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The Camino does NOT start in StJpdP - discuss

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Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Members will be aware that I am neither a contrarian nor a provocateur but that I do like, now and again, to ask questions a little beyond which is the best bar to discuss the best sleeping bag in.

So, as I viewed a thread started by a new member who is flying into Madrid and probably training it to Pamplona asking how to get from there to a small provincial French town in the western foothills of the Pyrenees, I wondered, again, why do people think that the Camino starts in St Jean pied de Porte?

Our new member could start walking to the shrine of Santiago from Pamplona, as many do. They could, if they were determined to travel away from Santiago before walking to Santiago, have made their way to historic Roncesvalles. They could, if they wanted to, head for Somport or Irun or even Barcelona but everyone wants to get to StJpdP and then leave it the following morning via a potentially crippling walk up and over a thumping great hill for no other reason that I can discern than "that its there" (Mallory, I forgive you) or because that is where their guide book starts.

With all due respects to @Monasp and the good folk of the Bureau des pèlerins de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Why?
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
I considered the same question for my first Camino. My short answer is that I did not feel it was THE historical/traditional place to start, but that St Jean was A place to start; a place that that caught my attention and interest. It looked like a cute French village, it's starting point would take me into the Pyrenees upper foothills zone, and it just felt like a good place to start.

I had considered starting at Lourdes. The extra 5 days of walking was longer than Caleb had available, if we wanted to reach Sahagun, which is where Caleb needed to leave Camino due to vacation time.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
why do people think that the Camino starts in St Jean pied de Porte?
Three words.
Coelho
MacLaine
Hollywood

Well, make that four.
Ignorance.

Many of us start out thinking that what we heard or read was true: that the camino means the Frances, and that the 'complete,' or 'whole' camino Frances starts in SJPP. Period.

Never mind the rich history of countless folk starting from their front steps, wherever those happened to be. The many other routes and possible starting points don't much factor in to our impoverished modern reckoning because we're so brainwashed to think otherwise.

Edit - So @davebugg, you just posted at the same time and proved my cynical reasoning wrong. 🤣
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, Madrid (2019) Portuges (2020)
Back in the day some french chaps had to start from where they lived, near St Jean and therefore set out from there.

Thus the Frances.

The brits - having only a couple of weeks holiday, unlike the french who had all of August off - spotted that there was a ferry to Coruna. They could take that, walk for a few days and hit the beach for the rest of their time getting sunburn, sinking a few scoops of San Miguel, singing ‘aquí vamos, aquí vamos, aquí vamos’, (repeat ad nauseam) and still get back to work before the french had got half way.

Thus the ingles.

If Ryanair existed in the 14th century many would have flown straight to Santiago. (The conditions on most Ryanair flights are designed to remind you of what a 14th C pilgrim had to go through - not a lot of people know that).

My Camino starts at home. I travel by plane, train, automobile and on foot. I walk sections of recognised routes, entire routes and my own routes. Anyone telling me I’m not doing it properly gets a short reply which is unmistakably of Anglo-Saxon derivation.

Bottom line - your life: your rules.
 
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davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
Three words.
Coelho
MacLaine
Hollywood

Well, make that four.
Ignorance.

Many of us start out thinking that what we heard or read was true: that the camino means the Frances, and that the 'complete,' or 'whole' camino Frances starts in SJPP. Period.

Never mind the rich history of countless folk starting from their front steps, wherever those happened to be. The many other routes and possible starting points don't much factor in to our impoverished modern reckoning because we're so brainwashed to think otherwise.

Edit - So @davebugg, you just posted at the same time and proved my cynical reasoning wrong. 🤣
Your reasoning wasn't stated as an absolute, and it allows any number of individual exceptions to the rule; so I don't see you as either cynical or incorrect in your observations :)
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I think that some who walk the Caminos now have the romantic idea that walking the Camino Frances has continued more or less unbroken since the Middle Ages. But by the 1970s the practice had all but died out. The few who did walk it did not follow a signposted footpath but rather made their own ways between the towns and villages from the Pyrenees to Santiago.

The idea of a defined, waymarked, mapped and documented route with a guidebook and dedicated pilgrim accommodation really dates from the late 1970s and early 1980s when Don Elias Valina and his associates marked out the route now known as the Camino Frances. Oddly enough that is not what Valina himself called the route in his seminal 1984 guidebook: he simply refers to it as the Camino de Santiago. In reality the Camino Frances of today is far more a creation of the late 20th century rather than a continuation of medieval practice. Don Elias chose to describe a route which begins in SJPDP. His highly influential book starts there. And a lot of us have something of a fixation with walking a "complete" route.

While it is obviously true that in previous centuries pilgrims walked from many different places to Santiago the 20th century Camino revival began with one clearly defined and documented path. It was only after the revival in interest in the Camino Frances had taken root that the multitude of alternative paths were created or resurrected. The thing which I find most odd in retrospect is that Valina described the route from SJPDP as his second option - the first route he describes is the Somport-Canfranc Aragones way. I have never really understood why SJPDP has so greatly eclipsed Somport as a starting point.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I agree with the reasons that @VNwalking suggests. However, I think some elements of human nature are being overlooked.

There is drama and excitement in starting a big adventure with a bang or celebration. Having a specific starting point can be very appealing - especially one with a gathering of like-minded people, a significant challenge and potentially good views on the first day.

Even for people who are undertaking the pilgrimage in a much more subdued attitude and might be avoiding the celebratory mood, there can be satisfaction in knowing that a defined task (point A to point B) is to be accomplished. Those people might still appreciate having a gathering point where almost everyone is starting out on a similar journey.

Consideration of these human factors might counter the interpretation that it is due to...
our impoverished modern reckoning because we're so brainwashed to think otherwise
:cool::cool:
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
I have never really understood why SJPDP has so greatly eclipsed Somport as a starting point.
Me neither, but maybe this is where Shirley and Paolo come in? Amplified by Hollywood.
And SJPP is easier to get to than Somport, right?

@C clearly , you have a good point. That's one heck of an exciting start.
 

Phil Smith

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2016)StJ to Viana (2017): Viana to Castrojeriz (2018) Castrojeriz to Leon
(2019) León to Sarria
The first time I became aware of the Camino was from reading Paulo Coelho's book, " The Pilgrimage", in about 1998. It had a profound impact on me, particularly in my faith journey. It became an ambition to follow The Road, just as Coelho's character had. He started from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. It took a long time till I decided to just get on and do it. I have only done bits so far, hoping to finally arrive in Santiago de Compostela in April 2020. I intend to complete it in one go at a later point in my life, and God willing this will be on multiple occasions. So, that's my reason!
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
I first walked the CF in 2001, before Shirley etc. I relied on a little booklet put out by the Confraternity of St James in London. The first stage in that booklet was from SJPDP, so that is where I started. So I blame the Confraternity!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
I think that some who walk the Caminos now have the romantic idea that walking the Camino Frances has continued more or less unbroken since the Middle Ages. But by the 1970s the practice had all but died out. The few who did walk it did not follow a signposted footpath but rather made their own ways between the towns and villages from the Pyrenees to Santiago.

The idea of a defined, waymarked, mapped and documented route with a guidebook and dedicated pilgrim accommodation really dates from the late 1970s and early 1980s when Don Elias Valina and his associates marked out the route now known as the Camino Frances. Oddly enough that is not what Valina himself called the route in his seminal 1984 guidebook: he simply refers to it as the Camino de Santiago. In reality the Camino Frances of today is far more a creation of the late 20th century rather than a continuation of medieval practice. Don Elias chose to describe a route which begins in SJPDP. His highly influential book starts there. And a lot of us have something of a fixation with walking a "complete" route.

While it is obviously true that in previous centuries pilgrims walked from many different places to Santiago the 20th century Camino revival began with one clearly defined and documented path. It was only after the revival in interest in the Camino Frances had taken root that the multitude of alternative paths were created or resurrected. The thing which I find most odd in retrospect is that Valina described the route from SJPDP as his second option - the first route he describes is the Somport-Canfranc Aragones way. I have never really understood why SJPDP has so greatly eclipsed Somport as a starting point.
Can I steal parts of this for my group page?
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Three words.
Coelho
MacLaine
Hollywood
You give them way too much credit. I reckon that the overwhelming majority of those who start in SJPP have not read either of these two books nor seen the movie beforehand. I reckon that it’s the authors of Spanish and French guidebooks initially who are too blame for the fact that SJPP has become a traditional starting point. And it’s traditional now. After all, every tradition has to start at some point in time.
 

Rhun Leeding

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Leon to Santiago - Sept/Oct 2015
Camino Ingles & Santiago to Finisterre & Muxia Sept/Oct 2016
Hey Tinca

For me Camino 1 - I joined my father who had walked from SJPP to Leon, and we walked together after that...this was 2015.
Camino 2 - having originally planned the trip with my father, I ended up flying solo from Ferrol to Santiago and on to Muxia.
Camino 3 - This starts on Wednesday and we'll see how it goes!

I cannot say the movie hasn't coloured my opinion, but equally the movie may have encouraged others to consider this route.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Three words.
Coelho
MacLaine
Hollywood
I do not think that explanation really holds water. My mother-in-law walked the Camino Frances as part of an international group in 1985 and SJPDP had already been established as the starting point of the route by then - two years before Mr Coelho's book was published , 15 years before Ms Maclaine's and 25 years before Mr Estevez's movie. When I walked my first Camino in 1990 it was pretty much assumed that long-distance Spanish pilgrims would begin from Roncesvalles and the rest of the world would start from SJPDP.
 

kelleymac

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
When a Sister of St. Joseph heard that I'd walked the Camino, she exclaimed "Oh! How did you like LePuy?" (Her Order was founded there.) So I had to hem and haw and explain that I had walked from SJPdP. She was disappointed. -- So, when I got that cheap round trip flight to Paris, I took the train right down to Le Puy, and walked to Conques. I still have a bit of a way to go.. Then I'll start from Mont St. Michael, or maybe Constance?
 
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davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
Camino Ingles (2019)
You give them way too much credit. I reckon that the overwhelming majority of those who start in SJPP have not read either of these two books nor seen the movie beforehand. I reckon that it’s the authors of Spanish and French guidebooks initially who are too blame for the fact that SJPP has become a traditional starting point. And it’s traditional now. After all, every tradition has to start at some point in time.
It's Brierley's fault :)
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I reckon that it’s the authors of Spanish and French guidebooks initially who are too blame for the fact that SJPP has become a traditional starting point.
Nowadays, and seen from "our" vantage point (non-English speaking Continental Europe ☺), SJPP is not only a starting point, it is also an end point: the natural end point of the road from Tours/Paris which is a major traditional road from France to Spain and the natural end point of the modern and very popular long-distance path from Le Puy that has been stylised or fashioned into a "camino de Santiago".
 
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Camino(s) past & future
somewhere between "not enough" and "way too many"
When I first flirted with the idea of pilgrimage many years ago, it was with a French friend as we discussed the road from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel.

Life intrudes though and he was disabled shortly before we could put the walk together...

Years passed until one day, I just bought gear and put an "X" on a calendar and told my bride that I needed a break from all things "American election year". I am quite comfortable with France and left undecided as to tromping the Brittany coast, the Champagne region, or the GR's inland.

Bayonne turned out to be the easiest destination that I could make upon arrival at CDG. "Oh, look at that schedule for tomorrow! Hmmmm...."

So that is how I started at SJPP.

"I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all." (K. Vonnegut)

B
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
SJPP is not only a starting point, it is also an end point: the natural end point of the road from Tours/Paris and of long-distance path from Le Puy
It just occurred to me that in the French movie Saint-Jacques… La Mecque of 2005 where the protagonists start in Le Puy, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a turning point of the narrative: that's where their forced group walk ends and where they would be free to return home but where they decide to continue together to Santiago. Both an end and a start.

For me personally, the Pyrenees were also a kind of incision: for a long time I knew that I had to get to the foot of the Pyrenees and then we will see ...

OMG, you SJPP people, you all start in the middle ... 🙃.
 

Dani7

Stop wishing, start doing.
Camino(s) past & future
(2020) Camino Frances
Back in the day some french chaps had to start from where they lived, near St Jean and therefore set out from there.

Thus the Frances.

The brits - having only a couple of weeks holiday - spotted that there was a ferry to Coruna. They could take that, walk for a few days and hit the beach for the rest of their time getting sunburn, sinking a few scoops of San Miguel, singing ‘aquí vamos, aquí vamos, aquí vamos’, (repeat ad nauseam) and still get back to work before the french had got half way.

Thus the ingles.

If Ryanair existed in the 14th century many would have flown straight to Santiago. (The conditions on most Ryanair flights are designed to remind you of what a 14th C pilgrim had to go through - not a lot of people know that).

My Camino starts at home. I travel by plane, train, automobile and on foot. I walk sections of recognised routes, entire routes and my own routes. Anyone telling me I’m not doing it properly gets a short reply which is unmistakably of Anglo-Saxon derivation.

Bottom line - your life: your rules.
🤔 Mmmm. Short reply...Anglo-Saxon...two words?? 🙄
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
determined to travel away from Santiago before walking to Santiago
This made me giggle.

We all have our ideas and self-imposed rules, of course. I walk en etapes and when I started another section I always made sure that I never travelled to a town from where I then had to travel backwards to start walking forwards again. Of course, forwards and backwards is a more vague concept when you come from the Americas or the Antipodes. ☺
a potentially crippling walk up and over a thumping great hill for no other reason that I can discern than "that its there" (Mallory, I forgive you)
The famous mountaineering quote. This makes me roll my eyes sometimes and I want to say, well, if you've never walked up a mountain and want to experience walking up a mountain then pick a mountain among the many beautiful mountains around and not a long drawn out slog over a hilly pass where you don't even get to the top of any of the modest mountains to the right and left of you.

But I never say it. Because I know what they want to experience is what they have read about the experience of others before them and they don't want to miss out.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
It became an ambition to follow The Road, just as Coelho's character had. He started from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
Well, QED. ;)
But...there is quite a diversity of responses, depending on what year people started and where they live. I'm guessing more recent pilgrims from the USA are more influenced by the movie, though Paolo and Shirley may have also had an impact. People in Europe (including GB and Ireland), each country having it's own literary influences and a more rooted sense of history, would be less likely to be influenced by these.
It would be interesting to know - maybe by a poll - if this is the case. When did you start, where are you from, and how did you hear about the camino....

@Kathar1na, you've pithily stated what is, now. Where it came from is the fascinating part.

So I blame the Confraternity!
When I walked my first Camino in 1990 it was pretty much assumed that long-distance Spanish pilgrims would begin from Roncesvalles and the rest of the world would start from SJPDP.
But where did they get that idea, I wonder? Which is basically Tinca's question in the OP...where did that assumption begin, seeing as this is the case:
I find most odd in retrospect is that Valina described the route from SJPDP as his second option - the first route he describes is the Somport-Canfranc Aragones way. I have never really understood why SJPDP has so greatly eclipsed Somport as a starting point.
Edit to include this:
This makes me roll my eyes sometimes and I want to say, well, if you've never walked up a mountain and want to experience walking up a mountain then pick a mountain among the many beautiful mountains around and not a long drawn out slog over a hilly pass where you don't even get to the top of any of the modest mountains to the right and left of you.
Me too. Hahaha. I can hear the dismay. "But...but...the movie makes it look like a mountain!"
;)
You're right Katharina. It's a hill. A big hill to be sure, but it's still just a hill. And that bears repeating, I think. People talk about 'crossing the Pyrenees' with all sorts of expectations, most of which are misplaced.
If you want mountains, there are far better options.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
you've pithily stated what is, now. Where it came from is the fascinating part.
But where did they get that idea, I wonder? Which is basicallyTinca's question in the OP
Oh, I thought we had clarified this already ☺.

First of all, what we call the Camino Frances is THE Camino to Santiago, there's not doubt about it, no matter what modern PR wants to tell us.

Secondly, the contemporary revival started in France and was picked up by groups living along the CF in Spain. As already mentioned, these pioneers started from somewhere in France (not SJPP) if French and from Roncesvalles if Spanish. Given that the CF is seen as a road that had a lot of input from foreign people (one meaning of the word Frances), SJPP presented itself as a convenient compromise: you start from abroad but not too far from abroad because 32 days of walking is already mighty long. Crossing the Pyrenees from SJPP gives you the feeling of crossing a border: a national border, a language border, a geographical border. I think that's an essential element for many.

And why not via Somport? Too high. Why not via Irun which would make the most sense? Too low and not historical enough.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
First of all, what we call the Camino Frances is THE Camino to Santiago, there's not doubt about it, no matter what modern PR wants to tell us.
I'm guessing you'll get some pushback about that, @Kathar1na. ;)
It's certainly the most recent camino for people coming down through central France, but hardly THE camino. The camino and theh reconquista were born within a century of each other, and the latter took about 700 years to complete. So there were several iterations of what we now call the Camino Frances as Christians re-entered the Iberian Peninsula from the north and fought their way southwards. That's not modern PR.
And there has never been any THE camino, but many caminos, depending on where one was coming from.
Too low and not historical enough.
The Via de Bayona is plenty historical and much more craggy and intersting than that hill from SJPP, with a Roman road/tunnel, and medieval modifications. It may not have the Chanson de Roland mythology/mystique, but that camino and the Norte/Primativo predate the Frances as the way to Santiago by centuries.
 

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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Notwithstanding minor deviations to the right and left or changes due to road works and other building works, THE Camino de Santiago is this: the most frequented by pilgrims throughout the ages, the one with the vastest and richest collection of physical traces in the form of churches, bridges, secular buildings, the one with the most pilgrimage stories and pilgrims reports throughout the ages, the one that is praised, due to the pilgrimage phenomenon, as a major vehicle for exchanges of all kinds between Spain and Europe ... all the other Caminos cannot hold a candle to the Camino Frances on this basis.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
So, yes, it's been the most populted route, and has been for a long time.
I give you that.
But to discount the many other ways doesn't do the diversity and historical complexity of the camino justice. The Frances is and was never THE camino. There are too many others to give a single one that title, though UNESCO and others would have us think that.
 

annakappa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
I wondered, again, why do people think that the Camino starts in St Jean pied de Porte?
Tincatinker, you have really brought up a subject that has vexed me over the years!
My first reply would be:
PUBLICITY!
This due to various Forums, such as this one and popular guide books (in different languages, so I won’t nail that down to a specific book)!
Reading through the numerous replies, so far no one has mentioned Ostabat! This is actually where the routes from Le Puy and Vézelay join and the trail then leads to SJPP, one day’s walk away.
The folks in SJPP must be thanking their lucky stars that somewhere down the line, in the not too distant past, their village hit the map instead of Ostapat!
When I first did a bit of research about the Camino, I did it in Spanish, and SJPP did not even appear! I (Adriaan and I) were attracted to Roncesvalles because we read that there we would receive a special Pilgrim’s blessing after the evening Mass, so we headed to Roncesvalles, rather than starting in Pamplona. Even after completing our Pilgrimage the first time, we returned to Roncesvalles twice more to walk the Camino, never even taking into consideration SJPP, which by then we had heard mentioned!
We have also started once in Jaca (not Somport), plus various other places.
I also wonder if that experience of crossing over a border from one country to another perhaps adds to the ‘charm’ of starting in SJPP? This, I think would more appeal to folks from the US and Canada, where national borders are not so near for most. Folks from Europe are more used to crossing over borders, often on a very regular basis. So no big deal there.
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Hola @Tincatinker :
Surely your starting point is from outside your front door. We have had numerous posts from pilgrims who walked out of their front doors in Northern and N-Eastern Europe and started walking. Of course this is what pilgrims did in the middle ages (say from the 10th century onwards).
OK so most modern day pilgrims start from St Jean because as Kanga points out its a common commencement place for most guide books. But one just as easily start in Paris (Notre Dame) or Le Puy provided one had three months of more to walk the 1500/1750 km (a rough figure).
 

Margaret Butterworth

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013 (Pamplona to Burgos)
2014 (Burgos to Villafranca del Bierzo)
2015 (Villafranca to Santiago)
2016 (Le Puy to Conques; SJPP To Pamplona)
]I also wonder if that experience of crossing over a border from one country to another perhaps adds to the ‘charm’ of starting in SJPP?
This is exactly why I wanted to do it first in 1998. It seemed a romantic notion to walk over the Pyrenees, just like those Resistance fighters during the war. It was pretty exhausting then, as I had not learnt to pack light. It took me 9 hours. More recently, I stayed at Orisson and sent my pack with Express Bourricot. I was still worn out, but I like to think I have crossed the Pyrenees twice on foot. Not many can say that.
 

Darby67

Enólogo caminando
Camino(s) past & future
2018 CF Jan-Feb
2019 CF Jan-Mar
I disagree with the premise, but only if you live in St. Jean Pied de Port. It's isn't the starting for the rest of us. The why portion I would interpret as places that were relatively easy to pass.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I also wonder if that experience of crossing over a border from one country to another perhaps adds to the ‘charm’ of starting in SJPP? This, I think would more appeal to folks from the US and Canada, where national borders are not so near for most.
Just by the way, an interesting fact is that 90% of the population of Canada lives within 160 km of the US border.
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
Well, I first heard about camino in 2000.

I decided to walk 2001. So, off I went to Spain’s Office of Tourism in NYC and picked up Lozano guidebook the office freely gave to all pilgrims.

His book started in Roncesvalles. So, that’s where I started.
0740DEA6-7663-4C46-A9F3-CD078FF65F31.jpeg
The following year, I heard a term “the whole thing”; meaning you started in SJPP and finished in Fisterra.

In 2002, that’s where my second and fourth caminos began and ended.

I do have a bone to pick with Ms. MacLaine. I read her book prior to initial Spanish Trek. She waxed on about those damn, dangerous, and crazed dogs in Foncebadon. I spent the night in Rabanal del Camino shaking in my narrow Gaucelmo bed awaiting the next day’s mauling. None came. Not a dog in sight.

Somehow, for my way of thinking the CF starts in SJPP and ends in Fisterra.

All other caminos are valid and over time I wish to walk at least a few of them.

I’ll take argument one step farther down the road. Somehow, it just seems as if all comers first camino should begin SJPP and end in Fisterra; a camino commencement.

I am not rabid about it, like those Shirley MacLaine’s dogs.

But, it seems as if SJPP is a right-of-passage to put folks on the way of camino discussion, inclusion, and....
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Oh.
Yes.
Fisterra.
That's part of the 'whole camino,' too.

Whatever.
Well, don't forget to burn your stuff, everyone. ;)
(NOT. Just pointing out the arbitrary nature of 'tradition,' and how we get these ideas and make them into something they never were.)
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
Oh.
Yes.
Fisterra.
That's part of the 'whole camino,' too.

Whatever.
Well, don't forget to burn your stuff, everyone. ;)
(NOT. Just pointing out the arbitrary nature of 'tradition,' and how we get these ideas and make them into something they never were.)
Exactly!

I never did find the “burn”.

Maybe next time.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
But to discount the many other ways doesn't do the diversity and historical complexity of the camino justice. The Frances is and was never THE camino. There are too many others to give a single one that title, though UNESCO and others would have us think that.
Strictly speaking, camino de Santiago means way to Santiago. Nobody disputes that there are many ways to Santiago. Nobody disputes, and actually quite a few know, that a long time ago pilgrims walked from home so most of those who walked from their homes in Spain or Portugal didn't walk along the Camino Frances.

However, El Camino de Santiago and The Way of Saint James and The Pilgrim Way and The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago have been synonyms for the roads in Spain that lead from Roncesvalles and Jaca to Santiago, long before the Unesco and "others" appeared on the scene. Look at the titles and the content of earlier books where the authors describe the Camino Frances (including the two short branches at the beginning) and nothing else, for example Gitlitz/Davidson (2000) with The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago or Goddard King (1920) with The Way of Saint James.

I don't know much about Spanish literature and I'm happy to be told that I am wrong but it's been my impression that hacer el Camino means or used to mean walking on the broad path from Roncesvalles. Italians, French, Germans, people from the Benelux: there's only one way to get at the end to Santiago and it doesn't start in Madrid, Malaga, Sevilla or Porto. It starts in the Western Pyrenees unless they didn't walk over land and travelled by boat to a port in Eastern or Northern Spain.

It's all these people who shaped the idea of "The Way" and not the epigones, the latecomers, of the late 20th and early 21st century. 🙃
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Gitlitz/Davidson's book was published in 2000 but they walked in 1974, 1979, 1987 and 1996.

I just noticed that they refer in their book to "the Road" and not "the Way" ☺ . That's another thing: when did it become fashionable in English to refer to "the Camino"? When and why did "the Way of Saint James" largely disappear from pilgrim lingo?

Chemin de Saint Jacques and Jakobsweg are still alive in French and German, I don't know about Italian. Camino de Santiago, I guess, can mean both the way to Santiago and the way of Saint James, I don't know what Spanish speakers think of when they see or hear these words.
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
The first time I heard about the Camino was about thirty years ago when I read an article in National Geographic about a pilgrimage from Le Puy all the way to Santiago, aprox 1600km it said, I decided then that this was for me but work, home renovation and a triple bypass distracted me for several years. Fast forward to 2012 when my brother rang me from Australia and said he had retired and was going to walk the Camino and to pack my bag and get myself ready... and ....we were walking from St. Jean, which was where he was told it started. So I guess it all depends where you are told it starts when you don't know yourself. Now I believe it starts when you leave home and whether you walk all the way like many Europeans I met or whether you take planes, trains etc. Your staging point after that is a matter of choice.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, Madrid (2019) Portuges (2020)
Swear words of the English language. I sense a first major thread drift coming and we are only 25 messages into the thread.
In a rare display of self discipline, the forum members stayed on track overnight.

There’s a first time for everything.

It’s fairly obvious why there are multiple routes and why they all proceed to Santiago, but I agree the concept of travelling away from Santiago to walk back to Santiago would have medieval pilgrims very confused.
 
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Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
It’s fairly obvious why there are multiple routes and why they all proceed to Santiago, but I agree the concept of travelling away from Santiago to walk back to Santiago would have medieval pilgrims very confused.
With the most recent addition to the Compostela rules that is actually the situation for some. If you are a Galician living within a 100km radius of the Cathedral and wish to receive a Compostela at the end of your pilgrimage you must now travel away from Santiago to a point on a recognised Camino route at least 100km from the city and walk from there. The same is true for Galicians further afield who live in some part of the province at some distance from a "recognised" route. What seems like the obvious thing to do - simply to walk by the most convenient/practical/interesting route from your own front door - is no longer acceptable to the cathedral. A situation I find bizarre.
 

jsalt

Jill
Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, Le Puy, Rota Vicentina, Soulac, Norte, Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo, Aragonés
The first time I heard about the Camino was about thirty years ago when I read an article in National Geographic about a pilgrimage from Le Puy all the way to Santiago, aprox 1600km it said
Do you know which National Geographic issue this was? I have all the issues between 1957 and 1991 and would like to look it up!
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
Do you know which National Geographic issue this was? I have all the issues between 1957 and 1991 and would like to look it up!
I have no clue and I only think it was the Geographic as they were dropped into our ready room when they became out of date on the aircraft, but it was a long and excellent article which inspired me at the time even though I procrastinated for nearly twenty years.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I'm guessing more recent pilgrims from the USA are more influenced by the movie, though Paolo and Shirley may have also had an impact.
I think that is probably true. My own experience has been that the most vocal fans of the movie are often from the USA. And that they first became aware of the Caminos through it rather than any other source. I find that like other examples of "convert vigour" those who have come to the Caminos because of viewing the movie are sometimes inclined to attribute the remarkable growth of the Caminos far more to this one factor than is really justified. One British "newspaper" article I read started with the statement that "Before the movie The Way made it famous, no one really knew about El Camino de Santiago, otherwise known as The Way of Saint James." Which suggests that the Camino boom was essentially invented by Emilio Estevez and all of us who claim to have walked it prior to 2010 such as the 145,877 who received Compostelas in 2009 are deluded :cool:
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
To put it into perspective: Last year, more than 75% of those who collected a Compostela were from non-English speaking countries in Continental Europe.

Of course, Coelho, MacLaine and The Movie have been available in some other languages, too, but I bet that the majority of the 75% have been influenced by other more local sources of information as far as their ideas about Camino walking and where to start are concerned.
 

Rich1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (May 2015)
Camino Frances (2016-2018)
A complicated Camino from Madrid (Aug/Sep 18)
Three words.
Coelho
MacLaine
Hollywood
I would suggest that the 4th in that list is social media.

Whilst the initial surge in the popularity of the Camino was to a large degree caused by the initial three, the recent explosion coincides with the explosion in use of social media...facebook, instagram, twitter etc etc. The age of hashtags, blogs, selfies etc has produced a tipping point in the way information is escalated all over the world. I've seen people uploading they're daily trek onto Strava...and we all know that if it isn't on Strava, it didn't happen ;)
If I'd walked the Camino 20 years ago, perhaps even 10 (before smart phones?), I would write a journal, and tell my friends and family about my trip on my return...and show them as many photos as they could tolerate .
Now one can post details, photos, tag in, on a daily basis - all visible my several hundred FB friends, Instagram contacts. I can make my journal public property by blogging.
The more that people are aware of the Camino - and lets face it, most of us love it and are happy to telll whoever is within hearing distance of its wonder - the more people will want to walk it...and the number of people knowing about the Camino rises exponentially...
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
To put it into perspective: Last year, more than 75% of those who collected a Compostela were from non-English speaking countries in Continental Europe.
An observation which also counters the frequently expressed idea that the huge growth of interest in the Caminos can be blamed mainly on the Blessed John Brierley. A delusion of grandeur from we Anglophones ;)
 

JLWV

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Levante (2014-2016); Levante to Toledo (2017-2018), to be continued; Fisterra & Muxia (2018);
Back in the day some french chaps had to start from where they lived,
I am lucky enough to live on the Camino de Levante, some 25 km after starting point, so my first camino started at home, and after Santiago finished at Fisterra/Muxia.
My second one was the same, but had to stop in Toledo and is to be continued, may be switching to other camino in Medina del Campo or Zamora
Further, in single spared winter days, as a training, I began exploring other two caminos, also starting at home:
- home-Valencia (Levante inverted)-Sagunto(by via verde/Camino del Cid/Camino del Grial)-Camino de Sagunto, 4 days, to be continued
- home-Valencia(inverted-Levante)-Camino de Requena/La Lana, 3 days, to be continued.
Of course when I finish those I will be obliged to start from other part, … may be my birth village, on the border of France and Belgium…!
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
So I guess it all depends where you are told it starts when you don't know yourself.
That's the best explanation yet.
I would suggest that the 4th in that list is social media.
we all know that if it isn't on Strava, it didn't happen ;)
Oh, right. Absolutely. Big omission...which exposes my allergy to such things. :oops:
((Whispering an aside to anyone who knows..."What's Strava?"))
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
((Whispering an aside to anyone who knows..."What's Strava?"))
:cool: It is a highly specialised social media network and app that allows users to share all the minute details of their physical activities like walking, running or cycling that are captured by gadgets like Fitbit - distances, elevations, times, gps locations,........ Just in case you feel the need to keep an extremely close eye on your friends or think that the rest of the world would really benefit from knowing your precise location right now to within 6m accuracy ;)
 

Isobeljc

Still walking
Camino(s) past & future
Frances “2017”
Aragones “2018”
Portuguese “2018”
Me neither, but maybe this is where Shirley and Paolo come in? Amplified by Hollywood.
And SJPP is easier to get to than Somport, right?

@C clearly , you have a good point. That's one heck of an exciting start.
Having started from both SJPP and Somport, I have a thought.
Yes, SJPP may be marginally easier to get to. But Somport was only a train and bus ride from Pau, which is a lovely place.
Somport does not have the infrastructure of SJPP. It is basically an albergue and bar with a collection of ski trails and lodges. No train, post office, shops etc etc
Just my two cents worth.
PS, the Aragones is definitely worth walking.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
It is a highly specialised social media network and app that allows users to share all the minute details of their physical activities like walking, running or cycling that are captured by gadgets like Fitbit
Strava produces intriguing aggregate maps, though, see below. Note: the map doesn't show where people jog and walk. It shows were people jog and walk AND register it on Strava. You can see the Camino Frances very clearly.

Strava heatmap.jpg
 
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hel&scott

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2004 St Jean - Santiago, 2008 &18 Seville - Finesterre, 2010 Ferrol - Lisbon, 2012 from Cartehenga.
Our Camino started with a musing, a flicker of an idea that was gently stoked into reality. We trained and debated ancient trails, I refused to follow Patrick Le Fermin, and Scott decided on Spain, we didn't have time to start in Le Puy so we settled on St Jean. By the time we got to Santiago that flicker of an idea had become a raging desire we knew we would be back. Every Camino starts with a yearning, it just differs in where we actually place our first steps.

I don't have issue with people wanting to start at St Jean, I just wish that they would allow themselves the time to walk the distance without busing to miss the so called boring bits. And I do get annoyed about the claim that there is a proper route. I've never been proper in my life.
 

HaraldS

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2011-2017: Home(Germany) to SdC via Cologne-Taizé-Le Puy-Somport-Camino Aragones-Camino Frances
And why not via Somport? Too high. Why not via Irun which would make the most sense? Too low and not historical enough.
SJPdP was recommended in some 1970s guide as a starting point, due to the fact that it is near Ostabat (where three of the four french ways converge and form the Camino Frances) and has a train station, thus making it reachable for pilgrims who won't start at home.

Roncevalles would have been a good starting point as well due to its historic pilgrim hospital, but it didn't have a train station.

I bet the Somport wasn't recommended because it's not located on the Frances and in the 1970s/80s, when the first guides where published, they would prefer Roncevalles over Somport as a historic sight, because the Somport's pilgrim's hospital was long ago destructed where the Roncevalles buildings still existed.
 

David Pettee

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
GPM '86; Soviet/Amer. Walk '88; Death Valley to Mt. Whitney '89; CF '18; Coast to Coast '19; CP '20
I would suggest that the 4th in that list is social media.

Whilst the initial surge in the popularity of the Camino was to a large degree caused by the initial three, the recent explosion coincides with the explosion in use of social media...facebook, instagram, twitter etc etc. The age of hashtags, blogs, selfies etc has produced a tipping point in the way information is escalated all over the world. I've seen people uploading they're daily trek onto Strava...and we all know that if it isn't on Strava, it didn't happen ;)
If I'd walked the Camino 20 years ago, perhaps even 10 (before smart phones?), I would write a journal, and tell my friends and family about my trip on my return...and show them as many photos as they could tolerate .
Now one can post details, photos, tag in, on a daily basis - all visible my several hundred FB friends, Instagram contacts. I can make my journal public property by blogging.
The more that people are aware of the Camino - and lets face it, most of us love it and are happy to telll whoever is within hearing distance of its wonder - the more people will want to walk it...and the number of people knowing about the Camino rises exponentially...
 

Derrybiketours

A journey of 500 miles begins with one step!
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP-SANT-FIN (09/2018)
PORTO-SANT (11/2018)
Caminho Da Fe (01/2019)
SJPdP- Meseta (28/09/2019)
why do people think that the Camino starts in St Jean pied de Porte?
Ignorance is bliss and why let a little truth get in the Way of a good story 🤠

Three words.
Coelho
MacLaine
Hollywood

Well, make that four.
Ignorance.
Three words:
Body
Mind
Soul

Well as @VNwalking highlights a fourth
Ignorance

At the pilgrim office in Santiago I met a Spanish volunteer who provided me with an A4 page presenting an illustration of what he described as his theory of the Camino in his 50 years walking it, before, during and for the 40 days after. He asked me to not hand out or share the actual document but the main core message is one than you hear often. That the walk taken as a whole is broken into 3 stages, the body (physical), mind (emotional) and spirit (soul) and its path is aligned with our Milky Way from Ronsevalles to Finisterre hence the universal energy, lay lines and abundance of 'thin place' usually located at top of hills. The St Jean starting point for me was necessary to test my physicality and it earned my respect from day 1 and what appealed to me is when I heard that only 1 in 4 who start in SJPdP finish in Santiago so you could add a fifth word:

Challenge 🤠
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
So ... if I understand correctly, most of the other caminos in Spain are not aligned with the Milky Way?
The finest view I have ever had of the Milky Way was a few weeks ago in a national park in the Northern Territory in Australia. An astonishing sight which appeared to be directly overhead. Who knew that I was on the precise line of the Camino Frances? ;)
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
The finest view I have ever had of the Milky Way was a few weeks ago in a national park in the Northern Territory in Australia. An astonishing sight which appeared to be directly overhead. Who knew that I was on the precise line of the Camino Frances? ;)
I am full of envy. I just love dark skies and they are far away from where I live. I am also grinning.

I learnt only very recently that up to about the time of Galileo people didn't know that the Milky Way consists of stars. So if Charlemagne was shown a path of stars by Saint James in 800 and something, it cannot have been the Milky Way, can it?
 

Derrybiketours

A journey of 500 miles begins with one step!
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP-SANT-FIN (09/2018)
PORTO-SANT (11/2018)
Caminho Da Fe (01/2019)
SJPdP- Meseta (28/09/2019)
So ... if I understand correctly, most of the other caminos in Spain are not aligned with the Milky Way?
Not my words but as I said why let the truth get in the way.... although after walking Francè I walked back from Porto and didn't have same effect on me. Isn't the pyramids aligned with our constellation, maybe it's something similar with that particular route, 'I know nothing...it was my hampster Mr Fawlty' 🤠
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Just in case you feel the need to keep an extremely close eye on your friends or think that the rest of the world would really benefit from knowing your precise location right now to within 6m accuracy ;)
OMG, that's horrifying on several levels.
But it does make a cool map. You can pick out the first few days of the Via de Bayona too...a lot of
which are on cycle paths.
Hel, I think that makes you a tinker
I am envious, but far too proper to qualify. :oops:
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011 (2019)
The finest view I have ever had of the Milky Way was a few weeks ago in a national park in the Northern Territory in Australia. An astonishing sight which appeared to be directly overhead. Who knew that I was on the precise line of the Camino Frances? ;)
Hmm, I travelled in the Northern Territory recently too, and agree that the Milky Way is a magnificent sight. I fear, though, that if you had tried to use it to lead you to Santiago, you would have discovered why so many early European explorers perished in the Australian outback. I think we would prefer to have you here alive and kicking than looking for your body in the wilds of the Kimberley or Pilbara.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I think we would prefer to have you here alive and kicking than looking for your body in the wilds of the Kimberley or Pilbara.
Very kind of you to say so @dougfitz :) I decided it was better to trust to the maps and signposting of your fine National Parks people and so made it back home relatively unscathed with very happy memories of truly magnificent country.
Edit: for my own peace of mind and that of my family and friends I hired a PLB in Darwin for my walks in Nitmiluk and on the Larapinta Trail. Would probably make finding my remains much quicker and easier ;)
 
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Stroller

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2015), Frances (2016)
The physical start, whether we fly, drive or teleport, is from our front door, the Camino is the whole journey just as it was when medieval pilgrims walked, sailed or rode donkeys. The actual start of the camino is however in our heads. It starts as an idea, grows through planning, possibly dreaming and is then physically accomplished. SJPP is just one of many points where we can start walking but we have already made a significant journey to reach it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
I have no clue and I only think it was the Geographic as they were dropped into our ready room when they became out of date on the aircraft, but it was a long and excellent article which inspired me at the time even though I procrastinated for nearly twenty years.
OMG! Off topic a bit but I did a google search on Old National Geographic Articles Camino Santiago and this is where I landed. 10 days for $6,395 !!! Holy crap!
 

Derrybiketours

A journey of 500 miles begins with one step!
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP-SANT-FIN (09/2018)
PORTO-SANT (11/2018)
Caminho Da Fe (01/2019)
SJPdP- Meseta (28/09/2019)
OMG! Off topic a bit but I did a google search on Old National Geographic Articles Camino Santiago and this is where I landed. 10 days for $6,395 !!! Holy crap!
A bit🤔 says he who's onto Energy ley lines and Movie quotes, a pilgrim fool and their money is easily parted. I'll take them for 9,000 over 9 days, beat that 🤠
 

Paladina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles et al (2018), Mozarabe and more (2019)
I do have a bone to pick with Ms. MacLaine. I read her book prior to initial Spanish Trek. She waxed on about those damn, dangerous, and crazed dogs in Foncebadon. I spent the night in Rabanal del Camino shaking in my narrow Gaucelmo bed awaiting the next day’s mauling. None came. Not a dog in sight.
The vicious dogs must have been taken home to Ireland as souvenirs of the camino. I’m now heading to my local hospital for surgery to remove a fragment of canine tooth from my leg.
 

lthrnck55

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sept/Oct 2014

Camino Frances via Lourdes Sept/Oct/Nov 2020 ( Hopefully )
Members will be aware that I am neither a contrarian nor a provocateur but that I do like, now and again, to ask questions a little beyond which is the best bar to discuss the best sleeping bag in.

So, as I viewed a thread started by a new member who is flying into Madrid and probably training it to Pamplona asking how to get from there to a small provincial French town in the western foothills of the Pyrenees, I wondered, again, why do people think that the Camino starts in St Jean pied de Porte?

Our new member could start walking to the shrine of Santiago from Pamplona, as many do. They could, if they were determined to travel away from Santiago before walking to Santiago, have made their way to historic Roncesvalles. They could, if they wanted to, head for Somport or Irun or even Barcelona but everyone wants to get to StJpdP and then leave it the following morning via a potentially crippling walk up and over a thumping great hill for no other reason that I can discern than "that its there" (Mallory, I forgive you) or because that is where their guide book starts.

With all due respects to @Monasp and the good folk of the Bureau des pèlerins de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Why?
While you certainly have the right to ask the question, personally, I think it is irrelevant. You start with your question saying you are not a contrarian nor a provocateur. But, we all know, many pilgrims for a variety of reasons, harbor a resentment that many pilgrims choose to start THEIR pilgrimage at St. Jean. Do you resent that so many pilgrims, for whatever their reason, choose to start there?

I walked in the fall of 2014. I started in St. Jean. The Way, Jack Hitt, Paulo Coelho, etc., influenced my choice. I do not regret it one bit. My saunter/trek over the Pyrenees was a magical beginning to a life changing pilgrimage. I would not change it for the world. Sometimes I can still transport myself to those high meadows above the clouds and hear the melody of the bells. I can still feel the tears on my cheeks at the unexpected sight of Our Lady holding the Savior set against a crystal blue sky.

If another pilgrim wants to start in Madrid, Lourdes, Pamplona or Sarria, I say in a loud and clear voice, "Buen Camino!"
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I have never started in SJPP and I never will -- and NO, it is not "the start" of the Francès nor of the Camino.

Not even for most of those who begin their walk there.

From a secularist/Lay point of view, people start their pilgrimages when they walk out of their own front door, and their journey from there to SJPP or whichever different starting point is part of the pilgrimage and of the Camino. From a Catholic/Christian point of view same thing, except hopefully from the altar of their home parish church instead.

Apart from that, well people can start their walk wherever so well they please, and there's nothing really special or "magical" about say SJPP or Le Puy (though both places are very beautiful certainly), it's just that those places belong to a particular network of Camino infrastructures that happen to be both practical and reassuring in multiple interconnected ways.

But what's the so-called "Full Camino" ? -- well, in the most "purist" sense it's home to home via Santiago, ideally via the altar of your own home parish church at both start and end, and with blessings from your parish priest both times. (plus the Catholic religious stuff, but fundamentally that's off-topic for this thread)

And of course virtually nobody not living either in Spain, Portugal, Andorra, or France very close to the Pyrenees else maybe some in the British Isles doing a good deal of their Camino by sea (I love the possibilities opened to Britons by the opening of the new Ferry links to Santander) will both want and be able to do that.

So then people start wherever they want instead -- and this is completely non-problematic !!!

And if they want to start in SJPP (though I think it's a far from ideal starting point), then it's all good.

I always do my best to try and encourage people to start a little further away than SJPP (for at least a "feel" of what the Camino is like outside of all the crowds ; but also to help toughen up the hiking legs before the mountain pass), whether that's just one or two days extra, or if it's from the airport at Bordeaux, or even from Lourdes or whatever.

But if that's not what people want then that's fine too, as is starting at say Pamplona, Logroño or Burgos or Léon. Even Astorga or (shock, horror) Sarria.

And that's not even to get started on the other Camino Ways criss-crossing the Iberian peninsula ...

It's still the Camino ; it's still the Pilgrimage. Wherever you start ; however far you walk.

My most serious pet peeve is with those failing to ensure that their return trip is a genuine Journey Home. Take at least three days, ideally a week or more to travel home, including perhaps via Fisterra if you are drawn there (I never have been myself). It is an incredibly important part of the Pilgrimage and the Camino that all too often is replaced by an abrupt, even violent stark return to home life and ordinary routine.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I think that some who walk the Caminos now have the romantic idea that walking the Camino Frances has continued more or less unbroken since the Middle Ages. But by the 1970s the practice had all but died out. The few who did walk it did not follow a signposted footpath but rather made their own ways between the towns and villages from the Pyrenees to Santiago.
erm, sorry, but making my own Way outside of the well-beaten path has been my core experience of the Camino since starting my second one in 1994 from Paris.

And no it's NOT "romantic" that the tradition of the Camino is unbroken, regardless that the number of pilgrims dwindled to a trickle between the mid-19th and mid-20th Centuries. The oldest pilgrim I've ever met did his Camino in the 1950s.

And "signposted footpaths" are an invention of the late 20th Century, irrelevant to earlier or current non-yellow-arrow'd Camino Tradition.

And no NOT "from the Pyrenees to Santiago", from home to Santiago, and then back again. This "starting at the Pyrenees" is an invention of the 1970s.

I love the Francès and I love all of the Camino infrastructures there and elsewhere -- but they most certainly do not define my Caminos.

I have never really understood why SJPDP has so greatly eclipsed Somport as a starting point.
The notion that the Somport is a "starting point" is even more recent in the 20th Century than SJPP.

The Somport is a bare mountain Pass with little more up there than a border crossing and a hotel/bar/restaurant. SJPP is a mediaeval town.

No, the crazy thing is why one of the two most ancient routes between the Cami Romieu through the French Languedoc region and French and Spanish Catalonia between Rome and Santiago has been all but forgotten. The section up from Barcelona or Montserrat then up to either the Aragonès or to the Francès at Logroño is just a short section of it, and yet its the Way that Saint Francis took from Assisi (there and back), and the most probable route for St James' own Camino from Jerusalem to Astorga or Galicia.
 
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TaijiPilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2011), Camino Frances (2015), Camino Ingles (2017), Camino Muxia (2017), LePuy(2019)
This thread is better than a morning cup of Coffee (ou cafe au lit y cafe con leche, depending on where your camino starts)!
henrythedog, I have never flown RyanAir because of its reputation, but now you have explained a flight on RyanAir is training for a pilgrim, so perhaps I shall reconsider!

Katharina, you have provided me a new movie to watch. Is Saint Jacques... in French?

nycwalking, I also worried about those wild dogs of Foncebaddon. In 2011, I went through a village that seemes deserted, a ghost village, and in 2015, I found the village resurrected and lively- except for the few dogs I came across. I let those sleeping dogs lie!

Strava has always impressed me as an app for those highly competative runners and hikers who fly past me as if being pursued by those wild dogs! I shall have to revisit for its map features.

So thank you all for this thread. Tonight when I look for the Milky Way, being in the US, should I follow it to Santiago going west or east... oh, wait, either way, I fall into an ocean since I can't swim! I shall have to wait for a stone boat or a bird of steel to set me on my Way!
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
@JabbaPapa We have had this argument before and I think that we will have to disagree again. I cannot find our previous conversation on this for the moment but as I remember it you argued then that even if one or two people walked over a decade then that proved 'continuity'. I did make the point above that the practice of walking the way had "all but died out" and that a few continued to walk during those lean years. We had a very different understanding of continuity then and clearly we still do.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
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I do not think that explanation really holds water. My mother-in-law walked the Camino Frances as part of an international group in 1985 and SJPDP had already been established as the starting point of the route by then - two years before Mr Coelho's book was published , 15 years before Ms Maclaine's and 25 years before Mr Estevez's movie. When I walked my first Camino in 1990 it was pretty much assumed that long-distance Spanish pilgrims would begin from Roncesvalles and the rest of the world would start from SJPDP.
It's still an invention of the 1970s.

When I first flirted with the idea of pilgrimage many years ago, it was with a French friend as we discussed the road from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel.
There's one particularly cool English variant whereby you walk from home to St Michael's Mount in Cornwall ; hire the tiniest (maybe fisherman's) boat you can find to the Mont Saint-Michel ; then carry one.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
It's still an invention of the 1970s.
I thought that was precisely the point I had made in my first post in this thread: that the notion of SJPDP being "the start" of the Camino Frances springs from the deliberate creation of a specific signposted walking route from there by Valina and others from the late 1970s.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I learnt only very recently that up to about the time of Galileo people didn't know that the Milky Way consists of stars. So if Charlemagne was shown a path of stars by Saint James in 800 and something, it cannot have been the Milky Way, can it?
I think it would be more accurate to say that Romans and astrologers of the 1500s did not know the Milky Way was made of stars, but it is entirely possible it was lost knowledge or the original author of that statement was asleep during his lessons.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
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First of all, what we call the Camino Frances is THE Camino to Santiago, there's not doubt about it, no matter what modern PR wants to tell us.
No, it's A Camino de Santiago -- MOST of the ways there eventually join up with the Francès, even most of those through Spain, and there's even one from Portugal that does so ; even the Norte pilgrims finish on the Francès ; but the VAST majority of the Ways to Santiago are NOT the Camino Francès.

And this is not "modern PR", it's History and Geography.

Secondly, the contemporary revival started in France
And England. And Spain.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
'Starting points' are a product of what we think we know.

A few years ago, the First Lady of South Korea walked the camino, went home and talked about it. Now South Koreans are following in her footsteps.

There has always been a surge of nationalities based on what local celebrity has published, filmed, or (I guess) blogged. Their starting point will be the real one as promulgated by their source.

Perhaps if people on this forum stopped encouraging people to start in SJPDP ....
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I think it would be more accurate to say that Romans and astrologers of the 1500s did not know the Milky Way was made of stars, but it is entirely possible it was lost knowledge or the original author of that statement was asleep during his lessons.
I don't think it is lost knowledge. Many contemporary narratives are mixing all the old legends into one sauce and serve it to their readers. The Milky Way is called milky way or similar in other languages because people didn't know and couldn't see that it consists of stars. So their explanation was that it's milk or dust or footprints of souls etc etc.

It did get connected with Saint James but I think again mainly in connection with souls and dying at first, something we don't want to hear so much about in our times. Legend says that Saint James showed a path of stars to Charlemagne, and many people including scholars assume it was the Milky Way because they know little about the history of astronomy. Or even astronomy. 🙃
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
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the walk taken as a whole is broken into 3 stages, the body (physical), mind (emotional) and spirit (soul)
There are far more than just three stages on the "full Camino", and truth is I don't think I even know all of them myself yet, as this 2019-2020 is my first time doing one.

The simplest one to explain is Stage Zero -- walking out from home in familiar surroundings, inevitably coming across people and places you know along the way, eating and sleeping where you may have eaten and slept before, perhaps even in friends' houses, but then slowly moving on from out of that into the strangeness and foreignness of the Camino itself, then being faced point blank with dealing with it. It takes about three days to a week, variable on how fast you walk and how well you know your home region.

The most difficult stages of those I've had to face (so far, heck knows what the Camino will throw at me next year) are the "completely alone again stage after having been with many friendly people" and the "alone again among the crowd except they're all walking in the opposite direction stage". The "where on EARTH did this giant crowd come from stage" was a whack over the head too after 6 weeks solo getting into SJPP, one week to get past it again, but frankly not as bad.

---

EDIT : I need to add that on my 1994 out from Paris, I had the Stage Zero plus those three stages (albeit in a slightly different order) -- and then I reached SJPP. The Camino has more to offer than just what it can give you on the Francès alone ...
 
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Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
Because in good Catholic tradition, you must start out in suffering before being redeemed, and the walk to Roncesvalles is definitely suffering.

The alternative suggestion is that SJDP just had the best marketing department.

:) ;)
 

Hurry Krishna

Indian on the Way
Camino(s) past & future
2009 (from Sarria), 2014 from St Jean Pied de Port, 2016 from Porto, 2018 from Le Puy to Santiago.
Members will be aware that I am neither a contrarian nor a provocateur but that I do like, now and again, to ask questions a little beyond which is the best bar to discuss the best sleeping bag in.

So, as I viewed a thread started by a new member who is flying into Madrid and probably training it to Pamplona asking how to get from there to a small provincial French town in the western foothills of the Pyrenees, I wondered, again, why do people think that the Camino starts in St Jean pied de Porte?

Our new member could start walking to the shrine of Santiago from Pamplona, as many do. They could, if they were determined to travel away from Santiago before walking to Santiago, have made their way to historic Roncesvalles. They could, if they wanted to, head for Somport or Irun or even Barcelona but everyone wants to get to StJpdP and then leave it the following morning via a potentially crippling walk up and over a thumping great hill for no other reason that I can discern than "that its there" (Mallory, I forgive you) or because that is where their guide book starts.

With all due respects to @Monasp and the good folk of the Bureau des pèlerins de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Why?
Or they could start further away, eg from Madrid? Or somewhere in France - like Le Puy? Right 😉 https://readingontheroad54893552.wordpress.com/2018/08/14/first-post/
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
The alternative suggestion is that SJDP just had the best marketing department.
That and a train station 🙂.

I don't know what it was like in the 1970s and 1980s or even 1990s but I guess that taxis didn't roll as much between Pamplona and SJPP or Roncesvalles as they do today, and even buses may have been rare to non-existent (does anyone know?) and few could afford a taxi from Madrid. And when did cheap flights start? SJPP may just have been the easiest place to get to for the majority of those coming from outside Spain who you wanted to go on a long but not too long pilgrimage to Santiago.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
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And when did cheap flights start?
In the 1950s. But you had to book waaaaaaaayyyy in advance on charter flights, else travel solo and count on last-minute cancellations, else be in the business yourself ... 👉
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
For what it is worth, here are my two or three cents worth... I am presenting these thoughts as bullet points so they might be debated individually, as appropriate.
  1. I believe that Tinka (OP) is correct that the Camino does not start at St. Jean Pied de Port, per se.
  2. Most all early writings on this suggest that one's camino starts at one's home, or perhaps your local church. You departed from there and walked to Santiago de Compostela.
  3. However, starting from there, individual paths gradually merged into more heavily traveled routes across all or Europe, and eventually leading south and west in the direction of Santiago de Compostela.
  4. Eventually, all of these routes would have to get over the Pyrenees mountain range that separates what is now France from what is now Spain. IIRC, this can be done only at four places where there are either coastal plains or passes through the mountains.
  5. The passes (West to East) are near Irun on the Atlantic coast, the Napoleon / Valcarlos Pass at St. Jean Pied de Porte, the Somport Pass, and the coastal area on the Mediterranean, north of Barcelona.
  6. Most of the routes coming from northern europe passed through Bordeaux, Paris, and or Toulouse, before merging north of St Jean Pied de Port at another town (?Pau?).
  7. From this merge, the prevalent route across the Pyrenees develops where the present day Napoleon Pass / Valcarlos option are. A mountain pass is never to be discounted.
  8. Over time, and if you look at a diagram of all the routes coming from north, you can see an almost scallop shell design, with the main spine or route running more or less down the center. This would be the Camino Frances.
  9. I suspect that, over time, demand created a supply of services and accommodations for pilgrims along this route. One fed on the other, and the route grew in use and prosperity.
  10. In addition, if you look at the politics and warfare of the time, you recognize that the route of the Camino Frances also represented the approximate northern extent of the Moorish occupation and consolidated control of Iberia.
  11. Because of push-back from the indigenous peoples (Basques) and the inflow of Christians due to inception of the Camino from the mid-800s, the Moors were not able to establish full and complete control over the northern territories, beyond about where the Camino Frances is today.
  12. The line of Templar fortifications, churches and monasteries along this route of travel tends to support this conjecture. If word got out that pilgrims were largely protected from be victimized by the Moors along this line of March, it would logically become the favored route.
  13. Supporting this assessment is the statement made in many a pilgrim Mass at St. Jean Pied de Port by the presiding priest. To wit: "...we have been preparing pilgrims to continue their journey over the mountains to Santiago de Compostela for more than 1100 years..." I have heard this several times...
  14. Finally, on the geographical importance of St. Jean Pied de Port, I believe it was the last place a pilgrim could rest up, equip or provision themselves for the walk over the mountain, until they arrived at the Roncesvalles monastery, or before that, Pamplona...
  15. My considered opinion is that while the Camino does NOT START at SJPdP (See #2 above), the confluence of routes from the north into a single stream, onwards to Santiago de Compostela, DOES enforce the notion that at least the final segment of the Europe-wide network of Camino routes does combine at SJPdP. I believe that is the basis for the incorrect assessment that the Camino Frances starts at SJPdp.
  16. In summary, the Camino Frances does start at SJPdP, because it starts in France, traverses the Pyrenees into Spain, and leads the pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela.
Hope this helps the dialog. Feel free to disagree... Discussion is good.
 
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NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I don't think it is lost knowledge. Many contemporary narratives are mixing all the old legends into one sauce and serve it to their readers. The Milky Way is called milky way or similar in other languages because people didn't know and couldn't see that it consists of stars. So their explanation was that it's milk or dust or footprints of souls etc etc.

It did get connected with Saint James but I think again mainly in connection with souls and dying at first, something we don't want to hear so much about in our times. Legend says that Saint James showed a path of stars to Charlemagne, and many people including scholars assume it was the Milky Way because they know little about the history of astronomy. Or even astronomy. 🙃
Some of the old histories were just embellished propaganda. One I read talked of Charlemagne following St Jame's 'way of stars', defeating the 'infidel Galicians' and the Saracens ... then going to Galicia and embellishing the tomb, when Galicia was Christian, was not under Arab control and Charlemagne never made it past Navarre.

That history suggested Charlemagne was the original pilgrim ... which I guess would make Germany the correct starting point.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Some of the old histories
This whole stuff drove me mad at first, it still does sometimes. Because many of the contemporary narratives are unable to distinguish between what is mere fiction, what is mainly fiction with a bit of historical fact thrown in and what actually happened for sure. Plus most of these narrators have no clue WHEN a story developed. They just present everything in a time sequence as if it happened one after the other and people knew about it at the time when it supposedly happened.

It was a real eye opener when I read about the account of the attack on Charlemagne's soldiers and officers during their return journey from Spain, written by a person who lived then and was close to him. Roland and Roncesvalles? One single line ... A path of stars in the sky? Not a single word.
 
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