The French Way is the Xacobean itinerary with more historical tradition, being the most internationally recognized. Its layout through the north of the Iberian Peninsula was settled by the end of the 11th century, thanks to the constructive work and promotion of monarchs like Sancho III the Greatest, Sancho Ramírez of Navarra and Aragón, Alfonso VI and his successors. The main routes of this Road in France and Spain were described accurately in the Codex Calixtinus, fundamental xacobean book, written in 1135.
The fifth Book of this codex constitutes an authentic medieval guide of the peregrination to Santiago. In this book, the sections of the French Way are specified from, also detailing the sanctuaries of the route, the local hospitality, people, food, fountains, customs, etc. Everything is written with the synthesis and clarity needed for a practical answer to a concrete demand: the peregrination to Santiago.
This guide, attributed to the French clergyman Aymeric Picaud, demonstrates the political-religious will to promote the compostelan sanctuary and to facilitate the access to it. When this book was written, the French Way and the peregrinations reached their maximum apogee and the French Way its greatest affluence, excluding the present moment. Santiago becomes the goal of the pilgrims coming from the Christian orb.
With the passage of the centuries and due to political-religious ups and downs, the physical itinerary of the French Way lost importance. At the end of the 19th century, a renewed interest for the jacobean thematic arose and continued during the second half of the 20th century with the progressive recovery of the old itinerary, recognized internationally like one of the historical symbols of the European unit.
The French Way acquires a precise layout in France through the four main routes already described in the Codex Calixtinus.
Three of these routes (París-Tours, Vézelay-Limoges and Le Puy-Conques) enter Spain by Roncesvalles, in Navarra, and the fourth route (Arles-Toulouse) enters by the port of Somport and continues until Jaca, in territories of Aragón. The itinerary of Roncesvalles, that crosses the city of Pamplona, is united with the Aragonese in Puente La Reina (Navarra).
From Puente La Reina, the French Way maintains only one itinerary that crosses localities and cities of the north of Spain such as Estella, Logroño, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Burgos, Castrojeriz, Frómista, Carrión de los Condes, Sahagún, León, Astorga, Ponferrada and Villafranca del Bierzo.
The French Way enters Galicia by the region of El Bierzo.
This Xacobean route has its departure point in the city of Santiago and its destination in the cape of Fisterra and the sanctuary of A Virxe da Barca. Almost from the discovery of the tomb of the apostle Saint James (9th century), certain pilgrims decided to extend their trip until the coastline of Costa da Morte, that for the ancient was the most western end of Europe, the final section of an itinerary marked in the sky by the Milky Way.
From the 12th century, the Calixtino Codex ties these land with the Xacobean tradition and indicates that the disciples of Saint James travelled to Dugium, the present Fisterra, looking for authorization from the Roman authorities to bury the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela, and they were jailed there. They managed to flee and, on the verge of being catched, they crossed a bridge that collapsed when the Roman troops persecuting them were passing.
The Xacobean tradition of Galician Finisterrae is based on two of the most popular devotions in Galicia: Saint Christ in Fisterra, of which Licenciado Molina (16th century) says that “more pilgrims come to Him than to the apostle”; and Virxe da Barca (Virgin of the Boat) in Muxía, who, according to the tradition, came to this beautiful place in a stone boat to encourage Saint James on his preaching.
The Southeast Way – Vía de la Plata
Coming from Andalusia and Extremadura, it enters Galicia through the Portelas do Padornelo and A Canda, passes through the northern Monterrei and A Limia valleys until Ourense. At this city, the route Vía de la Plata and some of the Portuguese interior roads meet, reaching Galicia by the valleys of A Limia and O Támega. This road is known, in the final stretch, as Ourensano Way.
The route of Via de la Plata is intimately connected with the traditional way, documented since roman time, from Merida to Astorga through Salamanca and towns in Extremadura. But nowadays, the concept of Via de la Plata is applied not very clearly to the axis Seville-Leon. The Silver Route represents other historical values, besides the Roman footprint: It was used for trading American silver arriving at the Sevillian docks, it was a very an important route for the movement of pastures, and was the expansion route of the medieval Galician-Leon kingdom, in the second half of the twelfth century and the first of the XIIIth, in times of Fernan II and Alfonso IX, when the concept of the edge of Leon or kingdom borders was created.
From a Jacobean point of view, the Silver Route began to regain some importance in recent years, especially when it was signposted. Coming through the traditional Via de la Plata by Extremadura and Salamanca, another option when arriving Zamora is to continue to Benavente and Astorga and there get the French way, instead of turning directly to Galicia through A Seabra, the traditional denomination for Sanabria.
The Jacobean peregrination from Portugal is intensified since this country’s independence in the mid 12th Century, even though it is believed to have started in the high medieval period. From this time, the Jacobean cult and the peregrination to Compostela, are considered one of the signs of European culture identity, having an important projection on Portugal.
For centuries, the Portuguese people contributed to this collective experience with a high level of participation, funded with the fortune of kings, nobles and high clergymen. It must be remembered that the majority of Portuguese roads witnessed, from the 12th Century to our days, the way of pilgrims from different Portuguese towns heading to Compostela. The motivations for this peregrination were religious. The massive flow of people through the ways of Saint James brought about the population of the area between Portugal and Galicia, and with it, the cultural, economic, and thought exchange in these lands.
The Portuguese Way in Galicia, in its soft wandering to the north, uses the old roads that cross forests, fields, villages, towns and historical cities. Roads that jump over water channels through medieval bridges. Roads enriched with the presence of shrines, churches, convents and stone-crosses, where the comforting image of Saint James is often present accompanying the pilgrim.
Strategically situated, Ferrol and A Coruña are the starting points of the two alternatives of the English way. The first maritime itinerary to be known was written between 1154 and 1159 by an Icelandic monk named Nicolás Bergsson and it describes the journey from Iceland to Denmark, and then on foot to Rome. This maritime route was the one chosen by the Icelandic and Scandinavian pilgrims on their way towards Santiago.
During the 14th century and the first third of the 15th, the British used the ship to come to Santiago. Their presence has been thoroughly proved by the ceramic pieces and the English numismatic of that period that were found during the excavations at the cathedral in Compostela.
The offerings to the Apostle are yet another sign of the existence of maritime pilgrimages, the most celebrated one being the portable altarpiece made of alabaster which was donated in 1456 by the priest John Goodyear, or the Cross of pearls donated by the king Jacob IV of Scotland (1475-1513). The pilgrims were able to use the hospitals of the Franciscan Order of Sancti Spiritus, under the auspices of noble Fernán Pérez de Andrade, “El Bueno” (Kind). Along the Ferrol section, they could use their services in Ferrol, Neda, Miño, Paderne and Betanzos. Along the route that strats from A Coruña, they had hospitals in the town and further on, in Sigrás and O Poulo. The records from these hospitals register the deaths of English, Nordic, German, French and Italian people, what is an important fact which shows the magnitude of the pilgrimages along this route.
The Original Way to Compostela was used by the first devotees who came from the incipient Austrian kingdom. Thus, this is the first Jacobean itinerary and it’s where it takes its name from.
Very probably this is the route followed by king Alfonso II, the Chaste, from the capital of the Asturian kingdom, in Oviedo, to the tomb of St James, during the first third of the 9th century. This monarch was decisive to confirm that the remains that had appeared in Compostela belonged to the Apostle St James. He encouraged the foundation of the first church in the new city and he collaborated in the organization of the primitive apostolic worship. Besides, he made some donations and boosted the establishment of the first monastic community intended to deal with the cult’s needs in the altar of St James.
Oviedo was the main point of origin of the Primitive Way, but it was also followed by pilgrims from other parts of northern Spain and Europe. It was possibly a very safe itinerary which was commonly used until the current French Way departing from León, the new capital of the kingdom, was consolidated in the 10th century.
Nevertheless, the route from Oviedo to Compostela was still a relevant alternative, especially for the spiritual value that certain pilgrims conferred to the fascinating collection of relics that the cathedral of San Salvador de Oviedo and the basilica of Lugo, where the Blessed Sacrament was permanently exhibited, had to offer.
The origin of the pilgrimage to Santiago along the coast of Asturias and Galicia can be traced back to the time when the tomb of St. James was discovered, around the year 820. The roads of the ancient Kingdom of Asturias were trend-setters in directing the flow of pilgrims to Santiago. Previous to the decision adopted by the Spanish monarchs in the 11th-12th centuries to boost the so called French Way as the privileged Jacobean itinerary, thus organizing the Christian realms of the north of the peninsula, the route of the coast was as vibrant and active as the rest of the “primitive” Jacobean roads. However, this promotion of the French Way did not result in the declination of the Asturian and Galician routes, on the contrary, it strengthened the pilgrimage flocking from the area of León-Oviedo towards the end of the 11th century.
The Northern way is not just a simple road along the coast for the exclusive use of Asturian inhabitants and the shoreline communities. A medieval route becomes the corridor of an international Jacobean flow of pilgrims which is lead to the sanctuaries of Oviedo and Santiago de Compostela. Although it was not as massive as the French Way, it was until the 18th century the silent witness of an intense stream of pilgrims. These believers who made their journey by land came from France. Another way was by sea, stopping at the ports in the Basque country or Cantabria, which was the route followed by those pilgrims living in the Atlantic countries (England, Flanders, Germany and the Scandinavian countries). After their journey by sea, they walked towards the sanctuary of San Salvador de Oviedo and visited St James Cathedral.
After their arrival at Castropol, the pilgrims had to board a ship to cross the ria Ría de Ribadeo or otherwise they had to stroll along its right border towards the bridge of Santiago de Abres to be able to explore the Galician territory. Nowadays, the bridge of Os Santos, built between Asturias and Ribadeo, greatly simplifies this entrance. Once they had reached the Galician territory, the route is well documented: it departed from Ribadeo, a port where many pilgrims disembarked as well, and it went deep into the valleys of Vilanova de Lourenzá and Mondoñedo; the trail continued through the scenic highlands and lowlands of Vilalba and Guitriz, receiving the warm hospitality of the monastery of Sobrado dos Monxes, before linking in Arzúa with the French Way.
Route of the Sea of Arousa
This marine-fluvial route through the Ría de Arousa and the river Ulla commemorates the arrival in Galicia, by sea, of the body of Apostle James the Major, after his martyrdom in Jerusalem in the year 44. Saint James was a fisherman from Galilee, apostle of Christ, evangelist of Occident and early martyr of the apostolic school. Herod arranged his murder in the year 44. Ancient Christian traditions reformed by medieval texts, satates that after his martyrdom, some disciples of Saint James gathered his decapitated body and moved it across the whole Mediterranean and the Atlantic Iberian coast up to Iria Flavia, in the proximities of the current village of Padrón. They did the journey in the famous ‘stone boat ‘, which perhaps would be one of the ships prepared for the transportation of minerals that linked Galicia with other zones of the Roman Empire. In the church of Santiago de Padrón the “Pedrón can be found (tradition says that in this stone the boat of the Apostle was moored after the long trip).
The two disciples who accompanied the body of Saint James up to Galicia, Teodoro and Atanasio, had to stay alert to face the determination of Queen Lupa and the fury of the Romans established in the city of Dugium (near Fisterra). With a cart ridden by oxen carrying the body of the Apostle, they passed through the dangers and continued their way up to burying his mortal remains in the mount Libredón. The annual commemoration of the “Translatio” across the Ría de Arousa, promoted by the Foundation Ruta Jacobea del Mar de Arousa, takes place at the end of July or beginning of August.
Camino Ways is a travel company that focuses on hiking, cycling and cultural tours on the Camino de Santiago, the famous Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela. Learning from experience over the past 6 years, we are dealing with some of the biggest Tour Operator and Travel Agent in the industry, mainly focusing on delivering exceptional services. With our Dublin based customer service, we provides you with quality customer service, personal touch and fast response. Whereas our operational office in Salamanca gives you the knowledge of the ground, flexibility and quality services you need for ensuring an outstanding customer experience. For more information please visit our website www.caminoways.com