So, what is the origin of the mythical Way of Santiago ?.
History is the one who gives us the first answer: its origin is the discovery of the Sepulcher Jacobeo in the high Middle Ages, in lands of Galicia. From here we can doubt the identity of remains that are venerated there, but this finding is the only credible generator of the Camino de Santiago.
Some theorize a much earlier origin, the result of supposed pre-Christian pagan antecedents in the Galician coasts. The existence of pre-Christian pagan cults is undeniable, it can almost be said that it is obvious, because the existence of religious cults are consubstantial to man and therefore pre-Christ, but what can not be given for certainty is that a chronologically anterior cult is antecedent of another later.
The syncretism between pagan cults and Christianity, a phenomenon of all cultures and epochs of history, is undeniable. Any culture that imposes itself on another absorbs elements of the former, and the phenomenon is not an annihilating imposition, as is sometimes blamed on christianity, but is a spontaneous process resulting from a concomitance of cults and ingrained customs that popular desire mixes and merges as a single one so that one submits to the other, but underlies within it, sometimes in a very recognizable way
But this is not the case of the Camino de Santiago, which is not a product of cultural syncretism, but its beginning is well established as a socio-cultural phenomenon of identity well contrasted by various authors. And it is not a matter of denying the existence of precedents, but of establishing an origin and, therefore, of specifying whether an archaic fact is the cause of a later event or is only chronologically anterior. Many things have existed before in the long journey of space and time of the Way of Santiago, but it is well identifiable when a phenomenon is a cultural subsidiary of a previous one, or when it is established as a peculiar event with its own idiosyncrasy. If we look for relations of everything with everything, then everything begins in the Paleolithic, where the first human migrations arise, perhaps even before, with the migrations of the first hominids. But if we analyze with a minimum of property, we can only accept the existence of the Way of Santiago with the medieval emergence of the city of Compostela around the discovery of the Jacobean sepulcher in the first third of the ninth century. The Camino de Santiago emerges and is oriented towards a place, towards a character and towards a meaning, not towards something that was once a thing and from one moment becomes another.
The analysis of the hypotheses that propose pagan antecedents like origin of the Way of Santiago has little foundation (zero in my opinion) and often they settle in esoteric approaches and pseudoscientific sensationalism, sometimes with added editorial interests and nationalistic wants, endeavored to recreate the Own and exclusive roots of a people, the more distant in time and more influential in current aspects, the better. The aforementioned Celtic cults of these theories are but local cults with reach in a certain geographic surroundings, but they are not peregrinating cults; Much less across the European continent by paths then nonexistent.
Without denying the syncretism of other cases, the Camino de Santiago is not the Christianization of preexisting pagan cults in an impossible jump of many centuries. And the supposed ancestral road to the Finisterre, if it ever existed, is not a reconverted antecedent of the Way of Santiago, but the prolongation of the pilgrimage to the Finisterra is a consequence of the pilgrimage to Compostela, including the burning of clothes, a rite already Was made in the sixteenth century (with indications of coming from much earlier), on the roofs of the cathedral, on the so-called cross two rags, with a stone incinerator where the rite of completion of the pilgrimage was made burning the old clothes as Physical and spiritual renewal. It was not a pagan rite but a Christian rite, documented from the sixteenth century onwards, but it was a very ancient rite, in which the cathedral chapter provided new clothes for the pilgrims. When this rite disappears, it flourishes modernly in Finisterre as a romantic and attractive gesture in which it was wanted to see what never was, since the burning in the Finisterre of today is a recent phenomenon that lacks of the antiquity and the precursor value and pagan that some want to give him. It is even a hoax that can be seen in current broadcast programs and guides for unwary tourists. For example, a guide published in Munich in 2010 entices its readers with these words: «Among the pilgrims, until today has been the tradition, described in medieval stories, of burning near the lighthouse the clothes – or part of it – that Have led during the Camino. If the ritual is performed in the right order – bath in the sea, burning clothes, watching the sunset – this promises that the next morning we will wake up being new people.
But let us return to the question of the origin of the Way which, after these evaluations, can then be rephrased in these terms: Whose remains are they venerated in Compostela? Is it probable that they are those of the Apostle James?
The discovery of the Jacobean burial occurs in the first third of the ninth century. But not in the year 813 that is mentioned in the first sources and that still today is mentioned as a figure that is part of the legend itself, looking without doubt the prestige of the emblematic figure of Charlemagne who supposedly had a dream in which the apostle Santiago reveals that at the end of the Milky Way, in Galicia lands, his tomb is found. Charlemagne died on January 28, 814, and therefore 813 is a historical impossibility, for at that time the Bishop Teodomiro, who was the protagonist of the discovery, was still not governed in the diocese of Iria, but his predecessor Quendulfo II, who still holds the position September 1, 818, the date on which Tumbo A of the monastery of Sobrado keeps the last document with the signature of this bishop, as a clear indication that he must have died not long after. Teodomiro could not reach the bishopric of Iria before 819, which is the year proposed as the beginning of his bishopric, and therefore the discovery of what will be the compostela tomb can not be earlier than that date.
The sepulchral discovery had to take place between the years 820 and 830, probably in 829, date of the first local writing that cites that the discovery was in the days of Teodomiro, bishop of Iria, and under the reign of Alfonso II the Casto, although the writings They do not make a description of the circumstances of the relics’ finding. The news generated great impact throughout Europe and from this date emerges the embryo of what will be the city of Compostela and immediately begins the arrival of pilgrims and therefore the phenomenon of pilgrimage through a path that fluctuates with the progress of The Reconquest for the upper third of the Iberian peninsula. But shortly afterwards the Camino becomes an objective reality in which the route of the French Way, on which bridges, monasteries and hospitals are created to help the pilgrim, is fixed and protected by royal edicts that seek to repopulate, colonize and develop the lands crossed by the Jacobean route.
The papal bestowal of the Jubilee reinforces it as a Christian cultural expression of Europe. It is attributed to Goethe to say that Europe was born from pilgrimage to Compostela and that Christianity is its mother tongue, which independently of the authorship of this proposal, explains well that the Pope Juan Pablo II said to Europe in 1982 from Compostela: «It finds again . Be yourself. Discover your origins. Aviva your roots … «. Well, the Jacobean Tradition is one of these roots, perhaps the most important and influential in Europe, and deserves an analysis of its content.