|mise à jour le 16 janvier, 2009||survol du site||Page précédente||Accueil|
No pilgrim to Compostela can be unaware of the existence
of a document which, since the Middle Ages, is supposed to have been the route companion
of his predecessors, the Pilgrim's Guide.
It is the last Book of the XIIth-century manuscript
known under the name of Codex Calixtinus, preserved in the
cathedral of Compostela. The Codex Calixtinus was published in full for the first time
in French by Bernard Gicquel in June 2003 *** .
The four routes, from a list of shrines to maps
This Book begins with the words: "There are four routes which, leading to Saint James, unite into one at Puente la Reina ... " ; these routes are defined by the names of the towns or shrines which they traverse:
Montpellier, Toulouse, le
From the first time it was known, it has been used to
trace pilgrim routes by linking the shrines that it cites. One of the first maps we know of
was traced for Aquitaine by Alexandre Nicolaï who nevertheless wrote
in 1897 in Monsieur saint Jacques de Compostela :
« as regards the routes of Saint James it would perhaps be idle
to seek to trace further the network in the future … it
would be without much interest for one would only be redrawing the
network of communications of the Middle Ages ».
However, after him, many were those who traced the roads
and still trace them today ...
The fake real map of 1648
Around 1975, an editor drew a very attractive map inspired by the works of de La Coste-Messelière. He astutely dated it 1648 and put it on sale in the bookshops of all the national museums in France and even in Spain. Its esthetic value ensured that it would also find the favour of buyers.
Starting in 1960, René de La Coste-Messelière
ensured the promotion of the Pilgrim's Guide by devoting dozens
of articles to it. Inspired by the foregoing maps, he designed another,
which he completed
by placing a kyrielle of hospitals, chaplaincies, etc,
all the charitable establishments dedicated to Saint James
and even, carried away in his élan, all those which mention
having received pilgrims. He was the originator
of the placing of a plaque at the foot of the tour Saint-Jacques
in Paris, a tower which he defined as «the first
waymark fifty-eight metres high, marking the departure point
for Compostela». The first yellow arrow waymark,
soon followed by millions of others, more numerous than
pilgrims. Ignoring the fact that the Guide was unknown
in France in the Middle Ages, the media ended up imposing these
towns as gathering points at the head of routes represented as historic.
After 1970 the routes were traced and waymarked for walkers,
at the instigation of the CNSGR (Comité National
des Sentiers de Grande Randonnée, which became the FFRP, Fédération
de la Randonnée Pédestre) making reference to pilgrim routes
such as they could have been deduced from the Guide. In
the absence of precise indications in this and in imitation of what had been
done by René de La Coste-Messelière, everything which carried
the name Saint-Jacques or which had some kind of pilgrim symbol (such as
was considered as an indicator of a route to Compostela. The first "Saint-Jacques"
traced was that starting from Le Puy-en-Velay. It was followed a dozen years
later by that of Arles. From the 1980s, numerous associations
were created with the goal of serving pilgrims by tracing and waymarking
routes. This notable activity of associations continued into 2004.
From symbolic route to waymarked paths
In 1984, "taking into account the existence, in several countries, of associations dedicated to
making pilgrimage routes better known",
the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe "recognises their historical importance
and particularly that of the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Route" and "recommended the Council of Ministers draw inspiration from the example of the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Route as a reference point for similar action with other pilgrimage routes".
Continuing on from the recommendation of 1984, the solemn declaration of Compostela of 1987 proclaiming the "first European Cultural Route" is a model of the mixing up of genres.
« Cultural identity is, today as yesterday, the fruit of
the existence of a European space loaded with collective memory and
traversed by roads which overcome distance, frontiers and
This represents an inability to define a policy adapted to a complex
reality and divergent objectives.
The current evolution of the European Institute of Cultural Routes into a technical tourist agency with everything aimed at the profit of the Greater Region centred on Luxembourg demonstrates this.
Whole sections of these routes are now classified as World Heritage Sites, on the grounds that they are historical. This official recognition is a modern manifestation of entirely medieval behaviour, as a myth becomes a reality. In fact, there is no evidence that either the four routes or their extensions ever saw more pilgrim traffic than any others. Of course, Vézelay, Tours, Arles or Le Puy, saw the convergence, on certain dates, of crowds of pilgrims come to honour Mary Magdalene, St Martin, St Trophime or St Cesarius, a marvellous Black Madonna. But history has so far found no evidence of large departures for Compostela from these towns. Looking at the routes, Europe has forgotten the very real pilgrims who actually used them. It has set up a substantial study leading to a database on their use by pilgrims to Santiago of Galicia. It has left its mark in a confused way on any number of roads that have nothing to do with Compostela.
Why this Guide ?
There remains the question why this Guide was ever created, for, even if it was never widely distributed, even if it remained in the archives of the cathedral in Compostela, the document does actually exist, and is perfectly authentic. An answer can be found in the Chronicle of Alfonso VII, king of Castilla and Galicia, written soon after his death, at the time of a very contentious succession (his son Sancho III succeeded him in 1157 but died in 1158, leaving the throne to his 3-year-old son Alfonso VIII). This chronicle describes him as «the head of the Empire … Following on from Charles (Charlemagne), he ressembles him. They were equals by race, identical in force of arms». A list is given of the places and noblemen in Aquitaine who had agreed to recognise him as emperor. It recalls how Alfonso invited noblemen originating from «all Gascony and all the regions which extend to the Rhone, as well as Guillaume de Montpellier… and those from Poitou in large numbers» to join him in «extending the frontiers of his kingdom from the shores of the Ocean, that is to say from the rock of Saint James, to the course of the Rhône». So the emperor does not present himself as a conqueror but as a pole of attraction, whilst recalling that Saint James is patron of his empire. Now, the geographical area thus evoked coincides with the map drawn in the Guide, an area of which the frontiers are delimited by the four great shrines of Tours, Vézelay, Le Puy, Arles. Presented as departure points for Compostela, they in fact mark the outer limits of the Spanish influence that the partisans of the young Alfonso VIII were seeking to preserve. The proposed routes are thus nothing but indications, pinpoints of purely theoretical value.
Beyond the routes
Today, the routes have taken on new life, but every pilgrim should know that they too, just like Alfonso VII's vassals, can choose their own. In any case, the authors of the chansons de gestes suggested other routes, The Itinéraires de Bruges, written in Flanders in the XVth century, gave further ones. To these must be added those legendary ones taken by the Apostle when he evangelised the western world and which can be found here and there, such as the “footstep of Saint James” at Buxerolles, near Poitiers. When he became a pilgrim, the Apostle above all made his mark as a guide on the routes of the final great pilgrimage, the one that leads to Heaven, right at the end of the Milky Way, «chemin de Saint-Jacques» which finds there its only real significance. The terrestrial routes of the «pilgrimage of human life» are the image of these celestial routes, outside the waymarked paths. The pilgrims of Saint James who follow them, without necessarily being aware of it, are thus like the shadow of the departed for whom they intercede by their prayers or simply by their presence.
Traduction en français
La légende de Compostela
La légende de Compostela
La propriété intellectuelle du contenu de ce site est protégée par un dépôt à la Société des Gens de Lettres
|Page précédente||haut de page||Accueil|| |