Review: The Pilgrimage to Compostela in the Middle Ages: A book of Essays

Document Type

Book Review


History (Pomona)

Publication Date



Camino de Santiago, Santiago de Compostela, pilgrimage, medieval europe, Spain


The editors of this volume have assembled an unusual mix of papers pertaining to the Camino de Santiago. The first, "The Cult of Saints and Divine Patronage in Gallaecia before Santiago", by Alberto Ferreiro, is a study of the spread of the cult of St. Martin of Tours in northwest Spain and its ultimate displacement by the cult of St. James (Santiago). The author carefully culls what little has survived in the way of textual evidence to illustrate not only the establishment of Martin's cult in sixth-century Galicia, but its rapid demise as a result of the Visigothic conquest of Galicia as well as continued Visigothic concerns about the Franks, who were themselves closely associated with the cult of St. Martin. Colin Smith's "The Geography and History of Iberia in the Liber Sancti Jacobi", highlights the inaccuracy of the geographical and historical information contained in the twelfth-century "Book of St. James". Focusing primarily on the Historia Turpini (the fourth part of the Liber Sancti Jacobi), which recounts apocryphal legends about Charlemagne's conquests in Spain and his defense of St. James' shrine in Compostela, Smith deduces that any pilgrim relying on its sense of Iberian geography and history would have been hopelessly misled.

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