Exhibition: Europe Marked the Way. The Pilgrimage to Santiago in the Middle Ages
, 7 June 2004
In European history, the Way to Santiago has been one of the earliest unifying elements of the old continent. The discovery of the sepulchre of St James, the first martyred apostle, in the 9th Century proved to be a point of reference which helped consolidate the territories conquered by the emergent Christian monarchies. It also opened different connecting routes linking it with Christian Europe and with the Islamic world of Al-Andalus.
Through six differentiated sections, the exhibition Europe Marked the Way. The Pilgrimage to Santiago in the Middle Ages aims to show visitors the origin of the Way to Santiago, its construction, daily life during the pilgrimage and the infrastructures that shaped the main pilgrimage route of mediaeval Europe. The show proposes an itinerary that evokes the Way to Santiago itself in the hopes that the spectator will become a pilgrim and visit some of the most important stops through the recreation of different sections by means of staged presentations: the market, the crafts workshops, the scriptoria, a hospital with its own pharmacy or the interior of the Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages.
The exhibition project Europe Marked the Way. The Pilgrimage to Santiago in the Middle Ages has been directed by José Manuel García Iglesias, lecturer in Art History at the University of Santiago de Compostela and curator-general of the exhibitions of Xacobeo 2004. The exhibition curator is Juan Manuel Monterroso Montero, full professor of Art History at the University of Santiago de Compostela. The exhibition will be open to the public from 8 June to 3 July 2004 in a marquee set up on the central promenade of the Parque de la Alameda of Santiago de Compostela and has been organised as part of the celebration of the city’s Jubilee Year 2004 and also to mark the centenary of ”la Caixa” (1904-2004).
The tradition of the Way to Santiago, which began in the High Middle Ages (9th-13th Centuries), has come down to us with great power. Within the present context, it is difficult to reflect on the reasons that brought about the Jacobean pilgrimages and the factors that helped to consolidate them. It is hard to imagine the hardships or, for that matter, the services that the mediaeval pilgrim met with along the way. Indeed, conceiving the motivations that might lead him to undertake such an uncertain and complicated journey is also a challenge. The exhibition Europe Marked the Way. The Pilgrimage to Santiago in the Middle Ages aims to give us greater insight into the pilgrimage phenomenon in the centuries of splendour of the Jacobean route. Thus, the show has been divided into six thematic sections: The Mediaeval World; According to Tradition…; The Construction of the Way; A Way of Life; The Way; and The Romanesque Cathedral.
The Mediaeval World
The first section of the exhibition shows the visitor, through numerous maps from different periods such as the world map of The Commentaries on the Apocalypse by the famous monk known as the Beato de Liébana (1086 AD), how the vision of the world evolved through the centuries, from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the end of the Middle Ages. After the Fall of Rome, a fragmented Western Europe regained its unity little by little with the spread of Christianity. Out of this new belief arose the idea of the homo viator, a man who travelled untiringly in search of Paradise and eternal life. His cosmovision distinguished between a familiar world, which existed around the Mediterranean, and another mysterious one full of monsters and strange beings. The traveller who ventured into those distant lands, with names of Biblical kingdoms, never returned. An outer ocean surrounded the three continents. With the passage of time, the quest for eternal salvation and new markets beyond the familiar lands helped to draw the map of the world we know today.
Through an audiovisual presentation, this section also shows the key events of the period, relating the emergence of Santiago de Compostela as the centre of Christian pilgrimage to the changes taking place on the Iberian Peninsula.
According to Tradition
The exact origin of the Way to Santiago is hard to pinpoint, partly on account of the legendary nature of the stories, and partly owing to the vagueness of the chroniclers of the period. Nonetheless, the story of the discovery of the tomb was rapidly divulged and accepted by the society of the High Middle Ages.
This section presents an overview of what took place, half historical, half legendary, which led to the establishment of Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrimage destination. Three of these events particularly stand out: the death and decapitation of the apostle St James in Judea, where he had returned after preaching in Hispania; the subsequent theft and removal of his body (translatio) from Palestine to Galicia in a stone boat; and the discovery of the sepulchre (inventio) by Pelayo the hermit and Teodomiro, Bishop of Iria Flavia. In addition, this section presents two staged presentations, one of a hermitage, symbol of the origin of the cult of St James, the evocation of the eremitorium of Pelayo, and another which reproduces a scriptorium like those found in the monasteries, which was used for making the events known by means of different works and, especially, the Codex Calixtinus or Liber Sancti Jacobi.
The Construction of the Way
Between the 9th and 13th centuries, prior to becoming only a religious route, the Way also served political interests. The new Christian realms saw the discovery of the tomb of St James and the pilgrimage as a way of consolidating the reconquered territories. At the same time they ensured their hegemony through the union of civil and religious power.
This section presents the historic figures that decisively contributed to consolidating the Jacobean route, ranging from Alfonso II, responsible for the earliest pilgrimages, to Ferdinand and Isabella, whose reign coincided with the end of the splendour of the Way. One also hears of the consolidation of the devotion to the apostle through different images that exist of St James: St James magister, seated and majestic; St James the pilgrim, with his symbols hat, pilgrim’s staff and gamebag; and St James the knight, armed and mounted on a white horse. Finally, it looks at the vast appeal which the pilgrimage to Santiago has had through the different types of pilgrims, their places of origin and the most characteristic objects they brought with them, such as the gamebag, the pilgrim’s staff or the scallop shell.
A Way of Life
During the Middle Ages, the Way was a remarkably busy thoroughfare. It prompted a rich diversity of activities and interchanges. All this traffic caused the towns along the Way to become markets of greater or lesser importance, where local products were exchanged for those from other lands.
This section recreates the places and settings that the mediaeval pilgrim encountered along the Way. The first stop is the reconstruction of a mediaeval market, where we find the foods, manufactured goods, tools and even the instruments and music found along the route. Next, we take a look at the work of the craftsmen, by means of a half-built wall or reproductions of workshops of jet artisans and silversmiths, two of the crafts most directly associated with the Jacobean tradition. The visitor then enters a hospital for pilgrims, first a cell for the traveller’s repose and then the pharmacy, where remedies were prepared and administrated for the principal ailments that travellers were likely to suffer.
Ideological and political protection was not enough to ensure the success of the Way to Santiago. Effort was also needed when equipping it with the necessary infrastructures. In a spontaneous, improvised manner, the pilgrimage to Santiago brought about the construction of an important road network, which was quickly modified and adapted, making up a system of rapid, safe thoroughfares, equipped with their services (hospitals, inns, etc) and also toll gates, border crossings and control centres.
This section reviews the construction of infrastructures along the Jacobean route. It features a large map of the French Way, in which some 30 constructions have been highlighted bridges, churches and hospitals which are directly related to the service to the pilgrims. With the help of a model of Puente la Reina, one can see how many areas of population came into being and were developed thanks to the Way.
The Romanesque Cathedral
Without denying the relevance of many of the monuments to be found along the Way to Santiago, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela deserves special attention. Closely linked to the art of the French Way by its sculptural decoration and architecture, it is the maximum exponent of what has been described as a pilgrimage church.
The pilgrim caught his first glimpse of the mediaeval cathedral from a hill on the outskirts of the city, from where he could make out the sacred place that he was about to visit. This montes gaudii marked a significant point on the route, since almost all pilgrims travelling on horseback continued on foot and, in some cases, even barefoot.
This section is highlighted by a reproduction of the altar that had been placed, in primitive fashion on the sepulchre of the saint. It concludes with an audiovisual that reconstructs what the place of worship which the pilgrims visited must have looked like during the Middle Ages.
Europe Marked the Way. The Pilgrimage to Santiago in the Middle Ages
From 8 June to 3 July 2004
Official opening: Monday, 7 June 2004 at 1:00 p.m.
Place: Central promenade of the Parque de la Alameda (Parque de la Alameda, s/n)
Santiago de Compostela
Information:: Tel: 902 22 30 40
Tuesday to Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Close Monday.
School visits: advance booking by calling 981 54 23 94
Admission free of charge