MoOC - Sharing Europe through European Heritage

1/ The way of Saint James and the "European Identity". Heritage and culture in contemporary narratives

The Way of St. James is a unique itinerary representing the foundations of the European identity. Still today, its origins are strongly felt and present among pilgrims. Inspired by literary geography, the research analyses the present of this historical legacy by exploring the pilgrims’ travel diaries. Results prove how Heritage and Culture are two literary topics and, consequently, contemporary narratives are producing a cultural discourse on the Way that enhances and revisits its unique identity.


Xosé Santos & Lucrecia Lopez
Lucrezia Lopez is Lecturer at the Department of Geography of the University of Santiago de Compostela. Her main research lines include: Human and Cultural Geography; Tourism Geography; Heritage and Heritage Management; Geography of Pilgrimages and Geography of Sacred Spaces; Cultural itineraries and the Way of St. James and Geo-Humanities.

Xosé M. Santos is a Full Professor in Geography, at the University of Santiago de Compostela, in the Department of Geography. He is specialised in world heritage cities. He has also carried out work on the recent changes in rural areas and other Human Geographic aspects. He also dedicates his research time to developing tourist analysis referring to historic cities, cultural itineraries and pilgrimage routes. He has been the Director of the Centre for Tourism Studies and Research (CETUR) at the University of Santiago de Compostela (2005-2014).

1. Introduction

The Way of St. James *Hereafter we will use the expression The Way to refer to the Way of St. James. has played a significant role in European history; the routes to Santiago helped consolidate Christian Europe and spread cultural ideas. During Middle Ages, the movement of people was mainly motivated by spiritual and religious reasons. Later, in the Modern Ages, the slow process of secularization contributed to the diversification of The Way, as pilgrims and religious and cultural tourists already shared this sacred space. The first religious movements turned into cultural tourism ones; for instance, the city of Santiago de Compostela, as well as other sacred places and cities located along the route, were Grand Tour destinations (Lopez and Santos, 2019).

The Way has maintained throughout its history a close relationship with the idea of Europe. Since the beginning of the construction of the myth of Santiago, there is an attempt to link the appearance of the remains of the apostle with the figure of the Emperor Charles The Great (Regalado, 2009). In addition, the Way in the Middle Ages acted as a kind of border between Christian Europe and Muslim. Already in the contemporary era, the recovery of the myth of Santiago in the late nineteenth century is closely related to the de-Christianization of Europe because of the social and cultural changes induced by the industrial revolution. Finally, the popularization of the Jacobean route in the 1990s relies heavily on two facts. On the one hand, the need for Spain to demonstrate its Europeanism, in the moments before its incorporation into the European Community (1986). On the other hand, the relevant paper of Pope John Paul II that in his first visit to Santiago in 1982 made a speech with clear European tints: “This place (the cathedral) is a point of attraction and convergence for Europe and for all Christianity ...”

Still today, The Way takes part in the construction and consolidation of the European identity; in fact, its never-ending Europeanization process was reinforced by the designation of the historic city as a World Heritage Site (WHS) by UNESCO (1985) and the declaration by the European Council of the Way of St. James as the first European Cultural Route (1987). Its international protection arrived in 1993 when the French Route was recognized as a WHS. This was also the first Holy Year to experience mass pilgrimages along traditional routes; from then on, the phenomenon was no longer confined to Holy Years (Santos and Lopez, 2015).

By “European Identity”, we refer to a legacy that imbues the space of The Way and that can be traced and interpreted in different forms and sources, among them we opt for the literary production. The books of celebrities and public figures have played a major role in making The Way more popular in their own country (Lois, Lopez and Santos, 2015; Santos, 2016). This editorial phenomenon owes its success to its fashionable use as literary subject (Lopez, 2019a); its uniqueness and attractiveness turn it into an interesting subject when writing a book, making a film or, generally speaking, producing new powerful means of communication (Lopez, Santomil and Lois, 2015).

For all that, the present study pretends to contribute to a research line that puts in communication literary geography and The Way. We suggest interpretive and critical models to address heritage and culture as participants in this the so-called cultural and spatial turn that has assumed The Way as a privileged space. Rather than a monographic study, we opt for an intertextual exploration with the intention to reflect upon the complex dynamics and numerous resources that can emerge when comparing sources of pilgrims and authors with different origins and affinities. The text is structured into five sections. At first, we make a brief introduction of the origins of the Way in order to understand its “Europeaness”. Secondly, we focus on the “European Identity in Literary Terms”; the main aim is to advance a conceptual introduction and methodological proposal to investigate the role of the Way and the European construction. In the following sections, firstly we present an “incursion” into Travel Diaries as a way of performing a selective and analytical a study, then we sums up them in the results section. In the same, we point out the relationships between Heritage and Culture vs. The Way in the selected sources.

2. The Way: the Origins

The origin of the Way of St. James goes back to the ninth century, when the remains of the Apostle St. James the Greater were discovered and authenticated. After this discovery, known as the inventio¹, the Way to the sacred place of the Apostle began to take on elements typical of a tourist attraction. It was provided with accommodations for pilgrims, monumental, historical and environmental attractions, and it even had its own guide book: “Liber Peregrinationis” (Marchena, 1993). From the year 1000 onwards, the pilgrimages established routes from East to West. The Church turned these local and individual movements into universal and collective phenomena; sanctuaries throughout Europe lost their autonomy and were integrated into the peregrinations maiores: Santiago, Rome and Jerusalem. The Compostela itinerary was considered the most important since it attracted the most pilgrims, acquiring not only a religious meaning but also a political, economic and cultural one.

Starting in the 11th century, thanks to a period of peace in Europe, the pilgrimage attained its maximum form of devotion and pilgrims received more care: cities were created, roads were repaired, bridges were built, hospitals and hostels were founded. Numerous texts were written on the Compostela pilgrimage during the 12th century, which became known as the Compostela century. The pilgrimage began to decline in the 14th century, due to the black plague and numerous civil wars. Later, during the 16th century, the abuse of selling Indulgences, the birth of the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent split within the Church contributed to the pilgrimage’s loss of importance that continued throughout the Renaissance. Although pilgrims continued travelling to Compostela, the phenomenon experienced a general decline, which resulted in the city of Santiago’s prostration in popular imagination and worship (Lois, 2000).

Medieval pilgrimages are considered by many as the origin of tourism; after such, the modern mentality gave way to a new conception of space and travel. New physical and moral horizons were opened up, and the monastic ideal was replaced by Renascent curiosity (Lois & Lopez, 2015). Therefore, from the 15th century onwards, travellers were romantic visitors and explorers (Antón and González, 2008). One of the best examples is the “Grand Tour,” a custom started by the English aristocracy by which young nobles travelled extensively around European countries to improve their education (Towner, 1985). These educational trips continued during the 16th century. The Way offered a possibility of undertaking this Grand Tour. Even during the 18th century, the Way’s decline was due to the Church’s loss of power as a consequence of the Modernity and its secularism.

Pilgrimages to Santiago never stopped entirely, and starting in the late 19th century there was a resurgence in the number of pilgrimages, firstly due to Church propaganda from 1875 onwards and secondly because of the (re)appearance of the Apostle's remains (Santos, 1999), which took place around 1879, after having been concealed in the 16th century to protect them from Protestantism and religious wars. During times of nationalism, Spain wanted “figures” as heroes and saints that could bolster national pride; the Apostle James became a “legend of Spanish and Galician nationalism” and during the Civil War he stood for unity, Catholicism and universal destiny (Santos and Trillo, 2017). During the 20th century, there was a gradual resurgence of pilgrimages to Santiago and religious tourism gradually took shape. From 1954 onwards, the Jacobean phenomenon started becoming a possible resource for the city of Santiago. Religious-themed trips were promoted and infrastructure was developed to provide accommodation for pilgrims and tourists. However, rapid tourist growth in Spain meant that the pilgrimage inevitably started to take on all kinds of aspects related to tourism, especially from 1965 onwards. The Santiago Trust was created to collaborate with the Ministry of Information and Tourism and promote Compostela’s infrastructures. The Directorate General for Businesses and Tourist Activities invested in providing accommodation along the Way, with the construction of new hotels and the conversion of private homes into boarding houses, while the Way and its infrastructures were renovated. The renovation initiated in the 1960s was accompanied by the introduction of the concept of pilgrim shelters and hospitals; these formed the basis of the revitalisation of the Way that continued during the 1971 Holy Year.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the Way was promoted as a new tourist product capable of revitalising this sector. It was a tourist option that satisfied the new demands for diversified and cultural tourism, while naturally respecting tradition and the past. More recently, in the 1980s, pilgrimages and the city of Santiago really started to become popular. Among the milestones of this process, it is worth mentioning the designation of the historic city as a World Heritage Site (WHS) by UNESCO (1985) and the declaration by the European Council of the Way of St. James as the first European Cultural Route (1987). Its international protection arrived in 1993 when the French Route was recognized as a WHS. This was also the first Holy Year to experience mass pilgrimages along traditional routes; from then on, the phenomenon was no longer confined to Holy Years (Santos & Lopez, 2015). The 1993 Holy Year marked the conversion of both Santiago and the Camino into major Spanish and international tourist destinations (Santos, 1999; Lois, 2000). This promising future led to a boom in the tradition of pilgrimages to Santiago. The starting point for the Plan Xacobeo 93 was the idea that the Way of St. James was the best-known brand in Galicia and easy to promote on European and world markets; as a result, the 1993 Holy Year turned Santiago and the Way into two of Spain's great tourist destinations (Santos, 2006; Santos & Lopez; 2015). By then, the pilgrimage space had been transformed into a tourist space (della Dora, 2012; Lois and Lopez, 2012; Lopez, 2013), with pilgrims and tourists requiring services, basic infrastructures and installations (hotels, public hostels, etc.) (Lois, 2000; Santos, 2006).

3. European Identity in “Literary Terms”. Conceptual Introduction and Methodological Proposals

Since Geography has opened its doors to literature, literary works have been considered geographical documentary sources (Brosseau, 1994). More recently, the interest in spatiality has been viewed not only as a new idiom for literary studies (Tally, 2013) but also as a “spatial vogue” (Jarvis, 2005); the same Way has become a cultural Leitmotiv representing a complex and polysemic space (Lois and Lopez, 2012).

The literary space is an informative source of knowledge of a geographical and human reality (Alexander, 2015; Hones, 2008; Lopez, 2019a); it discloses new possibilities for researches interested in the creative differences deriving from spatial representations and perceptions. Literary geography is also defined literary cartography or geocriticism, with the intention to point out its manifold applications. In fact, as space, place and mapping in literary studies produce a “multilayered and interdisciplinary debates” (Tally, 2013, p. 4), researchers and critical readers must fix their scientific interest when approaching literary sources. For that, the present thematic reading is one of the ways of thinking about the issues of space and place.

Travel literature has been considered a technique and a source of promotion of a place. Travel and pilgrimage have occupied many pages of literature, adapting to changes in human experience (Coleman and Elsner, 2003; Dotras, 1993). At the present, geohumanities are rediscovering new potentialities for the interaction between literary studies and geographical studies (Hones, 2008, Kneale, 2009). Concerning travel literature, it addresses topics related to subjectivity, experiences of sense of place and new traveling dynamics (Brosseau, 1994). But, this genre also shares and contributes to transform the production and representations of places (Laing and Crouch, 2011; McWha, Frost, and Laing, 2018). In fact, according to the S. Hones (2011) the understanding of narrative texts is as emergent spatial events dealing with explanations and interaction as it supposes that the descriptive passages and references to extra textual landmarks are useful elements for the contextualization of the setting.

Travel literature on The Way still individualizes attributes of the city of Santiago and the Way, thus, its pilgrimage is a successful Leitmotiv for the contemporary literary cultural industry (Lopez, 2019a, 2019b). Travel diaries, guides, novels and comics are renegotiating the space of the Way through representations and narratives with a different level of realism. One of the examples of this geo-spatial literary renewal is the “use” of monuments of the Way as references introduced in the literary narrative to express singularity, history, memory and identity of such an historical cultural route. In fact, according to the French historian Choay (2007), the specificity of the monument lies in its ability to elicit, with emotion, a living memory. This is precisely what happens in travel diaries, in these re-negotiated spaces, the numerous monuments that characterize the route (churches, monasteries, bridges, etc.) evoke a vision of the world (imago mundi) that becomes a tool to spread a conception, an idea or a precept. All these possible definitions convey in the interpretative hypothesis that we assume when analyzing the literary sources: the European dimension of The Way.

3.1 Methodology

According to S. Hones “textual analysis is a useful strategy for the exploration of geographical themes” (Hones, 2008, p. 1307), although she also considers that a series of aspects of the author act in the spatial contextualization. Indeed, academic reading and literary interpretation can be freely realized; thus, as geographers we firstly analyze literature as a subject of art, secondly, we consider it as subjective reality in order to get an adequate perception of reality. At the same time, as researchers, we recover the information distinguishing the true from the fictitious and from the subjective. Considering the scientific purpose, we have done an academic reading based on four interpretative keys: 1) Walking; 2) Slowness and 3) Post-secular Pilgrimage.

1) Walking: walkers’ movements have been described as place ballets through which landscapes are woven into life (Ingold, 2004; Seamon, 1979). Walking ‘(re)produces and (re)interprets space and place’ (Edensor, 2000, p. 82).

2) Slowness: this recalls a further aspect of the Camino: the rhythms; what is really useful is the experience of slowly enjoying the setting and landscape of the route and seeking new additional destinations such as the end of the world embodied by Cape Finisterre at the edge of Europe (Lopez, Pérez and Lois, 2017; Margry, 2015; Sánchez- Carretero, 2015).

3) Post-secular pilgrimage: the work fits the features of the post-secular pilgrimage, as it mentions new approaches and pilgrimage motivations, introduces new practices and produces new sacred and secular spaces (della Dora, 2016; Nilsson and Tesfahuney, 2016; Santos and Lois, 2011).

Our critical interpretation concerns a corpus of selected texts. We adopt a qualitative approach, thus we introduce textual citations as argumentative tools of the highlighted aspects (Brosseau, 1996; Chevalier, 2001; Lévy, 2006). Indeed, the reiterated symbolism highlighted when analyzing heritage allows us to adopt a “semiotic perspective”, thus comparing cultural asset and cultural references to symbolic referents semantically organized to reach a goal. Each of them assume that each element is a “link” (significant) to a “system” (meaning); in this sense, we compare the cultural landscape to a “hypertext”, in which historical, artistic and political elements come together. Geographic Heritage possesses its “language” insofar as it is “semiotically” constructed to express values, models, beliefs and ideas. As we have indicated, Heritage covers more functions, but we have focused on historical and cultural value, as they contribute to express a génie de lieu that, as Nooteboom (2006) writes, it is used when a place expresses something very specific and characteristic. Sources have different structure and different approaches. Sources are chosen according to the interest of the topic; dealing with seven works of different authors writing about their pilgrimage along The Way (Dryden, 2015*As the book has no page numbers (an intentional decision of the author) and the comments are anonymous, I have numbered the comments of the author (A) and of the pilgrims (P) accordingly to a consequential criterion.; Fadel, 2014; Kerkeling, 2016; MacLaine, 2000; Mallench, 2017; Nooteboom, 2006; Rufin, 2013).

4. An “Incursion” into Travel Diaries: Selection and Analysis

The pilgrimage slow rhythm is an added value because it enables to enjoy the cultural richness of the route. The activity of visiting the cultural offer of the cities along the pilgrimage route reinforces the experiential value of the Way and of its knowledge. Indeed, according to the Belén Castro Fernández (2010), The Way is an open-air museum, thus pilgrims are inevitably pushed back in the past, as the following passage supports: “I passed the Roman ruins and the Christian Cathedrals of Astorga” (MacLaine, 2000, p. 163). All that, is a determining factor for understanding and interacting with the environment, as the pilgrim becomes more attentive to the cultural legacy in which he or she is embedded. In order to support our argumentation, we introduce a selection of those literary passages containing a detailed description of some of the most meaningful and symbolic cultural assets of the Way, as well as those manifesting the role of The Way in the consolidation of the European History.

In the first pages of his book, the English writer Iain Dryden (2015) reminds that “A4. For thousand years monks had tamed this once savage landscape and the kings of Europe had given money to construct an impressive monastery not far from where French had long ago been defeated”. According to the American historian and sociologist Lewis Mumford (1966), monasteries assumed an important role in the founding and organization of the medieval city. They exemplify the origin of religious power and lead to reflect on how it is possible to exercise power from a position not necessarily central:

The medieval monks had Tibetan aspirations, their monasteries hung on rocky walls, they floated over chasms and even today there are still some (proper translation from Nootebom, 2006, p. 179).

Fig. 1. Porte d’Espagne. St. Jean Pied de Port. Courtesy of Dryden. Reproduction authorized.

Entering through the Door of Spain, Kerkeling uses the following word to introduce and to present the long and intense experience he will live:

The walk would take me along the French Way, one of the European cultural itineraries, walking through the Pyrenees, the Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León and, finally, Galicia, along some eight hundred kilometers, directly to the entrance to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where, according to legend, there is the tomb of the Apostle Saint James, the great missionary of the Iberian peoples (proper translation from Kerkeling, 2016, p. 22).

The intertextual analysis confirms that some sites are properly typical of the Way, as for instance Montes de Oca (Fig. 2), whose journey in the past was dangerous by the presence of thieves and bandits (Kerkeling, 2016).

Fig. 2. Montes de Oca. Courtesy of Dryden. Reproduction authorized.

In many cases, the sensibility of the authors/pilgrims is so profound as to enrich their writing with detailed and interesting descriptions of the cultural assets they encounter.

There, I went to see the famous Cathedral. For a long while, I sat in admiration on a bench just opposite the magnificent façade. The 13the century Cathedral is nicknamed Pulcuha Leonina, the Beauty of Léon, and one can easily understand why. It is one of the great structured in Gothic Style. Inside, one is immediately struck by the dazzling bright colours of the stained-glasses windows, and indeed these constitute one of the greatest collections of the medieval stain-glasses windows of the world (Mallench, 2017, p. 53-54).

Astorga is the Capital of the ancient historical region of La Maragatería situated in the central area of the province of León. The Episcopal Palace of León, designed by Antonio Gaudí, currently houses a museum (…). The museum displays various pieces of religious art more or less related to the Camino de Santiago. As for the Cathedral of Santa María, construction of which started in the 15th century, it recalls the Cathedrals of Seville and Salamanca, displaying marked similarities to the style most authorities call “Spanish florid Gothic (Mallench, 2017, p. 57).

The following passage reminds one of the habits of the medieval pilgrims, as for them the city of Oviedo was an obliged stop. Religious pilgrims had to visit the Basilica of Oviedo, one of the most relevant cultural assets determining the track of the Primitive Route. Thus, history pervades this description as, in a certain way; it stands for the most authentic original route to Santiago, since it reminds of the itinerary walked by King Alfonso II when leaving Oviedo went to Compostela to venerate the relics of the Apostle James the Great.

If Santiago de Compostela was the profane goal of my itinerary, Oviedo was the highlight of its religious component. (...) I left Asturias for a methodical exploration of the sanctuaries along which it passed. But, when you have that appetite, the small country chapels, the cross roads, the hermitages are simple appetizers. The hunger of the pilgrim in mystical phase cannot be seen at all so calm piscolabis. They cannot help but have patience, while waiting for that dish of spiritual resistance that constitutes the sacred city of Oviedo (proper translation from Rufin, 2013, p. 123).

One of the most famous places along The Way is Santo Domingo de la Calzada: “the city gets its name from the saint, who built a hospice for the poor in the Middle Ages and adopted them selflessly” (proper translation from Kerkeling, 2016, p. 101). It is so described:

Since it was still relatively early, we went for a stroll around the 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral. We visited the tower and amused ourselves by ringing the bells. In fact, the present tower is actually the third: the original Romanesque tower was destroyed by a fire in 1450, while the second, the Gothic style was pulled down when it threatened to collapse. The present tower is in the baroque style (Mallench, 2017, p. 40).

A further detailed description of this monastery can be found in the book by Nooteboom (2006); the Dutch writer explains materials, decorations and reflects on the function that this would have in the past. He compares the façade of the monastery to a book which is saved in thousands of representations and this is meaningful statement as it supports the idea that cultural assets, while speaking about the past, reminds of the greatness of the Way.

The memories still exist in the language and in the stone. Churches, inns and names of places preserve, like a precious cord, the idea of ??a passionate devotion and for us unimaginable that took all of Christendom for hundreds of years to a distant windy corner of Galicia. Only when you study it a little, that ardent fervour penetrates in you. It just left everything aside to run half Europe on foot in dark and dangerous times. Following in the footsteps of a legend, the pilgrims themselves became legends (proper translation from Nooteboom, 2001, p. 61).

This passage helps to understand the role of the medieval pilgrim who walked throughout Europe to get to Santiago de Compostela. Nooteboom (2006) considers it the sense of political, social and religious phenomena that continues still today. It is a political phenomenon because it made it possible for non-Muslim Spain to get closer to Europe, paving the way for the Crusades. It is a social reality in that it is based on international relations; pilgrims were (and are) moving entities carrying with them material and also immaterial elements, they contributed to commercial interchanges, but also to art diffusion. Religion is the driving force of the movements, that has been transformed in art, its meaning has been shaped and its histories are “images” (Nooteboom, 2006). Thus, images are the legacy of a glorious past, that, by the way, the contemporary observer understands and interprets with the eyes of another time.

Heritage and sites along The Way have an evocative power, since their historical roots are felt alive in the presence. Among the stream of reflective activity that characterize pilgrims, heritage has a central role in that it reminds of the past and of the territorial legacy:

We have experienced one of those moments when the Camino invites you to reflect. This was when we arrived at the monument de los Caídos, the Fallen, which recalls the horror of the Civil War. The monument is a stark block of stone and cement, on one side of which is a plaque with the text in Spanish (…). For a few moments, I was overwhelmed with emotion. (…) I was deeply moved, too, to see on the monument the well-known verses of Miguel Hernandez, from his poem Elegy to Ramón Sijé (Mallench, 2017, p. 42).

As the pilgrim enters Burgos. He immediately realizes that it would take days just to begin to see and enjoy everything the city has to offer. For our part, we decided not to leave the home of El Cid without making the effort to visit the Museum of Human Evolution, closely related to the archaeological finds of Atapuerca, some of the most important human fossil discoveries in the word (Mallench, 2017, p. 44).

The city of Burgos was saturated with history and art. At the entrance of to it, outside the walls, stood the ancient remains of the Hospital San Juan Evangelista, and adjacent to it was a silent and comforting Benedictine monastery. I crossed a moat by a tiny medieval bridge and found myself in a medieval city. Here, in the grand cathedral that dates back to the thirteenth and fourteenth century, lies the tome of the legendary El Cid (MacLaine, 2000, p. 134).

The cultural European identity of the Way is as well marked by international recognitions, among them the appointment of World Heritage Site that can as well be interpreted as a strategy to connect the past with the present. As in the case of the Wall of Lugo:

Lugo, located on a hill, is surrounded by Roman walls, which reach ten to twelve meters in height in some stretches. Few cities in the world can be proud of such fortifications, all the more so that in Lugo they are complete and practically intact, justifying having been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO (proper translation from Rufin, 2013, p. 183)

The French writer Rufin explains how the Roman historical centre of Lugo is the location for a Feast celebrating each year the Roman origins.

The Churches and refugios along the way were offered as places of shelter and lodging, advice and help (…). The mountains were extraordinary. Cowbells rang out, their music dancing though the trees. From traveler far away conversations echoed in Danish, French, Spanish and German. Along the path were the yellow arrows, sometimes crudely painted on the grass and rocks (MacLaine, 2000, pp. 32-33).

Describing the pilgrimage is a countless listing of cultural assets, as for instance bridges. Obviously, the Way is rich of them as they connect and make walking possible. The bridge symbolizes the opening of the passage to another life, since it unites the earthly and the divine. According to the popular imagination, when the pilgrims died, they used to take coins with them to pay for the next life. These historical remains, which have undertaken a different process of requalification among the Spanish Autonomous Communities, cross rivers and are a common reference in the travel diaries: “The Camino outside León crossed a bridge over the river Bernesga” (MacLaine, 2000, pp. 162). The bridge is part of the pilgrimage imaginary, and even authors recognize that this architectural element is a proper symbol of the Way. Somehow, it symbolizes two connecting worlds.

They tell us that, in the eleventh century, the queen had the bridge made to facilitate the pilgrimages, thus helping the pilgrims! That beautiful romantic bridge with its beautiful stone arches was the postcard of the city and one of the great symbols of the Way (proper translation from Fadel, 2014, p. 170).

Fig. 3. Bridges. Courtesy of Dryden. Reproduction authorized.

Heritage is engaged in the construction, continuity and persistence of collective identity and symbolic domains (Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge, 2000; Castro Fernández, 2007). It is the result of the interrelations of a historical, artistic and architectural identity of the territory of reference; it is related to the environment and changes as circumstances change.

According to legend, this route has been considered a way of initiation from the Celts in pre-Christian times. Veins of sap in the earth and energy channels, the so-called ley lines, supposedly extend along the entire route, parallel to the Milky Way, to Santiago de Compostela (star field), and even to Finisterre (end of world). On the Spanish Atlantic coast, what was formerly known as the end of the world (proper translation from Kerkeling, 2016, p. 25).

Culture inevitably also reminds of intangible legacy that among the pages of the travel diaries is mainly related to historical anecdotes, myths and legends, alternating with descriptions and manifestations of personal feelings, thus giving a more complete picture of the context of reference. Although its intention is to inform the reader, this immersion in the medieval past reinforces travellers’ magical feelings. The literary techniques in these occasions are aimed at producing a feeling of empathy with the reader.

At Roncesvalles two great traditions meet: that of the pilgrimage and that of the history and legend of Charlemagne. It was considered one of the earliest of the pilgrims’ welcoming places and was funded down through the centuries by endowments from people of importance and wealth throughout Europe (MacLaine, 2000, p. 36).

5. Results

The content of travel diaries expresses a more or less emotional involvement which affects the resulting representations. Travel diaries inform about the many features of the Way; there are stages of beauties and wild nature and paths without charm following the line of the motorway. By means of these descriptions, new information is introduced, such as in the case of Rufin (2013) who states that The Way responds to different emotional demands and interprets various emotional processes. As a matter of fact, silence and immensity enhance imagination and flux of thoughts that fill the pages of the travel diaries.

The cultural representations of The Way focus in the first place on highlighting the landscapes that the pilgrims see, appreciate and contemplate; it results from a “stratification” of values and beliefs, meanings and values, as the landscape is also a heritage that testifies to the values of the past (Collignon, 1999: 108). In this way, heritage represents the time that passes, its lasting physical traces preserve testimony and serves as a bridge between the past and the future (Ballart Hernández and Juan i Tresserras, 2007). In the case of The Way, it testifies the efforts done to bring Europe together, the movements of people involved in the interchange of cultures and knowledge with the intention to get peoples closer, apart from the most widely known “religious mission”.

The pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela is one of the arias of madness of the European opera, a gigantic round-trip migration, a movement of millions of pedestrians, an endless stream of pilgrims from all the lands of Christianity recognizable by the Jacobean shell, which was received at Mont St. Michel in Tours, Vézelay, Puy and Arles and directed through the Pyrenees on the way to Santiago. What this contained of religious ferveur, political meaning, social, economic and artistic development can hardly be imagined. An army was passing through for centuries, constantly, in a Europe where foot was the measure (proper translation from Nooteboom, 2006, p. 206).

The position expressed by Nooteboom is close to the one of the French author J.C. Rufin (2013), who clearly exemplifies the feelings of pilgrims along the Route, in fact in his opinion: “the pilgrimage offers the unique possibility not only to rediscover the vestiges of the vanished world of triumphant Christianity, but also to have the experience of what it was ” (Proper translation from Rufin, 2013, p. 130). Once again, authors and pilgrims are informing about the political role played by The Way for the European continent. Walking along the itinerary (not just the religious route) was an occasion to strengthen the relationships among the different countries, thus contributing to construct a European identity.

The material heritage that since centuries connotes and properly “identifies” The Way and the European history reminds of the primordial function of The Way. Sanctuaries, churches and monasteries are not only religious buildings, they are also symbols of a great past during which The Way was the itinerary connecting the West and the East of Europe. Rufin (2013) believes that nothing has changed since then, and this means that The Way is still the symbol of the European identity. Undoubtedly, it is true because its charm and the uniqueness remind us that the First European Cultural Route did not declined, rather it is being magnified thanks to the “work” of pilgrims who contribute to its fame writing and publishing travel diaries, among others forms of contemporary productions.

From his point of view, walking The Way is not just a physical and spiritual activity, but it also a didactical and educational exercise, because it enables to learn and enjoy the European legacy that cultural heritage personifies. Its permanence is an added value for The Way and contributed to its increasing success; in fact, as travel diaries confirm, pilgrimage is still a movement of people and ideas, of values and cultures. These factors are literary translated in the pages of the contemporary travel literature, thus reinforcing the image of the route as a channel of communication for cultural, social, artistic and literary exchanges. In several passages, we can appreciate the direct involvement in the landscape of The Way to understand the Christian fabric with which Europe was so long involved (Rufin, 2013). In other words, the historical European identity “speaks” about itself; medieval Christian values are still embodied in its material heritage and participate, somehow, in the introspective experience of The Way. Also S. MacLaine recognizes that “in every village I was awed by the opulent richness of churches” (MacLaine, 2000, p. 159). According to John Ruskin “architecture is the only means we have to keep alive a link with the past to which we owe our identity, and which is constitutive of our being” (1989: 37). Likewise, architecture and, in general, heritage tell us about our past (Ruskin, 1989; Leontidou, 1993). If we know “listen to these voices” we could establish a dialogue between our present and the past that produced it (Ballart Hernández, 1997) and rediscover the original identity.

Heritage and Culture along The Way support the creation of a discourse in the territory and the artistic language that is adopted becomes a code of the same. The relationships between Heritage, Power and Identity go through a complexity of images and a plurality of possible interpretations; all of them undergo a selective process.

Heritage and cultural sites of The Way that pilgrims mention and describe in their travel diaries or in general, in their books, are useful for a spatial representation leading to “mental maps”. As a matter of fact, their geographical information situates the reader while following the experiences of the author; it is another strategy to make sense of their place in the world (Tally, 2013, p. 29). So, assuming its comparison to “representation and image”, the heritage of The Way of the literary production contributes to the creation of an image of Santiago and The Way reinforces a political discourse.

6. Conclusions

Heritage is an indisputable feature of The Way, supported by the strict relationship between territorial history and history of art, which maintain alive the medieval past, the “Golden Age” of the Pilgrimages. The spatial representations of these travel diaries are extremely valuable, because their critical approach reveals another form of aesthetic sensibility that their authors employ to reach impressive and suggestive representations. Thus, each creator is loading the space of The Way with his or her poetics, that is, his or her personal discourse according to which some aspects are prioritized over others, although closing the eyes and following the literal stream, we are indeed able to follow the route of the author thanks to cultural and natural well-known references. These literal and cultural maps orient the reader not only in the present, but it also “literature helps readers get a sense of the worlds in which others have lived, currently live, or will live in times to come” (Tally, 2013, p. 2).

The detailed descriptions of (material and immaterial) cultural heritage along The Way demonstrate that the space is similar to the main character. Thus, the creative writing of the pilgrims-authors is somehow defined and determined by the spatial determinants and history, that in the case of The Way is “personified in the cultural heritage”. Literary analysis addressing such a meaningful space as the one of The Way is a methodological exercise that helps to understand its changes. Considering literature as a new formula for understanding the lived spatial reality, capable of capturing human attention, creating, interpreting different representations might reveal the permanence of past values.

The intertextual analysis confirms a kind of awareness about cultural and heritage sites, evoking the past as a strategy to locate the reader. In fact, referring to cultural sites might be a strategy to create empathy between the author and the reader. This objective is also reached by means of a literary geo-poetics, in that pilgrims follow the emotional stream of memories. Spirituality enhances geo-poetic descriptions, since it strengthens relationships with the environment. Evidently, heritage can become an economic and political resource. Its cultural value lies in the meaning that is recognized in terms of the relationships between the immaterial values ??of the past and the interpretations of the present (Pereiro, 2003), since it is the individual that includes it within a given discourse. In conclusion, European heritage is a relevant and operative concept that imbues the perception and representation of the Space of The Way.


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