Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Saint’s Relics, Cult, and Big Business...

I don´t think I am being inaccurate in saying that the cult of Santiago and pilgrimage to the Saint’s remains are just as important to the Xunta de Galicia today as they were to Archbishop Diego Gelmirez in the 11th and 12th century and later. This hasn’t been so, perhaps, for a couple of hundreds of years, but today The Camino, like it or not, is big business. A taxi driver said to me a year ago: “Pues, Galicia es de moda”: “Galicia is in fashion”, and I had to agree.

So how did this happen?

Cults didn’t just happen: they were made and the Way (or now Ways) to Compostela was (and is at the present time) one of them. That cult has been remade, with great success, today. Galicia needs St. James .

The idea of a pilgrimage to saints’ remains was taken very seriously in feudal Galicia. They were sources of the growth of towns, their income and prestige. It was in the interest of the town fathers (and in particular the bishops of these towns) to perpetuate devotion to certain shrines. Superstitiousness, very much dear to the Gallego heart anyway, was fostered by the church. It was a strong form of control and it worked very well. This is perhaps hard for us to accept today, but the remains of this are deeply embedded in the Camino de Santiago.

Tell anyone about Priscillian, especially if they are not Spanish, and there is every chance you will meet with a certain resentment if not a downright animosity as I have found to my sorrow. We like our myths, even today. But in Galicia, you will often meet with a knowing look. Instead of outright hostilility (read earlier blogs) I, and Pilgrimage to Heresy and its Spanish sister Peregrinos de la Herejia was welcomed in Galicia The heart of Priscillian lives on in the north of Spain, despite all.

1 comment:

  1. "So how did this happen?"

    Even more interesting is the WHY?

    WHY this Jakobus 'had' to go to the end of our then known world at Fisterra?
    Reading 'Paul, the poet of God' by Teixeira de Pascoaes answered that question.

    Succes with your 'excavations'!