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Does the so called "Camino del Norte" have anything to do with Santiago Apostol?

  • Thread starter Deleted member 80312
  • Start date
2020 Camino Guides
D

Deleted member 80312

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In Ivar's weekly bulletin of July 21, 2018, "Last Week's Most Popular Topics", I was intrigued by the topic
"Newbie question: Camino Frances vs Camino del Norte
Thread starter: sugargypsy, Start date Jul 15, 2018".
https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/newbie-question-camino-frances-vs-camino-del-norte.56719/

I myself have done the southern caminos 6 time, and am going to start my first Camino del Norte this coming August 21st. While preparing for it, I have purchased and read the three books commonly available now, as well as whatever I could find about it on the internet. The result so far has been a very negative view which I have formed of this trek, which is presented as "a pilgrimage road." It was so negative, that I was on the verge of cancelling my trip altogether. So I started reading the responses of experienced walkers who have already done both Caminos, to discover whether any of them might be of a similar mind to mine. These are two of the responses I have found:

Camino Chris Jul 15, 2018
"I'm glad I walked the Frances first, for its uniqueness, and a more "pilgrimage" spiritual feeling. I thought much of the terrain lovely. … The Norte is more difficult, but offers many beautiful views as a reward. It definitely has the feeling more of a hike."

trecile Jul 15, 2018
"I've walked the Frances twice, and am currently on the Norte. It is much more difficult, and I'm not sure that I would have developed my Camino addiction if I walked it first. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, and I'm enjoying it, but the Camino spirit doesn't seem as strong on this Camino. One indicator is that I see very few shells on backpacks here. I actually forgot to bring mine, and haven't seen any place to buy one. I think that's because so many of the little villages on the Frances survive almost solely because of the Camino, therefore it seems like there is a greater focus on the pilgrims."

My impressions, admittedly "sight unseen", are very much like the ones quoted above.
In none of my books is there any true treatment of this trek as a holy pilgrimage road dedicated to Santiago Apostol. For example, the "Village to Village Map Guide: Camino del Norte" has these few words to say about it:

"The Camino del Norte has rich historical significance as one of the oldest Caminos, reaching its zenith in the 9th and 10th century as the Muslim conquest of Spain was gaining ground northward, making the Frances too dangerous. The far north remained under Christian control, and the kingdom of Asturias, led by Alfonso II, remained one of the last bastions of control with its capital in Oviedo having its own famous relics of San Salvador. Pilgrims from all over Europe arrived by ship to the coast and made their way to Santiago without having to cross any major mountains. After the Reconquest of Spain in the llth century, the Frances boomed in popularity as Oviedo's influence waned and the royal court shifted to Leon."

As soon as they have done paying this lip-service to the sacred history of the route, the writers go on to discuss what, in their eyes, seem to be the main concerns of the walkers today: the services provided.

"Today the route is reasonably well marked, and the number and quality of pilgrim services continues to increase. There remain towns and stages with inadequate albergue beds to match demand in the higher seasons, but pensiones and hotels have stepped in to offer pilgrim rates. Coastal sections of the trail pass through touristy beach towns where private lodging can be pricy and full in high tourism season (July/August); many youth hostels cater more to surfers than to pilgrims. Because the Norte has many fewer pilgrims, the route also has had fewer improvements and utilizes paved surfaces more than the Frances (around 69% of the route). The upside of fewer walkers means more solitude and less overcrowding."

And indeed, in all three books that I have, the main topics are lodgings, food (the best pitnxos restaurants) and beeches to relax or surf on. Never a mention of Santiago or places dedicated to his worship. It is as if, as soon as the pilgrimage focus switched from the North to the Camino Frances in the 11th century, the saint's memory was forgotten there.

Forum member trecile explains: " I think that's because so many of the little villages on the Frances survive almost solely because of the Camino, therefore it seems like there is a greater focus on the pilgrims." I would add, that those villages do not only survive thanks to the Camino pilgrims, but were actually founded way back then in response to the needs of those people, providing shelter and sustenance, building churches to cater to their spiritual needs and hospitals to take care of the sick.

This was not the case in the North. As you go reading from book to book and from place to place, you realize that these were (and still are) places that were originally established as fishing posts, having nothing to do with the Camino or with Santiago. Some of them have developed into thriving cities, others have remained fishing posts and others have found a lucrative source of income by catering to vacationing tourists and to the hordes of surfers who visit the famous beaches every surfing season. No-one really gives a hoot about the few people who deem themselves "pilgrims".

In a desperate attempt to prove to myself that I would not be some gullible idiot who would be walking this commercial route out of the misconception that he was on a true Santiago pilgrimage, I decided to conduct a search in my sources for places that are still dedicated to Santiago, or somehow bear a relic of their function as pilgrimage accessories.

The only source I found to be of any help was an obscure publication which I found on the internet in PDF format. It is downloadable for free at https://tourism.euskadi.eus/contenidos/recurso_tecnico/aa30_folletos/en_def/folletos/2017/GUIA2017-LOSCAMINOSDELNORTE-ING-WEB.pdf (for the 2017 edition. I had the 2011 one)

It happens to having been mentioned on this forum back in 2012: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/printable-english-guides-for-the-northern-routes-to-santiago.12841/

The booklet I consulted was:
"The Northern Ways to Santiago
Northern Way, Primitive Way, Inland Way, Baztanés Way, Lebaniego Way"

- 2nd edition: August 2011
- Published by: Basque Government, Government of Cantabria, Government of the Principality of Asturias,
Regional Government of Galicia, Government of Navarre, Government of La Rioja.

It is delightful and instructive to read, because it does not bother about albergues and restaurants, but does its best to treat the Camino del Norte as a pilgrimage road and to show the affinity of some of its places to the worship of Santiago. I found 12 such places by searching for the word "Santiago" and I shall freely quote them.

1. The start of the Northern Way could not be more laden with symbolism: it sets off at the Santiago bridge (at Irun) crossing the River Bidasoa.

2. Hondarribia (old Irun): Leaving its old quarter, you will see the odd hint at the pilgrims’ Way: the 15th century Chapel of Santiagotxo (Ermita de Santiago), dedicated to Saint James the Apostle.

3. Zarautz: It is the Church of Santa María la Real that has most association with the Way to Santiago, being home to the sepulchre of an anonymous pilgrim who asked to be buried in this church in the 16th century.

4. Zumaia: The Santiago beach welcomes us.

5. There are few beginnings as stimulating as the departure from Markina-Xemein. Firstly, the idyllic village of Bolibar and later, a religious monument that is one of its kind in Biscay: The Collegiate Church of Cenarruza or Ziortza (14c) is located roughly two kilometers from the urban nucleus. It was an important enclave in the Route of Santiago de Compostela, and its influence extended beyond the comarca and surpassed the religious scope.

6. Munitibar-Arbatzegi: The Chapel of Santiago situated at the heights of the Aldaka district, is another reference to the Way of Saint James.

7. The Cathedral of Bilbao, dedicated to Saint James the Apostle and with its particular Pilgrims’ Gate for those on the Way to Santiago, is the finest example of the extent to which the pilgrims’ way has seeped into the city.

8. The most important temple of the small town of Santiago de Cudeyo is the Church of Santiago. It is a small church of a single nave with attached sacristy whose exterior highlights its belfry with two bodies (on the west side). A building in whose construction Late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements were used.
The church has two access points. The oldest is the door with a simple semicircular arch located on the facade that faces the road. The most recent one is the one on the north façade, the one under the colorful belfry. It was opened in the eighteenth century and has a flat vain.
If you want to see its main altarpiece of baroque style made during the first half of the eighteenth century you will have to go in prayer time because the temple is not open specifically for visits. The doubled Solomonic columns and the image of Santiago Matamoros that frames a three-lobed vain will probably draw your attention.
(https://www.minube.com/rincon/iglesia-de-santiago-a2203419 )

9. San Vicente de la Barquera: One of these gates (from 1210 city wall), opening south, is the Pilgrims’ Gate, recalling the walkers’ passage through here on their way to Santiago. Other testimonies were the hospital that was built in the 15th century next to the church, and the sculpture of Saint James that has been conserved in its interior.

10. Llanes (13c): It was well known as a stop along the route to Santiago, as evinced by the hospital that existed outside the city walls, of which only the chapel has survived. It has a rich heritage. In the Romanesque-Gothic Church of Santa María, the main portal has archivolts decorated with figures of Saint James and a series of pilgrims.

11. One of the traditional roads between Ribadesella/Ribeseya and Villaviciosa passed by the Church of Santiago at Gobiendes and in fact stopped at Gobiendes.

12. On the route to Gijon we will go through villages like Pion, with its Parish Church of Santiago, and Deva, with remains of a pre-Romanesque temple.

Since I am going to turn to the Camino Primitivo and end my trip at Oviedo, which is of great historical and cultural interest to me, I stopped my search here.

My findings, meager as they are, have somewhat improved my attitude, but I do not believe will induce me to hike this route another time, unless it proves to be really fabulous.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Perhaps I can respond simply to the title of your post rather than attempting a detailed point-by-point reply to your very long and complex post. Why describe the route as "so called"? Do you believe that there is any one single authority which can confer or withhold legitimacy for a route's title? Where does such a right belong? In my opinion if it is a route which leads to Santiago then it is a Camino. For the most part it is about as far north as it is practically possible to walk without getting your feet wet. Why is the title "Camino del Norte" problematic? It leads those who walk it to Santiago - the location of the shrine of the Apostle and the traditional focus and destination of pilgrims. What more does any route need to have to do with Santiago Apostol to be worthy of consideration?
 

Suzanne S.

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Camino Frances/Muxia/Fisterre (2017) Caminho Portuguese/Fisterre
(2019) Camino del Norte
A pilgrimage begins with intention of the mind and spirit. It occurs where ever one begins and takes a route to it's intended destination. It can be a historical trek, or it might be newly formed. My pilgrimage begins from my home in the US, which has no historical claim to Santiago.

I appreciate one's desire to walk a historical path. I appreciate one's desire to follow one's own. Either/both can, in my humble opinion, be a pilgrimage.
 

wisepilgrim

Guidebook Author
Camino(s) past & future
Many
To answer the subject question strictly seems rather obvious given that it ends in Santiago, and that really is what pilgrimage is all about. The path that you choose to get there is largely meaningless, you could forge your own path over the mountains however you wanted and it would still have as much to do about the Apostle as any other route.

If you are asking whether it has seen as many pilgrim footsteps over the centuries, then the answer remains yes. It saw many centuries of pilgrims before the Francés did, and the Camino Viejo had it's heyday too.

As an aside, what difference does it make if the locals give a hoot if you are a pilgrim?

I admit in answering this that I am very likely to not understand what deeper meaning you are trying to get at.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
There are two factors which make a particular route a pilgrimage route: 1) the surroundings, both physical and "emotional," which remind one that one is on a pilgrimage route and provide an atmosphere of support; and/or 2) the attitude of the pilgrim. The del Norte has all other sorts of things going on, seaports, industry, tourism, governments, universities, etc, which are not pilgrim-oriented. The Francese has much much less of this, and has greater numbers of pilgrims. If anyone seeks or is helped by factor 1), the del Norte is going to be much less of a pilgrim experience.

Yohram's post might be an example of the dangers of over-researching a camino. While this might be more necessary on one of the obscure long-distance routes (Aragonese, Castellano-Aragonese, Cami Catalan, Mozarabe etc), a little focus on the nuts and bolts and some historical background is all you really need. I have found in pilgrim training sessions that my greatest challenge is dispelling notions originating from reading too many impressionistic accounts.
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
The Norte? definitely a pilgrim route and walked by many of us as just that. Also the Primitivo, the original route, which the Frances joins at Melide (and it joins the Norte at Arzua).
Some of us have chosen these routes for our pilgrimage without ever walking the Frances and have had a rich and rewarding experience.
 

pelerine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte 2010, Primitivo 2013, Plata 2014 + 2015, Salvador 2016, Torres 2017, Portugues 2018, Mozarabe
Perhaps I can respond simply to the title of your post rather than attempting a detailed point-by-point reply to your very long and complex post. Why describe the route as "so called"? Do you believe that there is any one single authority which can confer or withhold legitimacy for a route's title? Where does such a right belong? In my opinion if it is a route which leads to Santiago then it is a Camino. For the most part it is about as far north as it is practically possible to walk without getting your feet wet. Why is the title "Camino del Norte" problematic? It leads those who walk it to Santiago - the location of the shrine of the Apostle and the traditional focus and destination of pilgrims. What more does any route need to have to do with Santiago Apostol to be worthy of consideration?
I walked from home on the north coast of Brittany down the French atlantic coast - MY camino - continued on the Norte - still MY camino - to Santiago. And then added the way to Finisterre. My camino, what I made it....
 

jungleboy

Nick
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (Spring '17)
Primitivo (Spring '18)
Madrid (April '19)
"The Camino del Norte has rich historical significance as one of the oldest Caminos, reaching its zenith in the 9th and 10th century as the Muslim conquest of Spain was gaining ground northward, making the Frances too dangerous."
I'm pretty sure the second half of this sentence is not accurate. The Muslim conquest of Hispania reached its greatest extent only seven years after the invasion, in 718, per Chapman (Spain During the Dark Ages), leaving only ‘narrow strips in the mountain regions of northern Spain’ under Christian control. Later Camino cities like Lugo and Astorga were taken in 714. Once the relics of Santiago were discovered the following century, the first caminos were the northern-most ones outside the Muslim-controlled areas (i.e. not the Francés). Subsequently, the Christian reconquest of Spain gained ground southward, not the other way around.

This map gives a good visual overview of the Muslim advance in the first eight years after the invasion.

Map of Islamic Conquest.png
 

TerryB

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte/Primitivo (April/May) 2009: Norte/Primitivo (parts) (April/May) 2010: Inglés (May) 2011: Primitivo (April/May) 2012: Norte / Camino de La Reina (April/May) 2013: Camino del Mar / Inglés (May/June) 2015
There are two factors which make a particular route a pilgrimage route: 1) the surroundings, both physical and "emotional," which remind one that one is on a pilgrimage route and provide an atmosphere of support; and/or 2) the attitude of the pilgrim.
The surroundings on much of the "Norte" give one a sense of an ancient pilgrim route. Certainly for me, far more than the later stages of the "Frances".
On the "Norte":The churches with scallop shell windows. Remnants of monasteries that had ancient pilgrim hospitals. Paved trackways with a feel of centuries of pilgrim feet. "Capillas de Animas" for the saying of the Angelus at appropriate times. All these things to be absorbed and pondered upon as one walks.
Yes, there are touristy towns but the atmosphere, to my mind, speaks far more of a spiritual pilgrimage than the hustle and bustle of the present day Camino Frances.
I wrote this after seeing a number of tiny wayside shrines which are most common along the route between Santander and Oviedo.

If the modern pilgrim follows
The itinerary and timing of his forbears
He will find that often in his daily march, he
Will arrive at a 'Capilla de Animas' or
A small wayside shrine at twelve noon.
No clocks or watches then,
Only the sun tells when it is midday
The hour of the Angelus.



Blessings on your Pilgrimage
Tio Tel
DSCF0167.JPG DSCF0182.JPG
 

bobbogram

Member
Camino(s) past & future
El Norte San Sebastián to Santiago; Portuguese Lisbon to Porto; Porto to Santiago; Geneva west
My first Camino was El Norte after watching the movie The Way and the YouTube video -
.
It was 2015 with three companions and an on line book, at age 66, was six weeks and 800 km. I did the first half of the Portuguese Camino (Lisbon to Porto) solo the next year and plan on finishing it soon. I start the Geneva to LePuy with my son in four weeks. I presumed El Norte meant NORTH, because it’s sandwiched between the mountains and the shoreline. Wrong way Corrigan couldn’t get lost. It was occasionally demanding - like most worthwhile things in life.
 

Attachments

jayree

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to SdC 2012
Irun to Fisterra 2013
Shikoku 2015
CP 2016
From the article in El País mentioned in another post (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/twelve-things-you-didn’t-know-about-the-camino-de-santiago.57012/) ...

“ Is this the ‘way’ to Santiago?
There are in fact many different ways to Santiago. Since the discovery of the tomb, which supposedly held the body of Jesus’s disciple, each pilgrim made his or her own “way” from their home to Compostela. Some of these routes became more popular than others due to considerations such as safety or availability of food supplies, but there was never one that was singled out as the one. In 1993, UNESCO included the Way of Saint James on its list of worldwide heritage sites, and to simplify things the agency chose the French Way, which was and still is the most popular one. In 2015, UNESCO also listed the Routes of Northern Spain. But in reality the Camino de Santiago begins wherever your doorstep happens to be.”
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
I agree with @PK Smit

There is no accounting for taste. I would call the massive 'dedication' to pilgrims on the Francés too commercial. The Norte is certainly a Camino, but definitely a different type of Camino. The pilgrim feeling is something I feel inside of me and it has nothing to do with whether locals define me as a pilgrim. But that's me.

I think the Camino Francés is a better Camino for you.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
This was not the case in the North. As you go reading from book to book and from place to place, you realize that these were (and still are) places that were originally established as fishing posts, having nothing to do with the Camino or with Santiago. Some of them have developed into thriving cities, others have remained fishing posts and others have found a lucrative source of income by catering to vacationing tourists and to the hordes of surfers who visit the famous beaches every surfing season. No-one really gives a hoot about the few people who deem themselves "pilgrims".
Complete local uninterest is extremely frequent on all Camino Ways apart from the ones currently more popular with the foot pilgrims.

But you'd be wrong if you're suggesting that those fishing ports had nothing to do with the Camino, given that pilgrims would often arrive in such ports then make their way onwards on foot from there, and there's also a maritime route going from port to port by sea, in sailing or rowing boats, that some people are reviving nowadays. Not to mention that whole period when it was not safe for Christians to travel south of the mountains.

There are literally hundreds of Ways to Santiago, and none are any less nor any more "authentic" than any others.
 

Kosmos

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Norte 2017
It is as if, as soon as the pilgrimage focus switched from the North to the Camino Frances in the 11th century, the saint's memory was forgotten there.

You are totally wrong.

From Luarca to Ribadeo, it is the part of the Camino del Norte that I know best, there are constant references to Santiago and the pilgrimage, in churches, chapels and hospitals.

In Luarca there was a hospital of pilgrims in front of the church, founded by Alfonso González Rico in the year 1440.

In Luarca there are the ruins of the church of Santiago built in the tenth century. In the famous Book of the Testaments or Liber Testamentorum of the cathedral of Oviedo, it is read that in the year 912 Fruela, son of Alfonso III and Jimena II donated several places to the miter of the Asturian capital, including this: "similiter secus litus maris villam Luarcam cum ecclesiis, Sancti Iacobi Apostoli"

Villapedre, a parish dedicated to Santiago, in whose temple is venerated an image of the Apostle who belonged to the pilgrims hospital of Luarca.

Navia is another of the villas created on the Cantabrian coast by Alfonso X, in the second half of the 13th century. It had a walled enclosure to which the estuary bordered a large part of its perimeter and a hospital for the sick, passengers and pilgrims, which was under the patronage of Santiago.

In the Sacramental Books of the parish of Navia there are numerous testimonies of pilgrims who died in the hospital of the village.

In order to continue his journey, the pilgrim had to save the estuary by boat, a circumstance that all the travelers who left an account of his trip pick up. Thus Antonio Lalaing, writes that on March 1, 1502 "they passed an arm of the sea in the town called Navia".

In Navia is the chapel of San Roque built in 1634, inside you can see San Roque with the pilgrim's staff. The procession of San Roque is celebrated on August 16.

In Puerto de Vega in the hermitage of the Atalaya built in 1613 there is also an image of San Roque with the pilgrim's staff.

After crossing the river Navia we arrive at Jarrio, to the chapel of Santa Ana and next there is an old pilgrim hospital founded in 1370

The village of La Caridad owes its name to hospitality with pilgrims. Caridad means charity.

In Porcia the hermitage was built in 1612, located in the Camino del Norte de Santiago, with which it has been linked since its foundation, as shown by the cross of the Order of Santiago that shines on its exterior and its altarpiece and the lamp of wood we can see references to symbols of the Camino.

In Figueras is the church of Santiago, built in the eighteenth century, was a hospital for pilgrims.

In this PDF you can read more about the history of hospitals in Asturias.
http://www.gijon.info/multimedia_objects/download?object_id=66820&object_type=document

Jarrio - Capilla y Hospital.jpg Navia - Capilla de San Roque.jpg Navia - Capilla san Roque .JPG Navia - Procesión de San Roque 2016.jpg Porcia Capilla interior.jpg Porcia Capilla.jpg Puerto de Vega - Ermita Atalaya.jpg Puerto de Vega- Ermita Atalaya .jpg Navia - Procesion San Roque.jpg
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF2012,Le Puy/CF 2015 Portugues 2017 Norte 2018, CF 2019
Hi,
Just in terms of full disclosure, I am walking the Norte in September and can't wait. Although as in all my other Camino I know it will be tough and at 64 this may be really tough. I find your very detailed (and as someone else said, kind of confusing) explanation curious. I know each of us have very different understanding, definitions and reasons for walking. One of the first thing I learned on my first Camino is that all we have is the step we are taking at that moment. The past is behind and the future does not exist. The Camino cannot be defined by "historical significance" I believe a Camino is defined by the spirit of those whose steps you walk in and what is in your heart as you go. I find it interesting that you place so much significance in the Pilgrim experience and "No-one really gives a hoot about the few people who deem themselves "pilgrims". I too feel that there are those of us who deem themselves Pilgrims but in reality what the heck does that really mean and what does it really matter? I have walked the Frances 2 times and plan on walking it again in the dead of winter for a variety of reasons. The main reason I will not walk it any other time is there are WAY TOO MANY people who are walking it for a hike, or a laugh or "it is the thing to do" that I can't find the peace and solitude that I seek to make my pilgrim experience meaningful.
Do some more research here and you will find lots of alternative routes that will take you off the paved roads and more in the countryside. I have walked from Le Puy and the idea of walking and not seeing even 1 other pilgrim during the day is not a negative to me. It allows me to rediscover me, and realize why I am difficult to those who love me and why I am loved by those who love me. Walking on the Frances with hoards of people, hearing the same conversations from a multitude of people I walk by does not give me the peace I personally need.
As another person said the Camino starts at home and continues with you for the rest of your life, The true challenge is making your life at home as close to the life that you have on the Camino every day. It sure isn't easy to achieve. In your piece you also mentioned how one person said I barely saw anyone with a shell and I couldn't find a place to buy one. WHO CARES!!!! haha. My advice to you is throw all your judgements and fears out with tonights garbage. Just walk, take one step at a time, trust that the Camino will give you what you want not what you need. If you are worried about the trappings of tourist towns stop before or after those towns and big cities. It is your choice and your camino, and cherish every step and every wonderful Pilgrim you will meet. Maybe you will meet less Pilgrims. Maybe you won't have a Camino Family (I am not big on those either haha) but I am sure you will meet more than enough pilgrims who will hear you better than maybe even life long friends and by listening and looking at you with the spirit if centuries of walkers will help you find an answer or two. Or just help you to leave this post behind you in the dust.
Buen Camino
 
D

Deleted member 80312

Guest
My humble opinion is that you shoud not walk the so called camino del Norte due to the negative perceptions you already have about this Camino.
Hello P.K. Smith,
Yes, what I wrote was a preconception, but I am always open to proofs against it.
If you have noticed, I did find such proofs by locating 12 instances of Santiago references in the official Spanish booklet. TerryB's information about the "capillas de animas" along the way is also encouraging, as is the very rich compendium offered by Kosmos. I am glad I had posted my letter, because it trigerred your better informed replies, and I do not feel any more like a dumb hiker who would be walking merely for some pinchos and pretty poastcard seascapes.
It is a pity that the common guide books published about the Del Norte do not have all this information. Had Brierley written one, I am sure he would have included it (I have sent him an email letter about it through the publishing house he belongs to, but have received no reply yet).

Thank you all,
Yoram Cohen
 

MKalcolm M

Solvitur ambulando - It is solved by walking
Camino(s) past & future
north route spring 2013
Walking the Norte was one of the best experiences of my life. I found it to be historical, cultural, spiritual and religious, and also full of companionship, laughter, camaraderie and joy. One of the biggest shocks I have encountered was when the Norte joined the Frances and changed from a spirtual journey to a mass exodus of commercialism full of bus parties and group travel. I have walked four caminos, each has its good and bad, its ups and downs, but if I was to choose one to walk again it would be the Norte. Please just put aside your preconceptions, start with an open mind and let the camino open up in front of you. Whatever you are looking for, you can find on the Norte. (I found love, but that's another story).
 

Puiu

Member
In Ivar's weekly bulletin of July 21, 2018, "Last Week's Most Popular Topics", I was intrigued by the topic
"Newbie question: Camino Frances vs Camino del Norte
Thread starter: sugargypsy, Start date Jul 15, 2018".
https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/newbie-question-camino-frances-vs-camino-del-norte.56719/

I myself have done the southern caminos 6 time, and am going to start my first Camino del Norte this coming August 21st. While preparing for it, I have purchased and read the three books commonly available now, as well as whatever I could find about it on the internet. The result so far has been a very negative view which I have formed of this trek, which is presented as "a pilgrimage road." It was so negative, that I was on the verge of cancelling my trip altogether. So I started reading the responses of experienced walkers who have already done both Caminos, to discover whether any of them might be of a similar mind to mine. These are two of the responses I have found:

Camino Chris Jul 15, 2018
"I'm glad I walked the Frances first, for its uniqueness, and a more "pilgrimage" spiritual feeling. I thought much of the terrain lovely. … The Norte is more difficult, but offers many beautiful views as a reward. It definitely has the feeling more of a hike."

trecile Jul 15, 2018
"I've walked the Frances twice, and am currently on the Norte. It is much more difficult, and I'm not sure that I would have developed my Camino addiction if I walked it first. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, and I'm enjoying it, but the Camino spirit doesn't seem as strong on this Camino. One indicator is that I see very few shells on backpacks here. I actually forgot to bring mine, and haven't seen any place to buy one. I think that's because so many of the little villages on the Frances survive almost solely because of the Camino, therefore it seems like there is a greater focus on the pilgrims."

My impressions, admittedly "sight unseen", are very much like the ones quoted above.
In none of my books is there any true treatment of this trek as a holy pilgrimage road dedicated to Santiago Apostol. For example, the "Village to Village Map Guide: Camino del Norte" has these few words to say about it:

"The Camino del Norte has rich historical significance as one of the oldest Caminos, reaching its zenith in the 9th and 10th century as the Muslim conquest of Spain was gaining ground northward, making the Frances too dangerous. The far north remained under Christian control, and the kingdom of Asturias, led by Alfonso II, remained one of the last bastions of control with its capital in Oviedo having its own famous relics of San Salvador. Pilgrims from all over Europe arrived by ship to the coast and made their way to Santiago without having to cross any major mountains. After the Reconquest of Spain in the llth century, the Frances boomed in popularity as Oviedo's influence waned and the royal court shifted to Leon."

As soon as they have done paying this lip-service to the sacred history of the route, the writers go on to discuss what, in their eyes, seem to be the main concerns of the walkers today: the services provided.

"Today the route is reasonably well marked, and the number and quality of pilgrim services continues to increase. There remain towns and stages with inadequate albergue beds to match demand in the higher seasons, but pensiones and hotels have stepped in to offer pilgrim rates. Coastal sections of the trail pass through touristy beach towns where private lodging can be pricy and full in high tourism season (July/August); many youth hostels cater more to surfers than to pilgrims. Because the Norte has many fewer pilgrims, the route also has had fewer improvements and utilizes paved surfaces more than the Frances (around 69% of the route). The upside of fewer walkers means more solitude and less overcrowding."

And indeed, in all three books that I have, the main topics are lodgings, food (the best pitnxos restaurants) and beeches to relax or surf on. Never a mention of Santiago or places dedicated to his worship. It is as if, as soon as the pilgrimage focus switched from the North to the Camino Frances in the 11th century, the saint's memory was forgotten there.

Forum member trecile explains: " I think that's because so many of the little villages on the Frances survive almost solely because of the Camino, therefore it seems like there is a greater focus on the pilgrims." I would add, that those villages do not only survive thanks to the Camino pilgrims, but were actually founded way back then in response to the needs of those people, providing shelter and sustenance, building churches to cater to their spiritual needs and hospitals to take care of the sick.

This was not the case in the North. As you go reading from book to book and from place to place, you realize that these were (and still are) places that were originally established as fishing posts, having nothing to do with the Camino or with Santiago. Some of them have developed into thriving cities, others have remained fishing posts and others have found a lucrative source of income by catering to vacationing tourists and to the hordes of surfers who visit the famous beaches every surfing season. No-one really gives a hoot about the few people who deem themselves "pilgrims".

In a desperate attempt to prove to myself that I would not be some gullible idiot who would be walking this commercial route out of the misconception that he was on a true Santiago pilgrimage, I decided to conduct a search in my sources for places that are still dedicated to Santiago, or somehow bear a relic of their function as pilgrimage accessories.

The only source I found to be of any help was an obscure publication which I found on the internet in PDF format. It is downloadable for free at https://tourism.euskadi.eus/contenidos/recurso_tecnico/aa30_folletos/en_def/folletos/2017/GUIA2017-LOSCAMINOSDELNORTE-ING-WEB.pdf (for the 2017 edition. I had the 2011 one)

It happens to having been mentioned on this forum back in 2012: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/printable-english-guides-for-the-northern-routes-to-santiago.12841/

The booklet I consulted was:
"The Northern Ways to Santiago
Northern Way, Primitive Way, Inland Way, Baztanés Way, Lebaniego Way"

- 2nd edition: August 2011
- Published by: Basque Government, Government of Cantabria, Government of the Principality of Asturias,
Regional Government of Galicia, Government of Navarre, Government of La Rioja.

It is delightful and instructive to read, because it does not bother about albergues and restaurants, but does its best to treat the Camino del Norte as a pilgrimage road and to show the affinity of some of its places to the worship of Santiago. I found 12 such places by searching for the word "Santiago" and I shall freely quote them.

1. The start of the Northern Way could not be more laden with symbolism: it sets off at the Santiago bridge (at Irun) crossing the River Bidasoa.

2. Hondarribia (old Irun): Leaving its old quarter, you will see the odd hint at the pilgrims’ Way: the 15th century Chapel of Santiagotxo (Ermita de Santiago), dedicated to Saint James the Apostle.

3. Zarautz: It is the Church of Santa María la Real that has most association with the Way to Santiago, being home to the sepulchre of an anonymous pilgrim who asked to be buried in this church in the 16th century.

4. Zumaia: The Santiago beach welcomes us.

5. There are few beginnings as stimulating as the departure from Markina-Xemein. Firstly, the idyllic village of Bolibar and later, a religious monument that is one of its kind in Biscay: The Collegiate Church of Cenarruza or Ziortza (14c) is located roughly two kilometers from the urban nucleus. It was an important enclave in the Route of Santiago de Compostela, and its influence extended beyond the comarca and surpassed the religious scope.

6. Munitibar-Arbatzegi: The Chapel of Santiago situated at the heights of the Aldaka district, is another reference to the Way of Saint James.

7. The Cathedral of Bilbao, dedicated to Saint James the Apostle and with its particular Pilgrims’ Gate for those on the Way to Santiago, is the finest example of the extent to which the pilgrims’ way has seeped into the city.

8. The most important temple of the small town of Santiago de Cudeyo is the Church of Santiago. It is a small church of a single nave with attached sacristy whose exterior highlights its belfry with two bodies (on the west side). A building in whose construction Late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements were used.
The church has two access points. The oldest is the door with a simple semicircular arch located on the facade that faces the road. The most recent one is the one on the north façade, the one under the colorful belfry. It was opened in the eighteenth century and has a flat vain.
If you want to see its main altarpiece of baroque style made during the first half of the eighteenth century you will have to go in prayer time because the temple is not open specifically for visits. The doubled Solomonic columns and the image of Santiago Matamoros that frames a three-lobed vain will probably draw your attention.
(https://www.minube.com/rincon/iglesia-de-santiago-a2203419 )

9. San Vicente de la Barquera: One of these gates (from 1210 city wall), opening south, is the Pilgrims’ Gate, recalling the walkers’ passage through here on their way to Santiago. Other testimonies were the hospital that was built in the 15th century next to the church, and the sculpture of Saint James that has been conserved in its interior.

10. Llanes (13c): It was well known as a stop along the route to Santiago, as evinced by the hospital that existed outside the city walls, of which only the chapel has survived. It has a rich heritage. In the Romanesque-Gothic Church of Santa María, the main portal has archivolts decorated with figures of Saint James and a series of pilgrims.

11. One of the traditional roads between Ribadesella/Ribeseya and Villaviciosa passed by the Church of Santiago at Gobiendes and in fact stopped at Gobiendes.

12. On the route to Gijon we will go through villages like Pion, with its Parish Church of Santiago, and Deva, with remains of a pre-Romanesque temple.

Since I am going to turn to the Camino Primitivo and end my trip at Oviedo, which is of great historical and cultural interest to me, I stopped my search here.

My findings, meager as they are, have somewhat improved my attitude, but I do not believe will induce me to hike this route another time, unless it proves to be really fabulous.
The only road along the way of St. James is the Camino Frances (El Camino de Sant Iago de Compostela)-The Road of St. Iacob to Compostela. Others are roads travelled by pilgrims, over time, to reach the tomb of St.
 

SabineP

Camino = Empathy + Compassion.
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
The only road along the way of St. James is the Camino Frances (El Camino de Sant Iago de Compostela)-The Road of St. Iacob to Compostela. Others are roads travelled by pilgrims, over time, to reach the tomb of St.
Strongly disagree. See the valuable posts others posted here on this thread!
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
The only road along the way of St. James is the Camino Frances (El Camino de Sant Iago de Compostela)-The Road of St. Iacob to Compostela. Others are roads travelled by pilgrims, over time, to reach the tomb of St.
Is that lack of knowledge and subsequently ignorance or just trolling???
 

Luka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pelgrimspad I, Via Monastica, Via Podiensis, Via de la Plata, Camino Francés, Camino del Norte...
The only road along the way of St. James is the Camino Frances (El Camino de Sant Iago de Compostela)-The Road of St. Iacob to Compostela. Others are roads travelled by pilgrims, over time, to reach the tomb of St.
What is the difference between a Camino de Santiago and a road travelled by pilgrims over time?
 

PK Smit

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(015)Irun to Santiago
(017)Lisboa to S
2018Caminha to Santiago
(2018) Camino English Ferrol Santiago
The only road along the way of St. James is the Camino Frances (El Camino de Sant Iago de Compostela)-The Road of St. Iacob to Compostela. Others are roads travelled by pilgrims, over time, to reach the tomb of St.
Where did you get this misinformation? You must be kidding.
 

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