and the wood fragments were given to the town in 1942 by Pope Pius XII to replace a 13th century cross that was stolen in February 1934.  (When the original cross went missing the townsfolk were so afraid of the implications that they dragged the priest into the square and executed him with a single shot to the head!)

The appearance of the original Caravaca cross has an uncertain foundation.  One story is that it was part of a miracle in 1232 when a chamber was flooded with a bright light and two angels appeared carrying a two armed cross containing a piece of the true cross. Overcome by this vision, the Moor steward of the area, Ceyt Abu-Ceyt, who was harassing the local priest, fell to his knees and converted to the Christian faith.  Another is that it was brought from the Holy Land by the Knights Templar, and the other is that it was carried here by the guardians of the true cross which was discovered in Jerusalem by St Helene, mother of Constantine, in the 4th century. 

So, here we have three of the world’s five Holy Cities in Spain, each with questionable relics based on miraculous mythology. 

A decapitated apostle is miraculously transported to Iberia in 44AD in a stone boat with no sails, blown across the seas by angels.

Helene Augusta, the ageing mother of Constantine, visits Jerusalem in the 4th century and miraculously discovers the three Calvary crosses. In order to determine which is the cross used to crucify Jesus, she brings a dead girl to the site. When the girl is laid down on top of the True Cross she comes back to life! 
Helene divided the cross leaving a part of it in Jerusalem and had other parts sent to religious leaders in Rome and Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul in Turkey. The first written records of the story of Helene finding the True Cross appear by the end of the fourth century.

This is only one of the legends about the cross; the 13th century Golden Legend, which became a medieval best seller, contains several versions of the discovery of the true cross, but it is the one about Helene that became the favourite in the middle ages.

By the end of the Middle Ages so many churches claimed to possess a piece of the true cross, that in 1543 John Calvin is was quoted as saying that there was enough wood in them to fill a ship.

"There is no abbey so poor as not to have a specimen. In some places there are large fragments, as at the Holy Chapel in Paris, at Poitiers, and at Rome, where a good-sized crucifix is said to have been made of it. In brief, if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load. Yet the Gospel testifies that a single man was able to carry it."
Calvin, Traité Des Reliques.

But, what about the relics of Saint James? 

The cult of Saint James was widespread across Europe and reports of his relics go back to the 6th century.  According to Prof. Leyser, an arm of James the Great was preserved in Torcello near Venice from about the 6th Century.  It passed through the hands of Bishop Vitalis, and then Germany via Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg-Bremen, the Emperors Henry 1V and Henry V. 

 In 1125 Henry V’s widow Matilda brought the left hand of Saint James to England (there is no proof that she did the pilgrimage to Santiago).  In the early 1190’s a list of over 240 relics in Reading Abbey in England included ‘the hand of Saint James with flesh and bones and the cloth in which it was wrapped’ and this became the most important relic in the abbey with many miracles attributed to it. 

The abbey was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538 during the dissolution of the monasteries and the relic disappeared.  In 1786 workmen digging at Ready Abbey found an old iron chest that contained a mummified hand believed by some to be the relic of Saint James.  It now resides in a glass case at St Peter's Church, Marlow. 

(Reading Medieval Studies by Brian Kemp, University of Reading. Studies in Medieval History presented to R.H.C. Davis: The Pilgrims Guide, CSJ London.)

 In his book “The Cult of Santiago: traditions, myths and pilgrimages” (1927) the Rev. James S. Stone writes about the many relics of St James found in Europe.

In addition to the body at Compostella, a body in St. Sernin at Toulouse and another in the church at Zibili near Milan are equally authentic. There are two of his heads in Venice - one in St. George's church, and the other in the monastery of St. Philip and St. James. A head can be found in Valencia, a fourth head at Amalfi, a fifth head at St. Vaast in Artois as well as part of a head at Pistoja.  In the Church of the Apostles in Rome are preserved a piece of the Apostle's skull and some of his blood. There are bones, hands, and arms in Sicily, on the island of Capri, at Pavia, in Bavaria, at Liege and Cologne, in Segovia, Burgos and elsewhere.” 

According to Armenian tradition, the head of James the Greater is buried in the church of Saint James the Less in Jerusalem and only his body is in Santiago. On the left side of the church, opposite one of the four square piers supporting the vaulted ceiling, is its most important shrine, the small Chapel of St James the Greater. A piece of red marble in front of the altar marks the place where his head is buried, on the reputed site of his beheading. (Church of St James the Less in Jerusalem)

 “In France alone, there were three tombs containing his body, nine heads and numerous limbs.   In 1354 the Saint-Sernin basilica in Toulouse was home to the head and the body of St. Jacques le Majeur.”  www.saint-jacques.info/anglais/spotlights.htm 

“In 1385 the body of St. Jacques was transferred to a luxurious arch-shaped church.  It was the most magnificent reliquary of the church after that of St. Saturnin.” http://ultreia.pagesperso-orange.fr/toulouse.htm 

Even America has a piece of the true cross and a Sant Iago relic.  St James the Less Catholic Church in Wisconsin houses a great collection of relics:  The most precious relics we have are those of the true cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of St. James the Less, our Patron. Just a few of the other relics are: ….and St. James the Great, Apostle.”  

In 1589 the relics of Sant Iago in Compostela were hidden to safeguard them from a possible attack by Sir Francis Drake – and were lost for almost 300 years.   They were finally rediscovered in 1879 and were authenticated by Pope Leo X111 five years later as being the genuine remains of the lost saint.  How he did this with no carbon dating or DNA testing is just another one of the mysteries of Saint James!
Perhaps the time has come to accept that the legend of James the Greater, and Santiago Mata Moros/ Indianos/ Espanois is just that, medieval legend and myth.  Pilgrims won't stop trekking to gawk at his silver casket or give him a hug!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Manifesto Villafranca del Bierzo - Section 4

MANIFESTO - SECTION IV: Hospitality and Welcoming the Pilgrims

Hospitality is, without a doubt, one of the fundamental elements that sustain the Camino. But owing to the absence of common regulations, a variety of privately owned, fixed-price “pilgrim albergues” are proliferating along the Way.

We propose:  

1.      To begin a movement to standardize existing rules on pilgrim accommodation.

2.      To change the designation of private albergues to avoid confusing them with traditional non-profit albergues. We can call them, for example ,“Posadas de Peregrinos,” or “Hostales de Peregrinos.” Albergues with a traditional and altruistic welcome, attended by volunteer hosts, are the foundation and the soul of the Camino. As such, they merit special protection and distinction.

3.      To offer preference in all institutional and traditional albergues to pilgrims traveling on foot, as well as long-distance hikers. Albergues operating under this designation will not accept reservations. 

4.      To configure, promote, and support a stable network of albergues and hospitality options for winter pilgrims.

5.      To adjust and rationalize the opening and closing hours in every kind of pilgrim albergue on the Camino to ensure hospitaleros and pilgrims get enough rest.

The Camino is here for walking and enjoying, not for racing from albergue to albergue, standing in queue from 9 a.m. to get a bed for the night. Respect and solidarity should come first on the Jacobean Way.

MANIFESTO:  “ …..a variety of privately owned fixed-price “pilgrim albergues” are proliferating along the Way.”


I see this as a good thing! On many of the lesser walked routes there aren’t enough albergues and on the crowded routes there aren’t enough traditional albergues left to cater for the large rise in numbers.  

Many Spanish people have opened their homes and rent out rooms to passing pilgrims.  This was encouraged by Elias Valiña’s 1987 guide, which suggested that Tourist offices could help pilgrims find these rooms. 

 In Zubiri a couple feeling the economic pinch when the father was retrenched in 2011 moved in with her parents and turned their home into a pension that can sleep 8 people.  

Many foreigners who walk a Camino and fall in love with it and return to Spain to live there. Some  end up taking in pilgrims to supplement their income.  According to Don Jose Ignacio Diaz Perez (of Grañon), one can find a comparison with the medieval pilgrimage when there were many cases of foreigners who came to settle after having been on the pilgrimage themselves.  
In the middle-ages thousands of French families were encouraged to relocate to the north of Spain in order to populate the country with Christians and so balance the threat of Islam and locals welcomed pilgrims into their homes.  (Hence the number of towns with the name Villafranca).

We cannot recreate the medieval hospitality experience - no matter how hard we try. The basic reason for providing shelter to pilgrims was almost purely religious.  Not so today.  When asked why they want to be hospitaleros, today's volunteers invariably say, "I want to give back to the Camino".  The religious culture of care has changed.  Being prepared to conduct an 'oracion' (blessing) is no longer a requirement for hospitaleros.
Albergues:  Choice is a good thing.  We can't keep looking backwards at what was offered to medieval pilgrims.  We are now in the 21st century and Camino pilgrims are a product of this era. 
There was class distinctions in the middle ages with better accommodation reserved for the upper classes, the best food allocated to the wealthy and numerous relics only displayed to a special class of pilgrim, not to the masses.  Today all pilgrims are treated equally and all pilgrims have the right to choose where they want to stay.
Not every pilgrim wants to stay in a basic albergue with no beds and two showers (Tosantos, Grañon) or no electricity (Manjarin, San Anton) even if these are voted as the most spiritual albergues on the Camino. 
Some people prefer to have a private room (perhaps they snore, suffer from sleep apnoea, are light sleepers or are just shy and don’t want to sleep with strangers).  The Camino can cater for all pilgrims and where they sleep shouldn’t be an issue.  As Peter Robbins said, “the albergues were meant only for pilgrims” but then the perception changed to “pilgrims should only sleep in albergues” which is nonsensical.    
Monasteries that traditionally provided accommodation for pilgrims in the middle-ages are now big business with tourists (and rooms are not cheap).  You can buy guides to lodgings in hundreds of monasteries all over the world.   

1. To begin a movement to standardize existing rules on pilgrim accommodation.


What are the existing rules?  Do they concern size of dormitories, spaces between beds and number of beds per room, number of toilets per capita pilgrims, cleanliness, months that they are open, opening and closing times, the establishment of new albergues where one already exists?


There are many private homes and pensions on the Camino Frances that offer mixed accommodation with private en suite rooms; private rooms with shared bathrooms and dormitories for pilgrims.  Don't these already adhere to local planning rules?  Will the proposed movement be able to legally impose their rules on privately owned establishments?
Let pilgrims be the watchdogs!  Pilgrims are quick to complain and albergues that are not up to scratch, or that are unsanitary, over charge, or that have bed-bugs are soon exposed on the Camino grape-vine via social networks like forums and Facebook.  There is nowhere for them to hide! 
Instead of starting a movement to impose more rules, perhaps a watch-dog group to investigate complaints would be more useful. 

2.      To change the designation of private albergues to avoid confusing them with traditional non-profit albergues. We can call them, for example ,“Posadas de Peregrinos,” or “Hostales de Peregrinos.” Albergues with a traditional and altruistic welcome, attended by volunteer hosts, are the foundation and the soul of the Camino. As such, they merit special protection and distinction.

The term 'traditional non-profit' isn't clear.  What does it mean?  Does this mean that only donativo albergues will be classified as ‘non-profit’ albergues?   What about traditional albergues that charge pilgrims?


There are many traditional albergues that now charge which pre-date the ‘refugios’ set up by the AMIGOS after the 1987 congress in Jaca. This includes the one in Santo Domingo de la Calzada which was the first to be established for modern day pilgrims and is probably one of the oldest still in existence.

In Elias Valiña’s Pilgrim Guide (reprinted 1n 1987) there is a list of 72 ‘refugios’ on the Camino Frances whose “.... maintenance depends on the AMIGOS Ayuntamientos, Religious communities, Parishes or individuals.” 
There is no indication whether these refugios charged pilgrims or not but with so few donativo albergues left, I’m sure that a search to compare then and now will show that many of those that were donativo now charge – like all the municipal albergues in Galicia, the one in Santo Domingo and the convent in Leon.
According to Colin Jones of the CSJ, there were about 88 refugios in 2000 - 58 municipal, 10 private and 20 belonging to the church.
The 2002 CSJ (Confraternity of St James) guide to the Camino Frances, lists 107 refugios; only 15 more than in 1987 so not a huge growth in numbers.
Doing a rough count, there are over 400 albergues on the Camino Frances today and only 15 of these are traditional non-profit (i.e. donativo). They are in Estella, Viana, Logrono, Najera, Granon, Tosantos, Villalcazar de Sirga, Sahagun Madres Benedictinas, Bercianos del Real Camino, El Burgo Ranero, Rabanal, Parroquial de Foncebadon, Parroquial de El Acebo, Ponferrada and Samos.

This shows that there has been a considerable growth in the number of albergues in the past 12 years which reflects the comparative rise in the number of people doing the Camino.  It also reflects one of the most fundamental concepts driving economics - supply and demand.  
If the church, or the municipalities, or the various Jacobean organisations had been able to keep up with the  number of pilgrims needing accommodation, it might not have been economically viable for so many private albergues to be established.  Instead, as things stand, the number of traditional donativo albergues have dropped (two of the oldest parish albergues started charging in 2013) and the private albergues have taken their place.

1.      To offer preference in all institutional and traditional albergues to pilgrims traveling on foot, as well as long-distance hikers. Albergues operating under this designation will not accept reservations. 


Fair enough - I know where they are coming from, and this is what we teach trainee hospitaleros, but I think this rule could have contributed to the bed-rush in the past!  A possible solution was considered for pilgrims in Galicia in 2005 but I don’t think anything came of it. In 2005 this was posted on the St James’ forum:
Last week the Xunta, and the new Director of Tourism, Ruben Leos, arrived at an accord whereby pilgrims that occupy the albergues will be asked to contribute to their upkeep by paying a fee which will range from 3 to 10 Euros.  The income from such fees will allow the albergues to offer better service, including bed-clothing and towels, and it will also provide some means for augmenting personnel in the albergues so that claims of being a pilgrim may be looked into in such a manner that phony ones may be detected.
The good news about the proposed change is that, in addition to better services in the albergues, true pilgrims will be able to make reservations in the forthcoming albergue as they leave one.  This will avoid the necessity of pilgrims starting out before dawn, in the dark, so that they may reach the next albergue by one o'clock in order to find a space.  Since the reservations will be made from one albergue to another presumably the increased attention, time intervals, and tracking will uncover free-loaders pretending to be pilgrims and will provide needed ease of mind to true pilgrims

Well – I don’t whether that idea was ever implemented, but in 2007 when I walked the Camino, we made reservations in private albergues each day from Sarria to Santiago and this meant that we didn’t have to join the bed-race.  We were able to walk at a sensible pace, visit churches and places of interest and arrive after lunchtime with sufficient time to wash our clothes and sightsee in the town.  And what's more, some of them were the best albergues on the Camino with welcoming and gracious hosts with a wonderful pilgrim ethos.  

4.      To configure, promote, and support a stable network of albergues and hospitality options for winter pilgrims.


‘Stable network’ is what caught my eye.  Albergues that advertise that they are open in winter often are not – such as the Jesus y Maria in Pamplona which is supposed to be open during winter but was closed for a Christmas Holiday and only reopened on the 11th January. 

5.      To adjust and rationalize the opening and closing hours in every kind of pilgrim albergue on the Camino to ensure hospitaleros and pilgrims get enough rest.

It’s a well meant idea but I really don’t see how it can work in private albergues.  Many private albergues don’t have hospitaleros as such and some that are in private homes-cum-albergues don’t have specific opening or closing times.   

Many municipal albergues have a volunteer who arrives at check-in time to stamp sellos and take the fee.  After a few hours they leave.  This was the case in many of the municipal albergues I’ve stayed in on the Camino Frances.  In a couple of albergues the front doors are locked but pilgrims are told that can enter after hours through a side gate or back door. 

The second International Conference of the CSJ of UK held in Canterbury in 2001 was attended by over 100 delegates.  The theme of the conference was ‘Body & Soul, hospitality through the ages on the Roads to Compostela’. 
Anybody interested in learning about hospitality on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela should buy and read a copy of the Conference Proceedings, available from the CSJ Bookshop. 



Thursday, January 08, 2015

Manifesto Villafranca del Bierzo - Part 3

MANIFESTO -Section 3:  Tourism and Pilgrimage

The explosion of the leisure culture on the Camino de Santiago has multiplied the problems already present on the principal routes: the overbuilding, vulgarity, and loss of the unique spirit and values historically associated with the Jacobean Way. Public administrations are to blame for their disingenuous campaigns designed to sell the camino as a “tourism product.”

1.        “The explosion of the leisure culture on the Camino de Santiago..”

What does ‘leisure culture’ mean? 

Even a Google search didn’t come up with a definition of those two words used together. 
Do they mean tourists? 
Or, tourist-pilgrims?
Surely those people who visit the places on the Camino as Religious or Cultural tourists (as pilgrims do to Fatima, Lourdes, Rome or the Holy Land) can’t really be the cause of “vulgarity and the loss of the unique spirit and values historically associated with the Jacobean Way.”
(Photos from Wikipedia)

Do they mean pilgrims or people who walk the Camino but don’t stay in albergues or carry backpacks? 
That is what I have done for the past 4 years and there is nothing leisurely about walking a Camino!  Even if you stay in hotels and have your luggage transported between towns you still have to walk the same rocky paths, in the wind, sun or rain and eat pilgrim food like all the other people on the trail.  You risk the same blisters, tendonitis, shin-splints and muscle cramps.

Do they mean people who take groups of pilgrims on the Camino?  If you've never walked in those shoes you have no idea how challenging that can be!  There have always been 'tour groups' of pilgrims from the first Confraternities to the Knights of Santiago who appointed dozens of people from other countries as official pilgrims guides.  (Like Saint Bona of Pisa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bona_of_Pisa )

As far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned anyone who arrives at the tomb of St James in reverence and prayer is a pilgrim.  The way they get there is irrelevant. The cathedral recorded 12 million pilgrims in 2010.  This is the total number of people who entererd the cathedral during the year for religious reasons. The cathedral uses three  traditional methods for counting:

  • The number of those who go through the Holy Door on the east side of the Cathedral
  • The number of devotional cards issued to anyone who puts a donation in the alms box receives a card.
  • The number of donated communions during the Holy Mass in the Cathedral.
Walking/cycling pilgrims made up only 2% of pilgrims in 2010 according to the numbers who received a Compostela.  I wonder how many of those were considered ’pilgrims‘ using the above criteria?

2.   “ .... and loss of the unique spirit and values historically associated with the Jacobean Way”

 Really?  I really have a problem with this statement! 

The Jacobean Way was never sacrosanct.  It attracted much more than just pious, holy and saintly pilgrims.  Anyone who has read the Liber Sancti Jacobi or any other medieval pilgrim stories will be all too familiar with tales of false pilgrims, thieves, bandits, murderers, vagabonds, heretics, criminal penitents and the vain!  The medieval Jacobean Way and medieval pilgrims are not shining examples for 21st century pilgrims.

“What was even worse was the deplorable state of affairs encountered on the pilgrim routes themselves. Pilgrims by choice or by constraint met up with swarms of unemployed or seasonally employed vagabonds and a veritable horde of beggars. It became ever more difficult to distinguish between the motives of pilgrims on the road.
In 1523 the city council of Bern, which lay on the pilgrim route from Einsiedeln to France decided, to direct away all beggars, be they from the country, returning from the wars or pilgrims on the road to St. James, pedlars, heathens... and such like and not to house them or give them shelter.
Local by-laws throughout Europe, eg in Douai, in Compostela itself (1503) or in Tyrol province in 1532 reflected the same tendency.”

Imagine that, pilgrims not being offered shelter, even in Compostela!

What about the service providers along the Way?

I doubt our private albergue owners are anything as bad as the swindling inn keepers, toll road cheats, murderous tavern owners, false priests, prostitutes, horny young ladies who provided the basis for a legend about chickens miraculously come back to life.  Touts that met pilgrims on the road selling trinkets and souvenirs or trying to con the pilgrims into paying for rooms in already overcrowded inns. And the beggars who walked the Camino on behalf of the penitential pilgrims. 

Such ‘peregrinatio poenaliter causa’ did as little to enhance the dignity of pilgrims as did the ‘peregrinatio delegata’ which led to beggars  making a living out of accomplishing pilgrimages of penitence in others' stead. (Haebler).

And it wasn't just the poor or mendicant pilgrims who didn't behave.  Robert Plotz describes some of the accounts of the many ‘noble pilgrims’ - those on horseback with retinues:

 The Saxon Duke Henry, later called Henry the Devout, was certainly not attending to his religious needs on his journey to Santiago, for two of his companions reported that, "gourmandising was our best prayer and indulgence on such a journey."  

And how are we to judge or condemn the pilgrim who artlessly tells us how to say "pretty maid, come sleep with me" in the Basque language (A von Harff).

Another new type of pilgrim was the prosperous patricians ... for whom a pilgrimage to Compostela took its place in a journey of information and instruction, a journey on which it was not uncommon to look after business interests too, as did Nicolas Rummel of Nuremberg in 1408/09.”

The ‘Camino’ today (and the person who walks it) is probably more pure, more honest, and the path more sanctified than it has ever been.  There are very few bandits, criminals or murderers lying in wait for unsuspecting pilgrims.  Some restaurants or hotels might overcharge but you don't ever feel that your life is in danger when you stay there!

The great majority of today’s pilgrims – and tourogrinos – are not prompted by a multitude of sins to walk to Santiago. What’s more, they don’t walk in expectation of rewards as did their medieval counterparts.  Many of us have to take at least 4 flights, over 24 hours, at great expense, just to get to Spain and start walking.  And then we do it all over again to get back home.  Surely this makes us  even more admirable - all that effort and suffering for no reward! 

Many people today say that ‘the journey is what is important’ not the destination.  For the medieval pilgrim, the journey was a long and dangerous slog (or a long holiday away from the drudgery of home!) but the thought of not reaching the destination and the expected rewards that awaited them, was unthinkable. 

3.   Public administrations are to blame for their disingenuous campaigns designed to sell the camino as a “tourism product.”

Are they? The first ‘European Cultural Route’ has always been marketed as a tourism product.  Right from the outset the Council of Europe was quite clear that their work was not aimed only at pilgrims but at tourism too.

At the opening of the 1988 Bamberg Congress on the Santiago de Compostela Cultural Route, the address read out for the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Marcelino Oreja, made it clear that this route was not chosen just to bring pilgrims back, but for cultural purposes too.  

 “The underlying purpose of the process initiated by the Council of Europe: to bring out the historical and cultural contribution made by this pilgrimage movement to the forging of the European cultural identity.  The set of principles and values which represent a heritage common to European nations whatever their geographical location, whether or not these routes pass through them.  For this reason, our work is aimed not only at the pilgrims, who are guided by spiritual motives, but also at those expressing cultural practices peculiar to our own age and society.
As we have pointed out on several occasions, and I should like to do so once again today, the purpose of our work is not merely to revive the Santiago de Compostela pilgrim routes for nostalgic, erudite or archaeological reasons, but also to project them into the future.”
[I stressed words in bold]

Loci Iacobi, a European Union project, aims to develop the pilgrims’ trails of Saint James as a European tourism product and to consolidate it as the first European Cultural Itinerary through the creation and promotion of new tourism contents of high add-value for tourists (and other tourism stakeholders) and through the introduction of the new technologies of information and communication in their consumption"    http://www.saintjamesway.eu//chemins-de-compostelle/loci-iacobi-dr37.html

The pilgrimage road to Santiago has always brought riches and power, especially to Compostela.

"Indeed, for many centuries, it would seem that the chief purpose of St. James was to draw the sin-smitten and disease-afflicted people of Christendom to this distant and secluded part of the world, solely for their spiritual or physical good. Other benefits followed. The constant and increasing flow of pilgrims enriched Compostella, added power and dignity to its rulers, and helped Spain to gain that position in Europe which for no mean length of time made her mighty among the nations."

Rev James Stone - The Cult of Santiago 1927

Is marketing the Camino as a tourism project such a bad thing?   

This is like the tail wagging the dog! 
I believe that marketing the Santiago de Compostela route to cultural and religious tourists came first, with walking pilgrims following afterwards.  (Not the other way around)

Remember that for almost 400 years the pilgrimage routes were forgotten, relics of the past. 

Less than 150 years ago, in the Holy Year of 1867, just 40 pilgrims turned up to celebrate the saint's feast day mass on the 25th July.

The late Don Jaime of the Pilgrims Office found an old record book kept by his predecessor which showed that 37 pilgrims received the Compostela in 1967. 

 “In the 1970’s there survived only a remote memory of the Jacobean pilgrimage” wrote Don Elias Valiña Sampedro (father of the modern Camino).  But, he also predicted the invasion!

One day in 1982, with fears of terrorism rife, the sight of yellow arrows painted on trees along a Pyrenean road aroused the suspicion of the Guardia Civil. Following the trail, they came upon a battered white van. A small, smiling man got out. When prompted, he opened the van's back doors to reveal tins of bright yellow paint and a wet paintbrush.
"Identification!" barked the Guardia.
"I'm Don Elías Valiña Sampedro, parish priest of O Cebreiro in Galicia."
"And what are you doing with all this?"
"Preparing a great invasion…"
(Johnnie Walker’s blog)

Santiago de Compostela tourism: 
In a previous post I mentioned the road map of the five road routes that lead tourists and tourist-pilgrims, by road, to Santiago which were published for the 1954 Holy Year.  A concertina style credential was issued, with blank squares so that travelers could obtain a stamp at the places they stopped at along the road and earn a diploma when they arrived in Santiago.  This was clearly aimed at people travelling by motor vehicle and not the foot pilgrims (if there were any.)

In 1971 a book was published by the Ministerio de Informacion y Turismo entitled "Santiago en Espana, Europa y America" (still available on Amazon and ebay.es) 

Robert Plotz writes:
“It describes itself as ‘como una afirmacion del ser historico de Espana’ (as an affirmation of the historical essence of Spain) and also as an invitation ‘a los peregrinos de nuestra epoca que son los turistas ... porque el turismo es una forma moderna de peregrinar’ (to tourists, who are the pilgrims of our age ... because tourism is a modern form of pilgrimage).
Despite its absurdity, the questionable attempt to unite the pilgrim tradition and modern mass tourism, it brought Compostela again to mind as a holy place. 
In the Ano Santo 1965, two million visitors were said to have come and in 1982 the official figure was around six million. These numbers certainly included many pilgrims.  Compostela did not merely gain tourists but pilgrims, who came in ever greater numbers and increasingly in the spirit of pilgrims in the medieval meaning of the term.”  
(Does'nt this tell us that the tourists came first and then the pilgrims followed?)

The road itself (which was arbitrarily decided upon 1984-1987) is not a holy or sacred path. As a World Heritage site it must be preserved but why should it be protected from tourists?  There are numerous monuments, churches, bridges, cathedrals, hospitals along the way, many of them cultural and religious attractions which were awarded World Heritage status years before the 'Camino'.   Most of them charge tourists (and pilgrims) entrance fees.  They are all vigorously promoted to attract tourists – and why not. 

How do they propose to stop or monitor websites like this one?

Spain has so much to offer when it comes to "religious tourism". A few suggestions: follow the Way of Saint James on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela; live the intense Easter Week celebrations; take part in the El Rocío pilgrimage; visit important monasteries and cathedrals, or achieve the "jubilee" (a kind of blessing granted for carrying out certain rites in Santiago).   All while you discover some of Spain's most relevant monuments.  The holy city of Santiago. Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, is the main destination for religious tourism in Spain and marks the end of the Way of Saint James. Visiting its old town, which has the UNESCO World Heritage designation, and the route of the Way of Saint James, are unique experiences.

The First International Congress on Tourism and Pilgrimages took place in Santiago de Compostela, on 17-20 September 2014.  

The aims were to highlight the positive contributions of pilgrimages and spiritual routes to sustainable and responsible tourism, as well as the contribution of tourism to cultural understanding and the preservation of natural and cultural heritage related to ancient trails and sacred places.  (Full program link at the end of the post).

(Note especially, the reference to ‘spiritual routes’.  Spiritual Tourism is the new big thing in tourism.)  

 “The Secretary of State for Tourism of Spain, Isabel Borrego, recalled that “the city of Santiago de Compostela is a reference for religious tourism in Spain. To visit its historic centre, a UNESCO Heritage Site, and walk the Santiago path are unique experiences. Spain has much to offer in terms of religious tourism”: Santiago, intense pilgrimages and religious celebrations, important monasteries and cathedrals and many religious festivities of great interest.”

At the end of the Congress the “Declaration of Santiago de Compostela on Tourism and Pilgrimages” was read by Marina Diotallevi, Programme Manager, Ethics and Social Responsibility Programme, UNWTO  (Link at the end of this post)
The 5th (and last) proposal was about developing spiritual tourism in a sustainable manner:

“To encourage new initiatives and the creation of international networks that foster the exchange of experiences at the level of research, training of tourism professionals, promotion, marketing and the management of pilgrimage routes and sites, that engage faith groups and local communities as equal partners in developing spiritual tourism in a sustainable manner.”

(".... faith groups and local communities?"   Why were the local guardians of the Camino - AMIGIOS and FICS - not represented at this Congress?)

MANIFESTO:  We agree and propose:

1. Reorient institutional touristic campaigns to build respect for traditional pilgrimage values.

This should also include non-institutional campaigns like the travel and tourist agencies.   

2. Urge associations, confraternities and camino-related organizations to better explain camino values and behavior to new pilgrims.

At our workshops we give all future pilgrims a handout which includes a list of pilgrim and albergue etiquette.  In my planning guide ‘Your Camino’ I included four pages on do’s and don’ts. 

3. Initiate rigorous inspection of all services directed at pilgrims.

This is a bit vague – what does it mean, which services – and who will the inspectors be?

4.  Support and organize programs to open and secure the churches, hermitages and monuments along the pilgrim paths.

Totally agree but hardly possible for churches if you have a circuit priest who is only in certain villages on certain days.  I don’t recall ever seeing a hermitage on any of the Camino routes I’ve walked.  (Maybe I just didn’t recognize the dwellings as such!)
By monuments, do they mean cathedrals, hospices, churches etc?

Perhaps by marketing the pilgrimage as a cultural, spiritual and religious destination for tourists and pilgrims, the Camino might one day change the world!
Ben Bowler - Founder World Weavers, Monk for a Month, Interfaith Express & Blood Foundation recently published this article on ‘Spiritual Tourism’.

“Long-time travel industry observer and journalist Mr. Imtiaz Muqbil gave an interesting overview of a tourism industry in transition - moving from what he called the three "S"s of the old tourism - Sun, Sand and Sex towards what he sees as the emerging three "S"s in the new tourism being Serenity, Sustainability and Spirituality.

If this evolution of values in tourism gains traction and is ongoing then there are some serious implications. Considering that tourism is the largest service industry on the planet employing 260 million people, responsible for 9% or the worlds GDP and now having passed the 1 billion mark in arrivals each year, it is not hard to see that even small movements of the needle measuring travelers’ motivations and values can have a big impact on our world. 

In an age of soulless materialism and endless consumption, taking time out to explore the depths of the world's wisdom traditions is probably a good idea. Such "spiritual vacations" may well be a catalyst that brings greater enlightenment to the individual, increased understanding between different cultures and may even help to foster an emerging spiritual renaissance.”

For a biography of the speakers: