The Past and Present of the “End of the World” Pilgrimage Road

When it comes to the term “pilgrimage”, we will not feel unfamiliar. Many peoples in the world have customs and traditions to visit specific religious holy sites-the Thebis Karnak Temple of the ancient Egyptians, Lumbini for Buddhists, and the Hajj of Mecca for Muslims… In the Christian world, there are also three The description of the great pilgrimage sites: Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela. Jerusalem and Rome are notoriously well-known, but the name of Santiago de Compostela seems a bit mysterious. The pilgrimage route taken by Christians to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, where the apostle Jacob was buried in Galicia, northwestern Spain, is known as the “Road of Saint James.”

Big Jacob painted by Italian painter Guido Reni.

Santiago de Compostela itself was listed as a United Nations World Cultural Heritage in 1985, and there are only two world cultural heritage sites in the world under the name of “Xunli Road”, and the Way of St. James is one of them. . The historical and cultural value of this sacred place and this pilgrimage road can be seen. Indeed, Santiago de Compostela is hidden in a remote place in Europe, and the ancient Romans once called it “The End of the World”. However, “End of the World” has had a significant impact on the historical process of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the spiritual pillar of the Spanish and Portuguese fighting against foreign invasions. Today, it still attracts a large number of pilgrims from all over the world on foot. If you do not understand the Way of St. James, it is difficult to truly appreciate the essence of Iberian culture.

Remains of Saint James found in Galicia
Santiago de Compostela is closely linked with Saint James, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to legend, the son of Zebedee, Great Jacob, traveled to the Iberian Peninsula to preach. James, along with John and Peter, were the most respected disciples of Jesus. Because of his violent personality and hatred of evil, he was hailed as the “thunder son” by Jesus. After Jesus ascended to heaven, Jacob became one of the core figures of the early Christian church. Saint Peter later went to Rome to preach and was regarded as the first pope. According to legend, Great Jacob came to the more distant Iberian Peninsula to preach. In 40 AD, he returned to Judea after witnessing the Apparition of the Virgin in the Ebro River. In 44 AD, Jacob was beheaded and executed by King Herod, becoming the first martyred apostle in Christian history. However, where St. James was buried has become a historical mystery. Who would have thought that hundreds of years later, his remains would have crossed the entire Mediterranean Sea and were accidentally discovered in Galicia in the northwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula.

Historically, Galicia was famous for producing tin and gold. Although surrounded by mountains, it had frequent trade contacts with various ethnic groups in Western Europe due to its rich mineral resources, which gave birth to its own unique culture. In the Augustus era, Rome defeated the local Celts and began to establish rule there. The province of Galicia was officially established in the 3rd century AD. Due to the rich resources of Galicia, the Romans built a complete road network for commercial trade, and the future Saint James Road will be located on a Roman commercial road in the past. Galicia was at the westernmost point of the Roman Empire, so the Romans called it “The End of the World” (Latin Finisterrae, which literally means “end of the world”). When the Gaul merchants were walking at night, they found that the Milky Way above their heads seemed to be guiding them, so this business road in French had a more romantic name-“The Way of the Milky Way” (Voie lactée).

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the end of the Way of St. James, where it is said that St. James was buried.

Due to the magical relationship between scallops and St. James, the landmarks along the Way of St. James in Galicia will be marked with scallops. Pilgrims often carry a scallop to show their identity. Their shells even have certain practical uses-they can be used as water scoops and rice bowls during long trips.

According to medieval legend, in 813, a shepherd in Galicia accidentally discovered an ancient tomb under the guidance of the stars and informed the bishop of Iria Teodmir. After on-site inspection by Teodmir, he believed that this was the burial site of Great Jacob, one of the Twelve Apostles, and he confessed his good wishes to King Alfonso II of the Kingdom of Asturias. Alfonso II personally went to the cemetery to pay his respects and became the first person on the pilgrimage to the Way of St. James. He then ordered the construction of a small chapel on the cemetery. The local area is also named “Santiago de Compostela” (Santiago de Compostela, literally means “Saint Jacob under the Stars”).

Why did the remains of Saint James appear in Galicia thousands of kilometers away? People gave various explanations. The Galician coast has been rich in scallops since ancient times. The shells originally had various symbolic meanings in local myths and legends, so it is logical that the various legends of St. James are connected with the shells. A widely circulated version is that the disciples of St. James sent his body on board to Galicia for burial, but unfortunately encountered a storm, the body fell into the sea and disappeared. Soon after, the body of Saint James appeared intact on the shore of Galicia, covered with white scallops. Another legend says that after the death of Saint James, his body was sailed to Galicia by a ship driven by an angel. At that time there was a wedding couple on the shore. The groom’s horse was frightened and led the groom to fall into the sea. After a while, the man and the horse were lifted from the sea by countless shells and returned to the coast unharmed—this is the miracle of St. James.

Due to the magical relationship between scallops and St. James, landmarks along the Way of St. James in Galicia are often marked with scallops. Pilgrims themselves often carry a scallop to show their identity. Their shells even have certain practical uses-they can be used as water scoops and rice bowls during long trips. Later, shells and pilgrim hats also became symbols of Saint James.

The origin of the Holy Land may have other meanings
From a modern perspective, the above rumors are quite suspicious. However, whether the remains of St. James were actually buried in Santiago de Compostela, like the question of whether there is a “Holy Sepulchre” under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, is not really important. After this amazing discovery, this wilderness quickly developed into a prosperous town and gradually became the center of faith for Christians throughout the Iberian Peninsula. However, nearly 800 years after the death of Saint James, his tomb was discovered “accidentally” in the seemingly remote Galicia. It is not accidental. Here we have to mention the special historical background of Iberia-the invasion of Muslims and the “movement to regain lost land” by Christians.

In 711 AD, the Umayyad Caliph Walid I of the Arab Empire sent a general Tariq Ibn Ziad to Gibraltar from North Africa, officially opening the prelude to the “Umayyad Conquest of Spain”. In the same year, the Umayyad army decisively defeated the main force of the Visigothic kingdom in the Battle of Guadalet. Its king Roderick was killed and the Visigothic kingdom quickly collapsed. Tariq Ibn Ziad used a combination of enlightenment and power to control most of the peninsula within a few years, establishing Muslim rule, and the army once penetrated into southern France.

Until 718, Pelayo, a Visigoth nobleman, fought against the Umayyad rule, won the first Christian victory since the demise of the Visigoth kingdom in Covadonga, and established Iberian in the far north of the peninsula. The only independent Christian regime-the Kingdom of Asturias. The battle of Covadonga was small in scale, but it was regarded by historians as the starting point of the “Recovery of Lost Lands” campaign. The new kingdom of Asturias was surrounded by powerful enemies, and it was once in danger. Fortunately, the subsequent generations of monarchs worked hard to fight against Umayyad, winning each other, and the kingdom’s territory also expanded and regained Galicia. During the reign of Alfonso II, the Kingdom of Asturias was first recognized by the Holy See and the Frankish kingdom of Charlemagne. The amazing discovery of Teodmir, the bishop of Iria in 813, was a long drought for the king.

The tomb of St. James gave the Kingdom of Asturias a certain religious sacredness. It can not only be used to boost the morale of the people, but also can be used to ask the Holy See, the Frankish kingdom and other allies for help. It is important to know that the crusade movement, which was once dominated in history, was actually an “armed pilgrimage” in nature. In addition to the Crusades that captured Jerusalem, Europe also has the so-called “Northern Crusades” facing the Baltic Sea and the “Iberian Crusades” facing the Muslim regime of the Iberian Peninsula. The defense of the sacred Santiago de Compostela itself was enough to become the target and motivation for launching the Crusades.

Under this special historical background, Great Jacob of the Iberian Peninsula has also been given a new identity and role-“St. Jacob the Moorish Nemesis”. According to legend, in the so-called Battle of Clavijo in 844, King Ramiro I of Asturias fought against the Emir of Cordoba. The original Christians were already at a disadvantage. At the very moment, Saint James appeared on the battlefield. , He rode his horse and swung his sword to kill the Moors, helping the Christians achieve a miraculous victory. In the Spanish-speaking world, there are still many paintings and sculptures where St. James and the Moors battle scenes. This image is so deeply rooted in the hearts of the people that it affects the Spanish national and national identity.

The irony is that, according to later historians, although there are some real prototypes in the Battle of Clavijo, it is generally fabricated by later generations. Then, St. James is even less likely to save the battle. However, under false rumours, St. James seems to be sublimated to a banner against the Moors. The Moors indeed hate the tomb of St. James. In 997, the famous post-Umayyad dynasty Mansour deliberately marched northward, captured Santiago de Compostela, and burned St. Jacob’s church to ashes. But when the Moors withdrew, the Christians rebuilt a more glorious church on the ruins.

The tug of war between Christians and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula lasted for more than 700 years, and it was not until the end of the 15th century that the former triumphed and ended. However, no matter how the political landscape in the peninsula changes, what remains the same is the “Road to Saint James” full of religious sentiments.

The rise of the pilgrimage road
Regarding the pilgrimage of St. James, the earliest written records can be found in the 9th century AD during the reign of the kingdoms of Asturias and Galicia. At that time, after arriving in Santiago de Compostela, the intriguing pilgrims had already begun to return home with local shellfish as a voucher.

Pilgrims outside the Iberian Peninsula, first appeared in the history books in the 11th century. Around 1092, pilgrims from England came from afar. In the 12th century, the Way of St. James really formed an upsurge, and the corresponding organization-the Knights of Santiago appeared. The Catholic Knights, named after St. James, together with the Knights Hospital and the Knights Templar, made a major contribution to the movement to recover the lost ground.

The hero who made the Way of St. James a household name in the Catholic Church was Pope Calixter II, who first proposed the concept of “De Compostela Jubilee”, which means going to Santiago-de-Com in a certain year The Posttra pilgrimage will have a chance to win the “full amnesty” that every Catholic dreams of. Later, French scholar and monk Emeric Picco published the “Callixter Manuscript” in the name of the Pope. Pico himself made a pilgrimage to Santiago. The book introduces this pilgrimage route in detail and provides a practical reference route. He recommends that pilgrims outside the Iberian Peninsula first arrive at Pontela, Navarre. Reina (now located in northern Spain, adjacent to France) merged, and then arrived in Santiago from east to west along the towns of Burgos, Carrión de los Condes, Saagon, Leon, and Astorga -De Compostela. Emeric Pico’s “Callixter Manuscript” was very influential and circulated widely. For hundreds of years thereafter, it became the “official guide” approved by the church on the way of St. James.

Due to the long distance and rugged mountain roads, in order to help pilgrims from all over the world, the Galician church and the local government built a large number of service agencies along the pilgrimage route. Its operation is similar to that of the ancient post station system in our country, which is called “medical care center”. These medieval hospitals were not only hospitals for treating patients, but also providing meals, accommodation and other services for pilgrims. These hospitals are mostly operated by the Catholic Knights of the Iberian Peninsula (such as the Knights of the Hospital, the Knights Templar, and the Knights of Santiago). Although wealthy believers are encouraged to donate, they are generally of a public welfare nature. Without the support of the dotted medical stations, most poor pilgrims would not be able to go back and forth smoothly in the bad Middle Ages. To this day, traces of the above-mentioned medical centers can still be seen in some place names in northern Spain.

After a long journey of months or even years, the pilgrims finally arrived at the cathedral of the same name in the central square of Santiago de Compostela. Compared with the hardship of a long journey, the final ceremony of the pilgrimage is surprisingly simple-just step into the church door and touch the ancient stone pillars with both hands.

The Way of St. James in Contemporary Times
Although theoretically the way of St. James was never completely cut off, it also fell into a low ebb in the 20th century. People who truly understand this ancient custom are dying, let alone practitioners. The situation turned around in the 1950s. The famous Irish scholar Walter Stucky is proficient in Spanish language and culture. He traveled extensively and was even hailed as a “contemporary Gypsy” by Time magazine. In 1957, Walter Stucky published his travelogue “The Way of St. James”, which successfully brought this ancient pilgrimage to the public eye and aroused the interest of the younger generation. Francisco Franco also believes that the Way of St. James is beneficial to the promotion of Spanish traditional culture and national spirit, and to support it at the national level. After years of hard work, the number of pilgrims walking on the Way of St. James has increased dramatically from 690 in 1985 to 320,000 in 2018.

The modern Way of St. James still strives to adhere to tradition. In principle, pilgrims are prohibited from using any modern means of transportation (except bicycles). Most of the pilgrims chose to walk, and a few even followed the example of their peers in the Middle Ages and walked the entire journey by horse or donkey. There are eye-catching signposts on both sides of the traditional route of the Way of Saint James to point out the direction for modern pilgrims. Pull the distance between.

The Way of Saint James is a “network” of pilgrimage routes across Europe. The most popular route is the French Way, which usually starts from Saint-Jean-Pier-de-Port in Southern France and passes through the Pyrenees. , Into northern Spain, and then all the way west to the end.

The Way of St. James still implements a unique “pilgrim passport” system. This paper document carried by the pilgrim was specially used to postmark the designated towns and cities passing by along the way. Having a “pilgrim passport” is equivalent to obtaining an officially recognized pilgrim status, and you can enjoy free board and lodging services at specific inns along the way. This kind of inn serving pilgrims has a long history, the most famous of which is the “Santiago Royal Hotel” located on the central square of Santiago de Compostela, the “terminal”. This hotel next to the Cathedral of Santiago was founded by King Fernando II of Aragon and his wife Isabel I of Castile in 1486. The couple worked hard during their tenure, and finally captured Granada in 1492, and achieved a complete victory in the “Recover Lost Land Movement”, creating the embryonic form of modern Spain and being hailed by the Pope as the “Twin Catholic Kings”. Feeling the hardships during the pilgrimage to St. James, the couple spent a lot of money to build this prestigious royal hotel. The San Diego Hotel has the dual functions of accommodation and medical care. At that time, it maintained a 24-hour professional medical staff on duty to allow the exhausted pilgrims to get a complete rest. In summer, pilgrims have the right to rest in the hotel for 3 days free of charge, and 5 days in winter. Today, the San Diego Royal Hotel has been upgraded to a five-star luxury hotel, but it still adheres to its fine traditions and will provide a certain number of places every year to give pilgrims free accommodation.

Another function of the “pilgrim passport” is to provide credentials for completing the pilgrimage journey. According to today’s standards, pilgrims are only eligible to go to the San Diego Pilgrimage Office to receive a certificate after completing at least 100 kilometers of hiking and collecting municipal postmarks along the way. If you are a believer, the certificate will introduce your successful visit to St. James’s Church in the customary format since the Middle Ages, and indicate the precise time; if you are not a believer, you are also eligible for a more concise certificate: ” The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela extends a warm welcome, and hope that St. James will bless you.” For believers, this is a testament to the success of the pilgrimage; for non-believers, it is also a precious journey. souvenir.

According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, every 5-11 years, when St. James’s Day (July 25) happens to be a Sunday, that year is the “Jubilee of De Compostela”. On the Jubilee pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, there is a chance to receive the precious “full amnesty”. The last “De Compostela Jubilee” dates back to 2010, when the Holy Land attracted 270,000 pilgrims. There will be another event in 2021, when the Way of St. James is expected to set a new record. In fact, for many “backpackers” from all over the world who walk on the rugged trails of Galicia, Spain, they may not be devout believers, nor may they hope to receive “amnesty”-under the guidance of “Galaxy”, appreciate The graceful scenery along the way and the feeling of local customs will be more able to touch the heartstrings of the younger generation. After all, if you haven’t been to “End of the World”, it is difficult for you to claim to know this piece of land.