8 weeks and counting

So the 7th of May can’t come quick enough. I’ve been secretly counting down since I came home from Burgos, but let’s keep that between us.

We are not yet into Camino season but already, the number receiving the Compostela in Santiago is rising. I wonder what May will be like. But this time I will walking a relatively quieter route. Just like last year.

This May will be a coast to coast Camino. I start my Camino in northern city of Ferrol on the eastern arm of the Camino Ingles. Two day of walking later, I travel to A Coruña from Betanzos. Both are known for their links to Ireland through the Camino de Santiago. From A Coruña, we (myself and my brother) walk to Finisterre via Santiago. This whole thing will probably be the hardest walk I’ve done in 3 or 4 years as I have been sticking to the well-worn ground of the Camino Frances for quite a while. So these 8 weeks are perfect to get in gear.

Aerial view of the Hercules´Tower in the coast of Coruña, Galicia, Spain.

I hope to be in A Coruña as early as I can, which leaves me with a little time to see the city and explore. And there are a few sites that I want to see. For example:

  • Torre de Hércules & the statue of Breogán
  • Paseo Marítimo
  • María Píta Square
  • Museo Domus
  • Castillo de San Antón
  • Manolo Paz’s Menhirs

After all that, I should have enough time to wash my clothes, pack my bag and get ready for the next day’s walking.

Medieval Irish pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela

If you are in Dublin, take a walk from the Liberties, past the Guinness Storehouse, past Thomas Street, keep walking until you see Christchurch Cathedral standing tall in front of you.

This is the Dublin Camino and the direction medieval pilgrims walked to board their ship bound for Spain. During your same walk, keep an eye out for the symbols of the Camino…arrows, shells, place names, is anything familiar?

Medieval pilgrims would walk to Dublin Docklands, gather, before taking the arduous journey to Santiago. One place in the Docklands, called Misery Hill, is what is left of a medieval hospital run by monks to assist pilgrims bound for Santiago. And this is where this Bernadette Cunningham’s book comes in.

I have only recently started to appreciate that pilgrims from Ireland made the long dangerous journey in the middle ages. So this book has opened my eyes. It probably ranks as one of the more important books on the Camino due to the amount of research and time that has been spent. I have written a review for Shamrocks and Shells and have reprinted it below.

Dr. Bernadette Cunningham (Four Court Press)

All of us who have walked any part of the Camino in Galicia will notice that there is a medieval feel to it, but some of you may have asked, have many Irish people been here in medieval times and if so, why did they go there?

Dr. Bernadette Cunningham’s “Medieval Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela” explains that from the 12th to the 16th centuries, the promotion of the Camino de Santiago was linked with the idea of penance, repentance, and indulgences. The shrine of St. James was first promoted by Archbishop Diego Gelmírez who got papal sanction to issue indulgences to pilgrims. Santiago de Compostela became on a par with the other big Christian pilgrimage cities of Rome and Jerusalem. Pilgrims from medieval Ireland almost certainly made the pilgrimage to Santiago in jubilee years, when the feast of St James (July 25th) fell on a Sunday and special indulgences could be earned.

For a sea-going nation like Ireland, the geographical position of Santiago de Compostela was a major element of its’ attraction for pilgrims. Part of the journey from Ireland always had to be made by sea and the key to understanding how they got there is to understand the trade routes that already existed – the regular merchant ships of the day were used by pilgrims.

In the 13th century, the first ships were Anglo-Norman bringing pilgrims from the South and East of Ireland and those people would have crossed to Bristol or Plymouth and looked for a ship before heading to Spain from there. The ships used in the 13th century were those used in trading fish, hides or wine and were not very large. The main departure points were Dublin, Drogheda, New Ross, and Waterford. The book provides detailed maps showing towns scattered all over Ireland, the routes to the southern ports, and the long sea voyage that some undertook to get to Santiago, by way of the port of A Coruña.

The statue of St. James in the Church of Santiago in A Coruna. (source: https://pilgrimpace.wordpress.com/tag/santiago-peregrino/)

The first named pilgrim was Richard de Burgh from Clonmel who went to Santiago in 1320. He probably sailed first from Clonmel over to England. Once across the English Channel in France, pilgrims generally used horses for transport until arrival in Santiago. Richard de Burgh is representative of the first pilgrims to be found from Ireland – they were wealthy Anglo-Norman townsmen or bishops with strong English connections.

By the 15th century, we find evidence from other parts of Ireland, from Gaelic lordships in the North and West of Ireland, heading to Santiago. Also, by the 15th century, direct transport in bigger ships along the Bay of Biscay became the norm. For those making a direct crossing to Iberia, the port of A Coruna was normally used. In the 15th century, merchant ships travelling on this route could carry between 100 and 200 passengers.

By the 15th century, it was not unusual for elite women from Gaelic Ireland to undertake long pilgrimages. One of the best-known was the journey taken to Santiago by Margaret O Carroll in 1445. Most pilgrims returned safely, however, there were several hazards which resulted in deaths while abroad, such as, the lack of clean water and fresh food on ship and storms at sea.

A Carrack – an example of a European merchant ship from the 15th century (source: http://www.angelfire.com/ga4/guilmartin.com/chapter3.html)

In the absence of pilgrimage, the scallop shell is one of these things that will endure through almost everything. Scallop shells are turning up in archaeological excavations throughout the country and all of these are documented in this book. So, we get a snapshot of pilgrimage from Kinsale, Fermanagh, Tuam to more recently the excavations in St. Thomas’ Abbey in Dublin.

Today, the creation of the Celtic Camino from A Coruña reminds us that in middle ages, the port of A Coruña was a major point of arrival for pilgrims from Ireland and other northern European countries.

Dr. Bernadette Cunningham has produced a significant book, as it gives us a fascinating insight into how and why men and women ventured from Ireland to Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages. A tremendous amount of research has been undertaken on the subject and this book is a must for anyone with a keen interest in the Camino de Santiago.

Bernadette Cunningham is author of Medieval Irish Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela (Four Courts Press, €17.95). A three-day conference on Ireland-Galicia links through the ages takes place in Santiago on May 9th-11th. See irishsettlement.ie

Checking in & future walks

Hello there. Just dropping in to say hi. While I don’t blame you if you don’t recognise me, my posts may be a bit more frequent now.

I haven’t been writing as often as I would like. The week goes by and before you know it, it is the weekend and I usually have plans most weekends. I long for sleep in! I might have to wait until my Camino before that, however.

I have just finished working on my side project Shamrocks and Shells for Camino Society Ireland. Let’s just say that I’m glad that it’s a quarterly ezine and not a monthly one. It takes a lot of work, but it is worth it. You can view it here.

Now to concentrate on my new Canon EOS camera, taking a few walks and me!…yes, me! Everyone needs time for themselves, don’t they?

My next walk will be on the 23rd of March when I walk from the Pro Cathedral in Dublin to Maynooth. It has recently been recognised as one of the suggested walks on the Celtic Camino, provided you can locate sellos. The Pro Cathedral and Maynooth College give them. It’s a fab walk along the Royal Canal and while you can bike it, I like to walk it. I will let you know how I get on.

9 weeks left!

Being in front of the screen

I’ve often thought of creating a YouTube channel providing helpful hints on the Camino de Santiago. YouTube is saturated with videos on the Camino, just type in the word and a long list of videos will appear in front of you. Some of them will be helpful, some will not but it is about filtering out the best and choosing the best content.

I find Beyond the Way very good, the same can be said for JohnRoyYHZ and Lindsey Cowie. There are many others in my helpful links.

I need a little practice myself though. But I suppose it gets easier over time. Maybe I’m better to stick to what I’m good at – writing. What do you think?

Weekend Watch #49 – A full Camino Frances

Some pilgrims like to walk the Camino Frances not knowing what is ahead of them. Maybe that is unwise. There are other pilgrims who plan every minute detail weeks in advance. Again, maybe this takes away from the mystery. I did a little of both when I first walked from St. Jean Pied de Port in 2014.

I had heard stories and hearsay that this would be a very difficult walk. I had pictures of pilgrims scaling mountains with ropes. Obviously, that isn’t the case. However, the first few hours is all up-hill. If you need proof of that, why don’t you flick through the start of this chap’s video. He has recorded his walk from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles from leaving the albergue in St. Jean to the arriving at the Abbey in the woods.

I can’t recall watching another video of this length and it sure may be of some help to those of you who are taking your first steps. The owner has gone on to record to rest of his Camino to Santiago. Just follow the links in YouTube. Enjoy..

Faultless Friday..

Ahh…another weekend…otro fin de semana.

I’m just home from town after, well…..I had better explain my day in the post. The day started early with the end in sight. Positivity. Fridays tend to start off well, they have a good vibe about them. Today was no exception. The office was encouraged to take part in “wear a jersey day” with all donations going to Alex’s Room. Unfortunately, I left my change at home but I wore my 2010-2011 United jersey to raise some awareness. It looks a shocker! I usually wear Camino gear when not in work.

The day chugged on and at 5pm, I ventured into town and Trinity Street – Cotswolds Outdoor to be exact. It’s a fantastic little store behind College Green that has everything for your outdoor need. An information talk on the Camino de Santiago was to start at 6pm and I wanted to offer some assistance. A good few people turned up, from those with no knowledge on the Camino, to those who had their flights booked to Santiago in September. It was fun listening and offering advice, whether it be about gear, or where to travel to.

Following the talk, a few of us took a walk to Drury Street and took a chance on Juanitos. “LA Soul Food” – is framed on the outside. The owner, from Brazil, served us up some smashing food – a mix of latin and asian styles. I’ll be back for more. And on the way home, we made one last stop to the famous Mulligans pub where I had ‘just the one’ before I left to take my train home. A long day, but one that has been good.

Weekend Watch #48 – Camino Portuguese with Drew Robinson

Drew Robinson is back on the Camino. Six years after he brought us the very popular “Camino de Santiago Documentary – A Journey of the Mind“, he returns to Spain via the Camino Portuguese.

This time around he would be joined by his wife and his two-year-old son. The first part of the journey takes us to Barcelos. Enjoy!