Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James)

Recently local Lithgow TAFE Librarian, Gwenda Vayro returned from the famous pilgrimage route in Spain called the Camino de Santiago or commonly known as the "Way of St James".

This route has been taken by pilgrims for well over a thousand years and it was only one of three journeys that resulted in an abolition of their sins according to their Christianity beliefs.The pilgrimage finally ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella where the apostle Saint James is believed to be buried. [It must be noted that Gwenda didnt need atonement on that pilgrimage. She has a heart of gold ! I have never known a librarian like her who constantly rises above the job requirement in giving information and guidance and care, to her TAFE students and fellow staff members and she has time to help me during my period of convalescence at home. ]

Gwenda described the journey as intensely physically- having to complete anywhere between 30 to 50 km a day but it was also spiritually and emotionally uplifting. She met various people from around the world taking that journey. Shared life stories and had wholesome village meals with them. Literally tens of thousands of Christians pilgrims and non Christians make this journey by foot, bicycle, horse and donkey. There are a number of routes that begin in other countries but all eventually end at the famous Cathedral.

The following paragraph is taken from American Pilgrims website

"Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela reached its peak during the Middle Ages and it is safe to say that it constituted a major cultural aspect of that period of history in Europe. By the 12th century, the Camino had become a rather organized affair and what is widely regarded as the world's first travel guide, the Codex Calixtinus, from around 1140, provided the would-be pilgrim with the rudiments of what he or she would need to know while en route. Book V, the famous "Liber Peregrinationis" ("Guide of the Medieval Pilgrim") would have provided practical information, while Book II, the "Book of Miracles", would surely have provided encouragement while underway. In addition, a massive infrastructure developed to support pilgrimage and, not coincidentally, to gain commercially from it. Bridges were constructed across rivers to draw pilgrims to certain cities and they prospered. Pilgrim hospices were chartered by religious orders, kings and queens and they gained favor in heaven. All manner of commercial business were established to both take advantage of and to support pilgrims. Cultures mixed, languages merged and history was affected."

In recent years, a number of fiction and other literary books have been written on the journey, eg. Paulo Coelho wrote "The Pilgrimage"; Shirley MacLaine's "The Camino"; James Michener's "Iberia" (one chapter on the topic) and funny UK Humourist Tim Moore's "Spanish Steps", "Travels with My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago".

Gwenda hopes to go back one day, to the Camino and complete the journey as she had to shorten her original trip due to health reasons.

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