Pilgrims’ Steps: A Search for Spain’s Santiago and an Examination of his Way

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In fact, the cultural route is closely linked to the Roman Road, especially in Extremadura where we can find so many samples of Roman heritage the road, milestones, bridges —most of them modified-, mansio and domus, theaters, forums. The construction of the N national road and recently of the freeway A has caused serious damage to the ancient road.

We can see a diagnosis of the route in the website of the Association of Towns in Defence of the Silver Route. It is also promoted by the Cooperation Network of the Towns on the Ruta de la Plata as a motor bikers route. Of special interest and relevance to our objectives are the works based on experiences of pilgrimage, finding some recent and open access comparative studies, a priori, especially interesting to compare the Via de la Plata with other ways of pilgrimage. In this sense, Murray compares the French Way with the Via de la Plata as a consolidated route in front of an emerging one.

They are, above all, ethnographic or auto-ethnographic monographs Lyons, that deepen in the experience. Other articles analyse the phenomenon of pilgrimages and their dynamics, considering their sustainability Sibireva, An original article deals with an emerging research line in tourism studies, such as the evaluation of mobile applications and their mediation of tourism experience. The communication of the Camino de Santiago is also a research line with some literature on it.

We are also interested in studies that address the relationship between tourism and rural development on cultural routes.

History of Santiago de Compostela

In this sense, a document especially relevant for us is the one dedicated to the Alba Plata project Belloso, The text of John B. Wright introduces us to the enormous literature on the Way of Saint James in general and, more broadly, pilgrimages or pilgrimage tourism. In this we can distinguish the stories of the pilgrims like Wright himself and the studies on them. There are particularly interesting works to construct and contextualize the theoretical framework of research, such as Lois and Cairo Barcelona sp : Planeta.

We can summarize the analysis so far, this way:. Literature review Of special interest and relevance to our objectives are the works based on experiences of pilgrimage, finding some recent and open access comparative studies, a priori, especially interesting to compare the Via de la Plata with other ways of pilgrimage. References Bibliography Belloso, M. El proyecto Alba-Plata : ruta patrimonial de Extremadura.

Bernier, Claude. Bourret, Christian. November, 4th-7th Religious tourism and sacred places in Spain: old practices, new forms of tourism. Everyone helped each other, everyone respected those who had taken vows of silence, and those who were ahead of the rest would buy and prepare food for everyone else. On the days that I had dialysis, we took a shorter route so that I could be in the hostel by midday.

What made the experience so special was sharing it with people of all ages: the young year-old lad who went with his parents, couples, older people, men and women. It was an invaluable moral and spiritual experience. As well as the great memories, I now have new friends — friends that I am still in contact with. We were all left with a feeling of happiness and the hope of living the experience again. I think that illness should not always be used as an excuse. We can all try to go on our own personal pilgrimage.

I would like to thank everyone who helped me on this pilgrimage: friends, family, the staff at the Osuna clinic, my fellow pilgrims and the people of Galicia for their kindness and hospitality. Juan Antonio Rangel. Juan Antonio Rangel, a Spanish dialysis patient, tells us about his pilgrimage experience on the long walk: I started dialysis when I was 33 years old, in , at the Osuna Dialysis Centre, about 90 kilometres from Sevilla.


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Fantasy becomes more real than the real, as it were. Indeed, if pilgrims acted upon their dissatisfaction with the initial hardships and adjustment to the practice of walking the Camino, few would finish. This is overwhelmingly not the case. This is true even of those who had earlier expressed such disappointment at the shape of the early journey.

Thus at some point the journey becomes one of importance, and in many cases of significant meaning to the pilgrim. The fantastic visions of Coelho and MacLaine give way to an experienced reality that is understood as worthwhile and meaningful in four main ways; community, achievement, introspection, and freedom from consumer culture.

Firstly, while on the Camino, often within the space of days, pilgrims tend to form loose cohorts and develop a sense of what Turner called spontaneous communitas. This is generated when everyday structure is broken down or dissolved and social bonds formed with others in the liminal- experience cohort replace. Once begun, the social ideals of the community demand that the journey be finished. This extends to those who walk only small sections at a time.

On the road

The idea that one would walk a few hundred kilometres of the track without the intention to eventually make it to the end is considered anathema; touristic. The Camino is the whole of the path from wherever the pilgrim begins, and the only legitimate end-point is Santiago itself or Finisterre after passing through Santiago. This means pilgrims must keep walking day by day. Only the excuse of debilitating sickness or injury are accepted as reasons to rest, and only major injury or illness could serve as a reasonable justification for quitting the journey before the end.

Even the infrastructure surrounding the pilgrimage is geared towards getting pilgrims out the door and walking each morning well before most of the local Spanish population has arisen. As a result, despite sometimes deep dissatisfaction, even anger, at the initial Camino experience, the majority of pilgrims keep walking. This results in the second source of meaning in the Camino experience as pilgrims begin to develop a feeling of achieving something extraordinary.

Keeping going naturally means people will walk a long way.


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This results in a sense of physical achievement, often begun to be felt quite quickly. It only takes a few days before pilgrims begin to realise what a remarkable achievement their progress is in comparison to their normal everyday lives. Sedentary living makes the few kilometres trudged in first days seem epic, and by the end of the first week, after covering some km or so, results in the development of a sense of pride in the achievement.

Pilgrims’ Steps by Robert Hodum - Read Online

This pride in physical achievement, a lifetime first for many, begins to build in pilgrims a surety in the value of the pilgrimage and its potential for the very types of experiences they desired upon first setting out. Although seemingly contradictory, pilgrims often reported gaining an acceptance of their bodies while on the 47 Turner spoke of three types of communitas; spontaneous, existential, and ideological. Though beyond the scope of this paper, in this case spontaneous communitas is the most useful in describing the Camino pilgrim social world, even though both existential and ideological do also come into play.


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See Frey, Pilgrim Stories, passim, for a detailed discussion of Camino sociality. However, the pain experienced throughout the day and the boredom of walking through miles of industrial estates or even more miles of featureless, flat landscape leaves the walker with little to look at but the self.

This proves, as discussed earlier, a difficult task, with some so alarmed by the picture confronting them — which they freely admit is themselves — they either skip the more featureless regions, opting for more visually distracting areas. Thirdly, the meditative quality of walking lends itself towards the introspection many pilgrims desire. It is here that the final negotiation of the expected ideal of the walk and the experienced reality finally fuse, and pilgrims rework the stories of Coelho and MacLaine from being seen as extreme fantasy, to seeing them, possibly as the authors intended, as metaphors of an exploration of the self.

Other pilgrims around the table at the time heartily agreed with this assertion. Indeed, insofar as pilgrimage in general is understood to be about what is discovered or encountered, we can view the meditative aspect of walking through the little villages of fields of northern Spain as the locus of identity for the Camino de Santiago. If thoughts are fixed on the future then 48 Although not encountered personally, two pilgrims within the cohort the author was walking with were reported to have done this.

Not thinking about things too much. MT raises two critical points here. Time is an often overlooked aspect of the function of the Camino as a transformative and deeply meaningful experience for pilgrims. The importance of large blocks of time for personal projects tends to be downplayed in the modern Western world. Time is better spent with family, or spending the money one earns in the local shopping centre. Indeed, time is money. The idea of taking thirty days to walk to a town one could fly to is thus quite out of the ordinary.

This dedication of time allows for a depth of experience rarely encountered in everyday life. Pilgrims are not only allowed but encouraged to think deeply and discuss with their new cohort stranger-friends the very core issues of their lives for up to a month or more. Still more miss the great revelations or deep poetry experienced by authors such as Coelho and MacLaine entirely. Each person may well have their own reasons for making the pilgrimage, but on the road itself each person must find their own satisfaction with it from within.

To be sure, pilgrims approach the journey knowing that it will be physically hard and possibly emotionally challenging. This is the critical point in understanding the modern pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela; it is a phenomenon that sits outside the normal paradigms of consumer experience, so much a part of Western culture from which the majority of pilgrims emerge. And eat and sleep! The previous weeks of simple, needs-based living is articulated as awakening pilgrims to the possibilities of life less governed by consumer cultures. The pilgrim life experienced along the Camino is one of simplicity.

Eating, walking, and sleeping are the central concerns. This marks a fundamental difference for most pilgrims, used to living lives firmly embedded in consumer culture. Many pilgrims even talk about taking this new found sense of release from consumer culture home with them, hoping to lives filled more with meaning than things. What is experienced is, if we are to believe Campbell that this cycle is all-pervasive, a new form of being in which the cycle of consumerism was broken not by circumstance e.

In other words it places the body as the locus of agency for personal autonomy and identity. It is therefore useful to think of the modern Camino as a ritual 51 Sassatelli, Consumer Culture, p. What is important is that many pilgrims understand themselves to be rejecting consumerist lifestyles, even if only temporarily, while on the Camino. It thus seems that the opposite of consumerism is perceived as commitment to a course of events, reduced choice, and a playing down of the image as a key locator of identity.

As a result, after some weeks on the road a sense of achievement and physical purity is felt by walkers, and reports of the types of experiences they had read about begin to emerge. Disappointment is erased by the sense of having lived a deep experience and a feeling that certain behavioural structures have been broken, in particular the cycle of consumerism. The inward turning forced by the Camino also precipitates the breakthrough of the consumer cycle. It forces satisfaction with the journey to be constructed from what is actually experienced rather that relying on advertised markers of enjoyment.

These, by nature tend to be outside the self, whereas the experience of the Camino is intrinsically inside the self. Along with this goes a sense of only skimming the surface, thus it is no surprise that the Camino experience also embodies another consumer opposite, depth. With time comes a depth of experience that is perceived not to be a part of everyday working lives.

The Camino, as a generally month-long practice for those interviewed, offers a depth of experience and immersion that the perceived opposite of fast-paced consumerism does not. Conclusion The fantastic writings of Paulo Coelho and Shirley MacLaine are popular books among future pilgrims to the Camino de Santiago, especially as motivators. However, their portrayal of the experiential aspects of the pilgrimage is far from accurate.

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This leads some pilgrims to initially experience a sense of disappointment with the lived pilgrimage. Further, aspects of their normal life, some of which they may want to change, are suddenly cast into sharp relief when pilgrims arrive at the Camino. It is a space socially removed from their everyday in which the only familiar markers are themselves. Thus those aspects of self they dislike or seek to change are made all the more apparent.

Further, the social realm of the Camino is governed by ideals of perseverance and completion. The process of walking is articulated as one of somatic simplicity — one foot in front of the other — and to terminate the pilgrimage for reasons other than injury or lack of time besmirches the walker.

Even cutting the journey short for time reasons is seen as less than ideal. Once on the path, the social norms of the combined pilgrimage community demand the pilgrim continue walking. Thus the vast majority of pilgrims continue through any sense of disappointment and any feelings of wanting to give up. When pilgrims depart on a Camino journey everyday selves are left behind.