This Week in Pilgrimage: A World Heritage Site in Danger?


[Scarecrow]

Photo of the Week
Karin took this photo took this photo on the Camino Portugés in May 2008. She writes: 'We had so much rain! According to the newspapers on arriving in Santiago de Compotela, as much rain in that one month as the entire previous year! SO ... even the scarecrows wear raincoats! Or as we discovered, the rain in Spain does NOT fall mainly on the plain!'
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It’s been a great week in pilgrimage for me. I finally have almost all my plane tickets, got a wonderful sleeping bag and am almost committed to my boots.

But of course that’s not quite all that’s happened in the world of walking pilgrimages this week.

The usual disclaimer: I’ve done the best I can to ensure accuracy, but a lot of this information comes from Spanish sites and my Spanish is a long way from perfect.

Yesa Reservoir Update

The city council of Artieda, the Asociación Río Aragón Contra el Recrecimiento de Yesa (Aragón River Association Against the Regrowth of Yesa), and the organization Apudepa are planning to appeal the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Aragón ruling that the regrowth of the Yesa dam is compatible with the preservation of the Camino Aragonés route of the Camino de Santiago.

If the ruling is upheld, then as I understand it, about twenty kilometres of the Camino Aragonés route will be changed, and I believe several heritage sites will be flooded, or interfered with in some other way.

It seems the ruling was justified on the grounds that the Camino no longer follows the exact route that the government of Aragón laid out in 1993, the year the route became a World Heritage Site.

The Asociación Río Aragón says that the judge was “bowing to political decisions.” The association is not mincing words. In a statement, it accuses Jaime Vicente, the Aragonese director general de Patrimonio, of putting (in my translation) “his political career ahead of the ethical commitments that should go along with a job like his.” It calls the Yesa reservoir “a systematic attack on the route of the Camino de Santiago.”

The Camino Francés as a World Heritage Site in Danger?

The Yesa reservoir discussion brings me to something I’ve been reluctant to discuss because I don’t understand all the nuances and don’t have time to investigate right now—but it keeps coming up in Yesa discussions.

In December 2011, more than eighty Camino associations signed the Manifesto de Santiago, which asks UNESCO to add the Camino Francés to its list of World Heritage in Danger. The Yesa reservoir is one of the reasons behind the request. It seems that for UNESCO, the Camino Aragonés is considered a branch of the Camino Francés.

Among other problems the organizations cite are the industrial zone that crosses the Camino at Coruña O Pino and the wind farm at Triacastela.

The request seems to be an attempt to shame the Spanish government into taking better care of the Camino de Santiago.

Pilgrimage Bits and Pieces

  • A dispute over the route of the Camino Sanabrés (which connects the Vía de la Plata directly with Santiago) is being settled. It seems there were two options out of San Cristovo de Cea: the original route went through the town of Piñor, while a variant led pilgrims to the Monastery of Oseira. During the Holy Year, an innkeeper from Piñor kept changing the signage so it only pointed to Piñor, leading to confused pilgrims who had intended to visit the monastery but instead found themselves in Piñor. It sounds like now the the Xunta de Galicia is going to way mark both routes. The official route will pass through Piñor, and the Monastery of Oseira can be visited by way of an 18-kilometre detour. Informational signs will explain the two routes.
  • For cycling pilgrims, Caminosantiago reports that the bike shop in Puente la Reina has closed due to the owner’s retirement, leaving no bike shops between Pamplona and Estella.
  • Caminosantiago also points out that there is an error in the basic map in the Spanish credenciales. The map shows the Vía de la Plata passing through Gerena and El Ronquillo, when in fact it doesn’t go through either of those towns.
  • There will be a three-day Catholic group pilgrimage to Chartres starting June 10, 2011 with a bus trip from England. Learn more or register on the Catholicism Pure and Simple blog. (via Rebekah Scott)
  • The Xunta de Galicia has recognized the Camino de Invierno/Camino del Sur (which connects the Camino Francés with the Camino Sanabrés) as being of cultural and historical interest. The Asociación Camiños a Santiago pola Ribeira Sacra is still working to make the route an official pilgrimage route. Its one hundred members are also trying to way mark the Camino de Invierno better, persuade municipalities to keep it clean, and promote it.
  • The refugio of Muslera, on the Camino del Norte, re-opened last Saturday.
  • The Ministry of Culture recently gave Castilla y León €45,000 for the “promotion and consolidation of the Vía de la Plata as a cultural itinerary.” The money will go toward various architectural and way marking projects.
  • Aragonese author Javier Sierra’s new thriller El ángel perdido mixes history and magic. One of the main characters is a woman who is working on restoring the Pórtico de la Gloria on the Santiago cathedral. The story soon leaves Santiago de Compostela, but the author picked Santiago as a setting because (if I understand this correctly) it’s a place people come to see beyond the here-and-now.
  • The Asociación Tradiciones Esquinas Añoranza of Los Monegros (this means something about nostalgic traditions—I wonder if it’s something like a Society for Creative Anachronism)—is organizing a pilgrim caravan with six to eight carriages and several riders. They will travel from Sariñena (near Zaragoza) to Santiago this coming July. They’ll be travelling with support vehicles, and it sounds like they’ll have to skip a few stages. The whole trip—including the purchase of carriages, shoeing of horses, food for people and animals, trailer rental costs, and more—Is going to cost around €25,800, so they’re getting sponsors, and will have advertising on the roofs of the carriages. (Which will rather spoil the medieval look of the thing, I would think. Oh, well.)
  • An ugly development of some kind near the Camino del Norte in Reicastro has been given the green light, but it will be lined with trees so as not to visually affect the Camino.
  • Organizers of a new project, Acogida Christiana en el Camino (ACC, or Christian Welcome on the Camino) will be holding a weekend conference, starting on February 18 in Ponferrada. The project aims to help interested hospitaleros give the welcome already offered to pilgrims “a spiritual dimension, and to [help bring pilgrims] to a real encounter with Jesus Christ.”
  • El País has a great “tour” of Santiago with wonderful bits of history and legend. You can get the gist of it using an internet translator.
  • I just learned that you can take tours of the Santiago cathedral roofs, where pilgrims used to burn their clothes after walking to Santiago. I’m definitely going to do that when I’m there.
  • The Spanish movie Finisterrae (directed by Sergio Caballero), about two ghosts who walk the Camino de Santiago, recently won the Tiger Award—the highest honour given at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

Pilgrim Roads

Coming up next week: the history of early medieval Spain/al-Andalus as I currently understand it, with, of course, a focus on the development of the pilgrimage to Santiago and the factors affecting it.

If you missed my post on musician/composer Oliver Schroer and photographer Peter Coffman and the art they created out of their Camino, do check it out. I’ve loved the story since I first heard it several years ago on the radio, and was (and am!) so excited to have a chance to tell it myself.

Ultreïa to all, and to all a wonderful weekend!

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Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 5:31 pm
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