A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it


Camino Forum Donation

It's Those Vikings Again!


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Holy Year from Pamplona 2010, SJPP 2011, Lisbon 2012, Le Puy 2013, Vezelay (partial watch this space!) 2014; 2015 Toulouse-Puenta la Reina (Arles)
We see here two very contrasting medieval figures, one the classical representation of a Pilgrim the other a somewhat fanciful depiction of an evil marauding Norseman – not much in common.


Now they both do share one small particularity, at their waist they both carry a small bag usually intended for foodstuffs and perhaps personal items, usually termed scrip-later a word for small change. Please read on and Wait for it. As we read through the Bible such an item appears and is also termed a scrip – see David and Goliath for but one example where in Hebrew it is called a shepherds' pouch. Soooo? Where in the name of all that is good came the word scrip? Oh dear! Shocking! Working back, the word appears in Old French as escrepe (“purse, alms-bag”) the 'e' falling away as in the word esquire – an aphetism, springing from a variant of escharpe in French, and this from Old Norse skreppa (!) related with and similar to (oh my goodness!) the Danish skreppe (“scrip”).
Ivar strikes again!!!
Last edited:


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Thus as Sir Walter Raleigh wrote in the 16th century in His Pilgrimage

"GIVE me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope's true guage;
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage....

Texas Walker

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2017 summer)
Portugues (2015)
Frances (2014)
This piqued my interest, in particular when I discovered that the word has the same background and root as the French écharpe which translate as scarf into English but can also mean sash which is relevant in this context. Now that's truly fascinating, see below (hélas, alas, it's all in French):

I've been always wondering why the scrip is so often shown as such a tiny flat shoulder bag in medieval images. Now it makes more sense :). In short, it says that the French word has its origin in the French language spoken before a written language was established and goes back to the 6th century's words skirpa or skirpja which meant basket or rush bag, from the Latin scirpus (rush). In the 12th century, in old French now, it developed to escharpe, escherpe, escrepe which, at that time, meant a bag hanging from the neck with a shoulder strap. It was at that time an accessory belonging to the military dress for a knight, a crusader or an indispensable element forming part of the pilgrim's dress (knight, crusader and pilgrim could mean the same thing in those days). Hence, eventually, just the symbolic piece of cloth hanging from one shoulder to the opposite hip.

Thanks for the inspiration, @scruffy. Who would have thought it.
Neat. Thank you for digging that out, all!


"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
This is called the besace in French, from a latin bisaccium, meaning literally "double bag", likely in reference to dual compartments in the item.

The English knapsack could refer either to this or to the backpack, as it means more generally "shoulder bag", but I must say I do very much like the word scrip in its quick precision.

A knapsack is where a soldier carried his food, which might have to be eaten quickly. "Knapsack" meant "eating bag" in the English spoken in the 1600s, and the word is of Germanic origin.


"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
That is what a pilgrim's scrip is called in French today but not then.
It's a late 12th - early 13th Century word, though it does seem to have become popular more towards the 15th Century

Looking for examples, I came across a good, but later one :

Matthew X, 10 : Ne possedez or ne argent ne quelque pecune en voz ceinctures, ne besace pour la voye (translation from 1525)

However : mediaeval Farce :

Allons a dieu, qui nous convoye!
Je viens de faire nostre sac
Et ay mis dedans ce bissac
La provision necessaire

Anyway, according to this doctoral thesis, http://www.theses.paris-sorbonne.fr/these-macheda-sophie.pdf : L’escharpe ou sacoche permet d’emporter quelques effets personnels. C’est un accessoire que l’on porte en bandoulière : on l’appelle aussi besace quand il comporte deux poches. So it would seem that the pilgrim's scrip was "escharpe" or "sacoche" when it was a simple bag, but "besace" when it had two compartments. It points out that "besace" is of provençal origin, which no doubt explains why it is not used in the northern Vie de Saint Louis text. (this is BTW a fascinating thesis in its own right, about 11th-13th century texts on the Pilgrimage to Jerusalem)

So it's not as if there was only one word used by "the French" of those times, in their various Kingdoms and Counties and whatnot, and in the multiplicity of their dialects ! Apart from escharpe and bèsace/bisache/bissat/bissac etc, there were such words as giberne, musette, pochon, bouge and so on, which could also designate various different types of bags that a mediaeval pilgrim might have carried, whether they were shoulder bags, backpacks, or scarf-like cloth bags carried around the chest and so on. When considering mediaeval language, we should avoid the natural tendency of projecting the often very precise vocabulary usage of our modern parlances onto the languages and dialects of those periods. ;)

OLDER threads on this topic

Book your lodging here




Most downloaded Resources

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store

Casa Ivar Newsletter

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 12 1.4%
  • February

    Votes: 5 0.6%
  • March

    Votes: 38 4.4%
  • April

    Votes: 134 15.6%
  • May

    Votes: 207 24.0%
  • June

    Votes: 61 7.1%
  • July

    Votes: 17 2.0%
  • August

    Votes: 13 1.5%
  • September

    Votes: 255 29.6%
  • October

    Votes: 102 11.8%
  • November

    Votes: 12 1.4%
  • December

    Votes: 5 0.6%