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The Sword & the Staff

The Sword & the Staff

Gail Turner, art historian, artist and lecturer, gave an illustrated lecture  on ‘The Sword & the Staff’ about the beginning of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.  St. James, one of the 12 disciples, was beheaded in Jerusalem in 44 AD.  His body was taken by boat to north-west Spain by two followers, buried and rediscovered in 813.  The Christians used St. James as a symbol of the Reconquista, the reconquest of Spain from the Moors between 720 and 1492.  The presence of the body of St. James at Santiago de Compostella, meant that it became an important pilgrimage centre, especially from the 12th Century onwards and still attacts nearly 300,000 pilgrims a year.

From the 11th Century onwards, Cluniac monks were invited to set up hostels and other facilities along the route for pilgrims.  Cities, monasteries, churches and cathedrals were built along the route through beautiful countryside.  A priest from Poitou wrote the first guidebook in the 11th Century.  In cities, towns and villages along the route, there are churches dedicated to St. James.  The route passes through the Rioja wine region, where at Irache, you can obtain red wine from one tap next to a water tap.