Writing Elsewhere….and a piece of Camino History.

As I have mentioned in the past, I have been involved with Camino Society Ireland since April last. Until recently, I had been helping out in their information centre on St. James’s Street, on one Saturday per month. It is also open on Thursday and Friday! So I still do that and the centre re-opens for the new season at the start of March. I’m looking forward to getting back into the action again.

I’ve also lent my hand, so to speak, to writing articles for their website and I edit their quarterly ezine entitled Shamrocks and Shells for members. Much of my writing has been directly with the Camino Society rather than here, and that’s fine by me. If you want to get a taste of what I write about, why not drop over to their website on:

www.caminosociety.com/newsandevents

The last few months have been a hive of activity for the Camino Society. We have had a very successful photography contest, two very interesting events and a newly launched ezine. There is the first information day on February 17th in Dublin and the much anticipated Celtic Camino Festival in Westport, Co. Mayo in April (details on the website).

The Dublin Camino

One of the events that I have mentioned, and I have written about, that struck a chord for me was a talk given by Historian in Residence at Dublin City Council, Cathy Scuffil. The talk was about St. James, the Camino and the Dublin Connection. I’m going to post below what is on the Camino Society website.

To learn about this connection, we were told that we need to focus on one part of Dublin – from St. James’s Street to Trinity College. Not only is this part of Dublin popular for tourists, but if you look closely enough, you will see plenty of evidence of the Camino within this short distance. We were told that this route was taken by pilgrims as they assembled at St. James’s Gate, walked through the city, before embarking on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Lazar’s Hill – St James’s Hospital

800 years ago, Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin, founded the Hospital of Saint James, a hostel for pilgrims and the poor of Dublin, on present day Townsend Street, then known as Lazar’s Hill or Lazy Hill. It stood roughly where Hawkins House stands today, right beside the All Hallows Monastery, which later became Trinity College.

In medieval times, pilgrim ships destined for Santiago apparently docked alongside this Hospital, then sailed directly to the coast of Galicia, at Ferrol or A Coruña, from where the pilgrims made their way to Santiago overland. By the mid-13th century, some of these ships were carrying people with leprosy who were desperate for a miraculous cure.

A rather more downtrodden colony is said to have existed in what is today, Misery Hill. Sufferers lived in these monastic-type establishments not simply for the good of their health, but also as a form of perpetual quarantine. The only acceptable way to check out of the hospice was to perish. Another word for these quarantine stations was ‘Lazaretto’ (linked to Saint Lazarus) and it is from this that Townsend Street took its former name of Lazar Hill, sometimes shortened to ‘Lazy Hill’.

The scallop shell and water

The two things you associate with St James are the scallop shell and water, so even in the current tradition, those two things are replicated in ways that seem to commemorate the pilgrim.

For example, have you seen the street fountain on Lord Edward Street? It was installed in the 19th century and if you look closely, you will see the scallop shell motif at the top. Another example of something similar – the two holy water founts at the front of St Audoen’s Church on High Street. Both founts are large shell-like features and were brought back from South America in the 19th century.

Other examples include

– A baptismal font in St Audoen’s Church of Ireland church which contains the scallop shell on each side of its font.

– The Tailor’s Hall, Merchant Quay – Its fireplace contains no ornamentation except for a single shell.

– Hawkins House, Poolbeg Street – The Department for Health is located on the exact spot where the original St. James’s Hospital was located.

– The Fountain at James’s Street – It was a custom that funeral processions passing the fountain would circle it three times before carrying on to the cemetery at St James’s Church where Pearse Lyons Distillery is now. There are also two scallop shells on the Fountain, but we are not sure if the water is for drinking!

– St. James’s Gate – Perhaps, for many people, visiting St. James’s Gate is like a pilgrimage. With over 1.7 million people visiting in 2017, it is a great attraction and adds to the area.

– Pearse Lyons Distillery – The newest visitors’ attraction in the area which was the original Church of St. James.

– St. James’s Hospital – The Hospital’s logo contains a scallop shell.

These are all areas along our route that have an image of the scallop shell included.

Cathy has requested that if anyone sees an image of a scallop shell, whether it be on the end of a church pew, on an altar, in the Dublin area, particularly in the Liberties area, could you please contact her. You can contact Cathy on Twitter @DubHistorians or by email commemorations@dublicity.ie.

 

Looking Back – Camino Frances 2011 #6

“Santiago here I come, right back where I started from!”, we sang.

Yes, we were aware that the above was lifted from the Brian Friel classic play, “Philedephia, here I come!”, but there was a great sense of euphoria and happiness from us as we marched on to Compostela. Today was our last day and whatever niggling pain or blisters we had, it was replaced by relief. The more kilometres that passed by, the more built up the area became, and it wasn’t long before we saw Santiago Cathedral standing tall in front of us.

“Now what?” – we asked.

We giddily waited in line to collect our much-sought-after Compostelas, before catching the swinging of the botufumeiro at midday mass. Our comfortable Camino was over and we were to go home the following day. Some of our merry band were unsure if they would meet the Camino again, however I was secretly plotting my return for the following year. A seed was planted.

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Looking Back – Camino Frances 2011 #5

All six of us were coming close to the end of our comfortable Caminos. The below pictures were taken while we walked from Arzua to O Pedrouzo, twisting and turning between rural townland and villages. There were more animals spotted than people. There was also a great anticipation to reach Santiago, however, at the same time, we didn’t want this little holiday to end. More photos tomorrow, including some from Santiago.

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Looking Back – Camino Frances 2011 #4

Today finds our merry band of pampered peregrinos (including myself) stroll from Melide to Arzua. A short 15 km to our end point, however a stop off at Ribadiso for a picnic made the day that bit longer. There we pilgrim-watched as the queue for the xunta grew longer and longer. It was then that I realised that I wanted to walk the Camino carrying my pack and stay in albergues. Maybe, hotels just didn’t suit this 30-something Irishman. Closer we were to Santiago. More photos tomorrow.

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Looking Back – Camino Frances 2011 #3

Happy New Year folks! My first post of 2017 finds me wandering from Palas de Rei to Melide; a short hop and skip nowadays but a tough challenge back then! The scenery was enough to make me wish that I had a few more days left to stay on. More photos tomorrow!

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Looking Back – Camino Frances 2011 #2

Below are a number of photos from our stroll from Portomarin to Palas de Rei. I remember it being a very cloudy day and there were a number of showers, however, we were getting closer to Santiago! As you can see, the Xunta were working on the Camino in a number of areas at the time. And the distance markers were yet to be updated! However, I had the pleasure of visiting the Vilar de Donas church just off the Camino, which I would recommend. More photos tomorrow.

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Looking Back – Camino Frances 2011 #1

Ah 2011. I was younger, Spain was just another country…and the Camino?

The what now?

Yes, you heard me correctly. June 2011 was to be my first time on the Camino Frances and I walked with a merry bunch of folks from Dublin in aid of a great charity. Below are just a few photos from my first day as I wander from Sarria to Portomarin. More photos tomorrow.

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