Thursday, July 3, 2008

Introduction to this blog

This blog records a pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James), made from St Jean Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of Spain, in May and early June 2008.  I had travelled from Sydney via New York where I visited one of my adult children.  Hence, the first blog post is from New York, on 28 April 2008.

Apart from this first post, the text of each post is as written on the Camino--the temptation to update them at journey's end was resisted. (I have had stronger temptations.) However, the photos were added at the end of the Camino, numbered and captioned.  They relate to the stage of the journey covered in the blog post to which they are attached.  

The posts are shown in reverse chronological order, that is, the most recent is first and the first last.  That seems scripturally appropriate although I doubt that scripture is the driver of that design.

The purpose of the blog, and an invitation to readers

The blog was principally written to describe for those whom I had left behind in Australia something of what I was seeing and doing, to share the experience more fully with them and to feel closer to them. Hence, the blog has a strongly descriptive character.  Writing this publicly available blog more than satisfied my instinct for exhibitionism and so the blog is less a personal reflection on the experience than a record of the journey itself. It is inevitably only part of the story and experience.  If anyone reading this blog is interested in learning more, especially if they are planning to make the Camino, I am happy to respond to their queries by email or the Comment facility on this blog. 

I should add that I made the Camino alone in the sense that I did not set out in company with any other person.  However, it will be apparent from the blog below that I was never alone. The Camino Frances especially can be an intensely communal experience as well as a meditative one. That was my experience of the Way of Saint James.

Camino resources

Online resources

There are many online resources available on the Camino Frances and the other Camino routes to Santiago de Compostela.  The following are some that I found especially valuable.

The Confraternity of Saint James (UK): 

The Pilgrim Forum hosted on the CSJ website but independently moderated:

The website associated with the Pilgrim Forum above:

A valuable collection of satellite etc maps of the Camino routes:

Caminolinks (a useful collection of sites):


Books of value on the Camino

There are many books of great value in preparing for the Camino and reflecting upon it afterwards.  I recommend the following.

John Brierley, A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago (Findhorn Press, 2008) (a valuable guidebook that I carried with me on the Camino)

William Bisset (ed), Pilgrim Guides to Spain 1, Camino Frances (Confraternity of Saint James, published annually) (a valuable nuts and bolts guide)

Alison Raju, The Way of Saint James (Cicerone Press, current edition) 

David M Gitlitz & Linda Kay Davidson, The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (St Martin's Press, 2000) (the subtitle is a fair description of a comprehensive, well-written work covering history, art, architecture etc )

William Melczer, The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela (Ithaca Press, 1993) (a translation of Book Five of the C12 Liber Sancti Jacobi, the first guidebook to the Camino; Melczer has added an excellent introduction on the history of the Camino and the medieval pilgrims who made it)

Jonathan Sumption, The Age of Pilgrimage: The Medieval Journey to God (Hidden Spring, 2003, reprinting his Pilgrimage first published by Faber and Faber in 1975) (looks at the meaning and purposes of Christian pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, to Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela and Canterbury)

Joyce Ruff, Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lesson from the Camino (Orbis Books, 2005) (an American nun, a well-known spiritual writer, reflects on her pilgrimage experience)

Tony Kevin, Walking the Camino: A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago (Scribe, 2007) (an account of a pilgrimage made from Granada in the south on the Via Mozarabe and Via de la Plata)

Roads to Santiago: A Spiritual Companion: Twenty-Five Pilgrims Share Their Journeys (Confraternity of Saint James and Redemptorist Publications, 2008) (a heavily illustrated  booklet of 36 pages only that captures briefly some individual pilgrim experiences)