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What Was The Camino Like Pre-Resurgence in Popularity?

Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, Portuguese, Finisterre, Muxia
As someone who has walked several Camino routes (my first was in 2013), I was curious to hear from anyone who has walked ANY Camino, say pre-year 2000, and what the experience was like. Specifically, accommodation, dining, interaction with locals, ease of finding your way (I can’t imagine there were as many yellow arrows 20+ years ago) and your overall impression of the Camino experience. Thank you in advance for your time and thoughts.
 
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Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
As someone who has walked several Camino routes (my first was in 2013), I was curious to hear from anyone who has walked ANY Camino, say pre-year 2000, and what the experience was like.
I walked my first Camino - the Camino Frances - in 1990. A very different experience from my most recent CF in 2016.

The most obvious difference is in numbers walking. There were about 5,000 Compostelas issued in 1990. Upwards of 350,000 this year already. So roughly 70 people walking now for every fellow pilgrim on that first walk. In comparison with today walking the Camino was a quite solitary pursuit. I walked from SJPDP in July and August and met about 30 other pilgrims over the 800km journey. Sometimes I walked for two or three days without meeting another pilgrim. So interactions were mostly with local people rather than fellow pilgrims. I spoke very little Spanish and at the time little English was spoken along the Camino. But people were very welcoming and generous towards the small number of pilgrims. On several occasions I was kindly invited to sit with families or groups of friends when they saw I was eating alone. On some occasions I found that a generous person had quietly paid for my meal or that a bar owner refused payment - a gift to the pilgrim. With few people walking I was often stopped in the street by local people who asked where I was from and usually shook my hand and wished me "Buen Camino".

Meals were eaten at normal Spanish hours - the menu peregrino did not yet exist. Less of a problem than today because the pilgrim refugios were mostly unstaffed and had no curfew. The main problem was that accommodation and food might be a long way apart. There were stages up to 30km between any services. The numbers of pilgrims were far too small to support private albergues or hostals and so pilgrim refugios were almost all run by church groups or local councils. Mainly donativo or refusing any payment at all. Mostly far simpler than today. Occasionally a bare room with a concrete floor where you could spread out your sleeping bag and mat. Of course there were no luggage transport services either so pilgrims usually carried heavier loads than today.

Finding the way was occasionally tricky but the standard Spanish guidebook by Elias Valiña had good sketch maps. Fr Valiña was the leading figure in the Camino revival and by the time I walked he and his colleagues had already mapped and signposted the whole Camino Frances. There were enough yellow arrows to follow.

If I compare my first Camino walk with my most recent Camino Frances in 2016 there is no doubt that I much preferred the solitude and the occasional interaction with local people on my first walk. I find the recent Camino Frances too big, too busy, too commercial and too self-referential. These days I choose my routes and seasons to recapture some of those things I most enjoyed 30 years ago. The Mozarabe. The VdlP. Routes in Norway and Japan.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
P.S. My impression is that the arrows were the first things to come back (though not as many, of course) and that albergues and other pilgrim-oriented infrastructure came later.
The yellow arrows didn't "come back" as such. Not a feature of the medieval Camino. The yellow arrows were an innovation during the reinvention of the Camino in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Legend has it that the colour was accidental because Fr Valiña came across a free source of surplus road marking paint :) The network of pilgrim refugios grew quite quickly as part of a very active programme to develop the Camino but they varied very widely in character. Almost all run by volunteers.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, Portuguese, Finisterre, Muxia
I walked my first Camino - the Camino Frances - in 1990. A very different experience from my most recent CF in 2016.

The most obvious difference is in numbers walking. There were about 5,000 Compostelas issued in 1990. Upwards of 350,000 this year already. So roughly 70 people walking now for every fellow pilgrim on that first walk. In comparison with today walking the Camino was a quite solitary pursuit. I walked from SJPDP in July and August and met about 30 other pilgrims over the 800km journey. Sometimes I walked for two or three days without meeting another pilgrim. So interactions were mostly with local people rather than fellow pilgrims. I spoke very little Spanish and at the time little English was spoken along the Camino. But people were very welcoming and generous towards the small number of pilgrims. On several occasions I was kindly invited to sit with families or groups of friends when they saw I was eating alone. On some occasions I found that a generous person had quietly paid for my meal or that a bar owner refused payment - a gift to the pilgrim. With few people walking I was often stopped in the street by local people who asked where I was from and usually shook my hand and wished me "Buen Camino".

Meals were eaten at normal Spanish hours - the menu peregrino did not yet exist. Less of a problem than today because the pilgrim refugios were mostly unstaffed and had no curfew. The main problem was that accommodation and food might be a long way apart. There were stages up to 30km between any services. The numbers of pilgrims were far too small to support private albergues or hostals and so pilgrim refugios were almost all run by church groups or local councils. Mainly donativo or refusing any payment at all. Mostly far simpler than today. Occasionally a bare room with a concrete floor where you could spread out your sleeping bag and mat. Of course there were no luggage transport services either so pilgrims usually carried heavier loads than today.

Finding the way was occasionally tricky but the standard Spanish guidebook by Elias Valiña had good sketch maps. Fr Valiña was the leading figure in the Camino revival and by the time I walked he and his colleagues had already mapped and signposted the whole Camino Frances. There were enough yellow arrows to follow.

If I compare my first Camino walk with my most recent Camino Frances in 2016 there is no doubt that I much preferred the solitude and the occasional interaction with local people on my first walk. I find the recent Camino Frances too big, too busy, too commercial and too self-referential. These days I choose my routes and seasons to recapture some of those things I most enjoyed 30 years ago. The Mozarabe. The VdlP. Routes in Norway and Japan.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this lengthy and very informative reply. This was exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Enjoy your future walks wherever they may take you.😊
 
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J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
There is also a really good podcast by @Dave (Dave Whitson) that is somewhere here on the forum in the podcasts and is an interview with David Gitlitz who is a coauthor of The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago where he talks about earlier days taking college students in 1974, '79, '87, '93 and '96. Super interesting. I tried to find the link. Not sure if the mods have a better way to sort. Gltlitz and Davidson's book identifies the cultural and historical aspects of each of the Camino Frances locations. Available on Kindle so I used it while walking as a pilgrim or when working as a hospitalero to make sure I knew the backstory of many of the things I was seeing.
 
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AnneO

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2023
I haven’t walked a Camino yet, but I studied in Leon in 1995. I was aware the Camino was a thing but I rarely saw anyone I identified as a pilgrim. It never really occurred to me to walk even a portion when I was there. From videos I have seen, it sure looks different there now.

I looked up statistics recently and I think the number of compostelas issued that year was only in the 20,000s so it isn’t surprising I didn’t see many pilgrims.
 
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Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
OK, found the link.
Thank you so much for the link. Just listened to the podcast. I've had the Davidson & Gitlitz guide on my bookshelves for years. A superb piece of work. So good to hear them both giving some personal anecdotes and perspectives on their journeys. A few little things that took me back to my own first Camino: fields being ploughed with oxen and village women washing clothes in the lavaderos are still images fresh in my mind! Especially as one group of ladies offered to scrub not only my clothes but me too. I'm fairly sure they were joking! :)
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
the solitude and similar experiences with locals what Bradypus describes is like you would walk a Camino in Germany, Switzerland or even Sweden these days.....in it's way wonderful!
And don't forget the network of St Olavs Ways in Norway and Sweden leading to Trondheim. When I walked the S:t Olavsleden in 2018, I recall being told they were estimating there would be 5000 pilgrims arriving at Trondeim that year. Clearly a far cry from the Camino de Santiago.

I rarely met other pilgrims both times that I walked to Trondheim when walking during the day, although there were often other pilgrims in the same pilgrim accommodation in the evening.

I don't know how similar these are to the pilgrimage routes on the Iberian peninsula before they became busy. My first Camino wasn't until 2010, a holy year when the CF was crowded even in April. Others might have a better appreciation of that.
 
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Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
A couple of years ago I very unwisely accepted an invitation to speak to a gathering in London about how I felt pilgrimage had changed over the 30 years since my first Camino. Thinking about the Via Francigena and other routes as well as the Caminos. Fortunately for me COVID saved me from actually delivering my address as the event was cancelled. I had already prepared my text and a PowerPoint slide show to go with it. If anyone would like to read what I intended to say it is in PDF form here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12U2kyGKF2aZeJnTz-yAptjW7KO-eCMX1/view?usp=drivesdk
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Time of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
The two major years for the resurgence were 1965 and 1993, so it's unlikely that anyone contributing here will have any experience of the Camino pre-1965.

But I know from talking with pilgrims who did theirs in the 1950s and such that what I experienced on the French part of my 1994 was quite similar.

Don't have time to write now, need to start walking out from Pontevedra in a minute, but I'll try and write something later.
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
For several fascinating French accounts/memoires of early 20th c. walkers on the camino see/read the links cited in this earlier reportage from Pèlerin Magazine.
http://marcheurs.blog.pelerin.info/...-a-la-rencontre-des-pionniers-de-compostelle


Imagine walking when a student as
Dominique Paladilhe did in 1948 during the time of Franco; his notebook/journal is still available on line! For more on Dominique Paladilhe, who later became a distinguished historian. Read this earlier forum thread.

See/read these additional posts re the 1980s on the Camino Frances

Happy research and Carpe diem!
 
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dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
file:///E:/CAMINO%20READINGS/FREY%20Pilgrim_Stories_On_and_off_the_Road_to_Santiago_Jo....pdf

Try this, online so open access. It is a fascinating collection of pilgrim stories from the 1990s.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
file:///E:/CAMINO%20READINGS/FREY%20Pilgrim_Stories_On_and_off_the_Road_to_Santiago_Jo....pdf

Try this, online so open access. It is a fascinating collection of pilgrim stories from the 1990s.
That is a local address for a storage drive connected to your own computer. Not an internet address. Unless someone has hacked into your machine they won't be able to read it!
 

dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
That is a local address for a storage drive connected to your own computer. Not an internet address. Unless someone has hacked into your machine they won't be able to read it!
Sorry about that. I'll see what I can do. Rather not have people hacking into my computer (not that there's anything worth hacking).
 

dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Sorry about that. I'll see what I can do. Rather not have people hacking into my computer (not that there's anything worth hacking).
Does this work?
 

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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
@David Tallan walked the CF in 1989! It must have been an amazing experience.

P.S. My impression is that the arrows were the first things to come back (though not as many, of course) and that albergues and other pilgrim-oriented infrastructure came later.
I was curious to hear from anyone who has walked ANY Camino, say pre-year 2000, and what the experience was like.

I know he has written a few times about his early camino pilgrimages. I am sure if you search around you can find them.
 

jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2021, 2022
It is funny... I didn't get a chance to walk at all pre-COVID. So - I can't compare/contrast as asked by the OP... but at the same time, I kind of feel like my first Camino experience is similar to what @Bradypus described. When was my first Camino? 2021. Spain opened to vaccinated visitors on June 7 and France opened to vaccinated visitors on June 9th. I left Arizona and then New York on June 6th and then arrived in Madrid on June 7th and made my way to Pamplona. On June 8th - I made my way to SJPDP via bus to Roncesvalles and then Taxi to SJPDP as the bus did NOT cross the French border yet (since COVID). I began my walk on June 9th - the day France was officially open to me. There were VERY few of us. Between SJPDP and probably Burgos - there were never more than about 30 of us per day walking the same stages - although some stretches had a lot of local day hikers. Between Burgos to Leon - we slowly started to pick up more Pilgrims along the way - with a bigger jump in numbers in Leon. Still - I doubt there were even 60 of us per day. Then it was very busy after Sarria - but by no means - busy compared pre-COVID or post-COVID years though.

Very few albergues were open, although there was a mix of private and public - depending on location. Many public albergues were still closed as well as most privates and religious albergues - but for the most part, there was at least 1 available in most STAGE towns (not necessarily so between stage towns) and for the most part, we were all able to find a bed in the town we wanted to stay in. But we did have to do more research to see what was open and where - AND make some reservations. Heck, even some public albergues were requiring reservations which as we all know - isn't the norm. Bars for the most part didn't open until later - if at all. There were some days that there was nowhere to purchase food along the way for many hours/kms. Even grocery store hours were very hard to figure out in the small villages. I truly had to plan ahead and learn to stop every time I did pass an open grocery store. There were very few locals out even. And masks were still required even outdoors - so in town - we all had to mask up and keep socially distant.


With all that in mind - the locals I did interact with were wonderful and it was often the non-English speaking ones that wanted to have conversations with me the most. Even after I told them - in spanish - that I spoke very little Spanish and I didn't understand them lol. When I walked into businesses - they were so excited to see a pilgrim and were hopeful that more were behind me. One day I couldn't find an albergue in the first two small towns I tried to stop in. I was cold, wet, and exhausted when I got to Ages and I stopped in a cute little bar to warm up and eat something. Afterwards - I was trying to access an albergue but no one was there - the Spanish speaking only men at the bar saw me and kept motioning me to stay there. One of them ran somewhere and got a young man to come and open the albergue for me. I got the royal treatment. Later - I asked the man who runs the bar if there is somewhere I could get a meal - he snuck me upstairs and had his wife make a special meal just for me. Then he told me to return at 7am and he would have breakfast for me. And I had these kinds of special experiences like this all along the Frances.

Anyhow - I wish I could have walked the Camino years ago, long before it was crowded - but I walked the Frances the PERFECT year for me! I had a LOT of solitude, which I desperately needed. I could walk completely alone for many hours at a time. A few days I didn't see anyone until I arrived in town for the day. I am kind of afraid to go back to the Frances because I know it will be so different. This year I did the Norte/Primitivo and LOVED the experience on the Primitivo. Just the right balance of lower pilgrim numbers but still having a total feel of "Camino Spirit".
 
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Portia1

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2009, Portuguese 2012
Frances 2016, (Frances 2019)
I walked my first Camino - the Camino Frances - in 1990. A very different experience from my most recent CF in 2016.

The most obvious difference is in numbers walking. There were about 5,000 Compostelas issued in 1990. Upwards of 350,000 this year already. So roughly 70 people walking now for every fellow pilgrim on that first walk. In comparison with today walking the Camino was a quite solitary pursuit. I walked from SJPDP in July and August and met about 30 other pilgrims over the 800km journey. Sometimes I walked for two or three days without meeting another pilgrim. So interactions were mostly with local people rather than fellow pilgrims. I spoke very little Spanish and at the time little English was spoken along the Camino. But people were very welcoming and generous towards the small number of pilgrims. On several occasions I was kindly invited to sit with families or groups of friends when they saw I was eating alone. On some occasions I found that a generous person had quietly paid for my meal or that a bar owner refused payment - a gift to the pilgrim. With few people walking I was often stopped in the street by local people who asked where I was from and usually shook my hand and wished me "Buen Camino".

Meals were eaten at normal Spanish hours - the menu peregrino did not yet exist. Less of a problem than today because the pilgrim refugios were mostly unstaffed and had no curfew. The main problem was that accommodation and food might be a long way apart. There were stages up to 30km between any services. The numbers of pilgrims were far too small to support private albergues or hostals and so pilgrim refugios were almost all run by church groups or local councils. Mainly donativo or refusing any payment at all. Mostly far simpler than today. Occasionally a bare room with a concrete floor where you could spread out your sleeping bag and mat. Of course there were no luggage transport services either so pilgrims usually carried heavier loads than today.

Finding the way was occasionally tricky but the standard Spanish guidebook by Elias Valiña had good sketch maps. Fr Valiña was the leading figure in the Camino revival and by the time I walked he and his colleagues had already mapped and signposted the whole Camino Frances. There were enough yellow arrows to follow.

If I compare my first Camino walk with my most recent Camino Frances in 2016 there is no doubt that I much preferred the solitude and the occasional interaction with local people on my first walk. I find the recent Camino Frances too big, too busy, too commercial and too self-referential. These days I choose my routes and seasons to recapture some of those things I most enjoyed 30 years ago. The Mozarabe. The VdlP. Routes in Norway and Japan.
1999 was my first Camino and on the Frances. I only met 5 Americans between SJPP and Santiago. You could walk for many miles all by yourself. i walked it again three years ago and I was dumbfounded by the huge numbers of people, many not carrying packs, who were both noisy and complaining. There were some surprising route changes. Albergues were full of people—many with feelings of entitlement—from spreading gear all over to leaving bathrooms a mess for someone else to tidy up. i walked both times in September into October. I will probably not walk on the Frances again.
 

Nick Barlow

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances: April-May 2022
Primitivo: April 2023
My first time was this year, but on the way I stopped at Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal where they had a little book they'd put together in 2016 to celebrate it being open for 25 years. If you stay there, try to read it as it was really fascinating about the experience back then - one of the reasons the CSJ found that location was because there was because there was almost no accommodation for pilgrims between Astorga and Ponferrada!
 
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Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
one of the reasons the CSJ found that location was because there was because there was almost no accommodation for pilgrims between Astorga and Ponferrada!
Before Refugio Gaucelmo opened pilgrims sometimes slept on the floor of a room in Rabanal's only bar. I did that myself. The next day I slept in the old school room in El Acebo which was used now and again by pilgrims. No beds, toilet or running water unfortunately and the village bar was a single room with very erratic opening hours!
 

wynrich

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 13, CF 14, CP 16, VF 17, CN 18, CN+RC 19, CF 22
Before our first camino in 2013, we were looking for books about the camino. (There weren't nearly as many then.) One of the first books we came across was Following the Milky Way by Elyn Aviva. It's about her experience walking the camino in 1982. We enjoyed reading it.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004WDRVDK/?tag=casaivar02-20
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2007
Does anyone know if the brown pilgrims’ cape was part of the revival, or if it was something pilgrims used to wear as recently as the 1990s (or maybe a bit of both)?

I’ve always been curious because on my first Camino Frances in 2007, there was a bartender in Sarria who proudly showed me photos of his pilgrimage years before. They looked to be at least ten years old, so no later than 1997, in winter around O Cebreiro. He was wearing normal cold-weather clothes and carried a large (non hi-tech) pack and a regular wooden walking stick – and he wore a striking long brown cape. It made quite an impression against the mountains. The next time I saw the cape was in Santiago, where it appeared more like a modern interpretation for tourists of what a medieval pilgrim would wear.

But because this Spanish pilgrim had worn one in the 90s – with plain shoulders, not the shell and cross insignias – I’ve always wondered if it used to be a normal, non-exotic piece of gear, especially among Spaniards or Galicians. (This is a very minor question in a broad and fascinating discussion, I know!)
 

howardd5

Active Member
I walked my first Camino - the Camino Frances - in 1990. A very different experience from my most recent CF in 2016.

The most obvious difference is in numbers walking. There were about 5,000 Compostelas issued in 1990. Upwards of 350,000 this year already. So roughly 70 people walking now for every fellow pilgrim on that first walk. In comparison with today walking the Camino was a quite solitary pursuit. I walked from SJPDP in July and August and met about 30 other pilgrims over the 800km journey. Sometimes I walked for two or three days without meeting another pilgrim. So interactions were mostly with local people rather than fellow pilgrims. I spoke very little Spanish and at the time little English was spoken along the Camino. But people were very welcoming and generous towards the small number of pilgrims. On several occasions I was kindly invited to sit with families or groups of friends when they saw I was eating alone. On some occasions I found that a generous person had quietly paid for my meal or that a bar owner refused payment - a gift to the pilgrim. With few people walking I was often stopped in the street by local people who asked where I was from and usually shook my hand and wished me "Buen Camino".

Meals were eaten at normal Spanish hours - the menu peregrino did not yet exist. Less of a problem than today because the pilgrim refugios were mostly unstaffed and had no curfew. The main problem was that accommodation and food might be a long way apart. There were stages up to 30km between any services. The numbers of pilgrims were far too small to support private albergues or hostals and so pilgrim refugios were almost all run by church groups or local councils. Mainly donativo or refusing any payment at all. Mostly far simpler than today. Occasionally a bare room with a concrete floor where you could spread out your sleeping bag and mat. Of course there were no luggage transport services either so pilgrims usually carried heavier loads than today.

Finding the way was occasionally tricky but the standard Spanish guidebook by Elias Valiña had good sketch maps. Fr Valiña was the leading figure in the Camino revival and by the time I walked he and his colleagues had already mapped and signposted the whole Camino Frances. There were enough yellow arrows to follow.

If I compare my first Camino walk with my most recent Camino Frances in 2016 there is no doubt that I much preferred the solitude and the occasional interaction with local people on my first walk. I find the recent Camino Frances too big, too busy, too commercial and too self-referential. These days I choose my routes and seasons to recapture some of those things I most enjoyed 30 years ago. The Mozarabe. The VdlP. Routes in Norway and Japan.
Great story, I first walked from Leon to Santiago in 1998 and he hit a home run with the description of the “old days”. I have since gone back a dozen times including the Arogonnes way and Primitivo, both of which share some early traits . Getting lost was a daily experience , but the locals were always helpful. I knew little about the route and the first time I saw a sign for “perigrinos” I thought falcons instead of walkers. I had prior experience hiking in England & Scotland. But the weather there was terrible. My favorite joke was “ it only rained twice last week , once for four days and once for three days” well I enjoy the Camino and plan to hike again, Primitivo, in early summer .
 
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dick bird

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Does anyone know if the brown pilgrims’ cape was part of the revival, or if it was something pilgrims used to wear as recently as the 1990s (or maybe a bit of both)?

I’ve always been curious because on my first Camino Frances in 2007, there was a bartender in Sarria who proudly showed me photos of his pilgrimage years before. They looked to be at least ten years old, so no later than 1997, in winter around O Cebreiro. He was wearing normal cold-weather clothes and carried a large (non hi-tech) pack and a regular wooden walking stick – and he wore a striking long brown cape. It made quite an impression against the mountains. The next time I saw the cape was in Santiago, where it appeared more like a modern interpretation for tourists of what a medieval pilgrim would wear.

But because this Spanish pilgrim had worn one in the 90s – with plain shoulders, not the shell and cross insignias – I’ve always wondered if it used to be a normal, non-exotic piece of gear, especially among Spaniards or Galicians. (This is a very minor question in a broad and fascinating discussion, I know!)
DSC05017.JPG
Santiago as a pilgrim on the Baroque façade of Santiago cathedral.

From: The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage (Sir Walter Raleigh)

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 gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

I recently read an article by Luis Martínez García (of Valladolid university) mentioning that in mediaeval times, some hospedales would only admit pilgrims who carried the usual paraphernalia of gown, staff etc and that their staff was often notched to make sure they did not come back again (apparently there were a lot of false pilgrims, what Aymery Picaud terms 'Picaros' and other folk up to no good on the camino back then).

There are also numerous mentions of departing pilgrims having their gown, staff, gourd and satchel blessed before they set out rather in the way crusaders had their weapons blessed.

So in answer to your question, no, not a modern interpretation - what pilgrims actually wore.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
check out the capes in this video from a 1963 Spanish newsreel
Fascinating to look at this. Note that those 3 pilgrims had luggage transport!

What I find shocking is to watch that news clip, which looks like something from a different century, way older than I am. The shocking part is to realize that it IS from a different century, and that I was already a teenager at the time (1963) it was made. How can that be?! :eek::oops:
 
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To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
video from a 1963 Spanish newsreel showing three male pilgrims walking from Burgos to Fromista
Aren't these the three men from Estella who went from Roncesvalles to Santiago? Estella had the first Camino association in Spain and at least one of the three was a member of this pioneering association. I had a quick look at their website: "It is convenient to situate ourselves in the environment of 1962, in which the Camino was a marginal thing that was not even talked about, it was considered to be a thing of the past to which neither the world of Art and Culture nor the Authorities paid the slightest attention".
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Aren't these the three men from Estella who went from Roncesvalles to Santiago? Estella had the first Camino association in Spain and at least one of the three was a member of this pioneering association. I had a quick look at their website: "It is convenient to situate ourselves in the environment of 1962, in which the Camino was a marginal thing that was not even talked about, it was considered to be a thing of the past to which neither the world of Art and Culture nor the Authorities paid the slightest attention".
Kathar1na,
Thanks for the update! Can you post a link to that Estella site please.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
a link to that Estella site
It's here: https://www.caminodesantiagoestella...ion-amigos-del-camino-de-santiago-de-estella/

And below is a link to a long article about the pilgrimage of the three pilgrims in 1963: Antonio Roa who was 26 years old and his neighbour Jaime Eguaras, 21 years, because "in those days it was not advisable to go on pilgrimage alone". And "with two people willing to go on pilgrimage, the Association notified the authorities in Santiago of their departure, requested the support of the Directorate General for the Promotion of Tourism so that Spanish TV and NO-DO (an organisation that produced news reels) would take an interest in it, and sent letters to the civil governors, mayors and parish priests so that they would attend to the pilgrims." José Maria Jimeno, a historian and priest with a strong interest in the history of the Camino, joined them as the third person of the group.

As to their outfit: a Capuchin father provided them with Franciscan habits; as a belt they used the ones worn by participants of the Easter week procession, and they adapted the animal skins they were given by a tannery for the esclavina (short cape/cloak). The wife of a local doctor, who was Galician, gave them the scallops, which they attached to each esclavina, and another woman sewed the crosses that Jaime had cut out on the habit.

As they progressed, public interest grew tremendously. They probably did more for the revival of the Camino than Martin Sheen, Paul Coelho, Hape Kerkeling, Jean-Noël Gurgand and Pierre Barret taken together. :cool:

https://www.sasua.net/estella/articulo.asp?f=santiago2&n=Peregrinación a Santiago
 
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dbier

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Last 114km Camino Frances, Jul 21
2023 - Camino P
Interesting...did I see them crossing themselves right to left? Or was that a reversal of the image?
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
A couple of years ago I very unwisely accepted an invitation to speak to a gathering in London about how I felt pilgrimage had changed over the 30 years since my first Camino. Thinking about the Via Francigena and other routes as well as the Caminos. Fortunately for me COVID saved me from actually delivering my address as the event was cancelled. I had already prepared my text and a PowerPoint slide show to go with it. If anyone would like to read what I intended to say it is in PDF form here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12U2kyGKF2aZeJnTz-yAptjW7KO-eCMX1/view?usp=drivesdk
A fantastic resource from a primary source - and a good read. So much to think about. Thank you @Bradypus
 
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dick bird

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Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Fascinating to look at this. Note that those 3 pilgrims had luggage transport!

What I find shocking is to watch that news clip, which looks like something from a different century, way older than I am. The shocking part is to realize that it IS from a different century, and that I was already a teenager at the time (1963) it was made. How can that be?! :eek::oops:
A very different Spain. I somehow can't imagine this trio twisting the night away to the latest Beatles single. That horse-drawn threshing board looks fun though.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2016; Mansill de las Mulas to Finisterre/Muxia 2017; Aragones 2018; Suso/Yuso, Meseta 2019
I was one of the unsung hero students who made the upper half of the class possible. I do distinctly remember that in 1974 one of my professors did talk about the Camino, but the whole thing went right over my head. Oh to have been a student then and walked the Camino with Gitlitz!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, Portuguese, Finisterre, Muxia
For those interested in "how it once looked" check out the capes in this video from a 1963 Spanish newsreel showing three male pilgrims walking from Burgos to Fromista along a barren windy meseta path.

Wow! This is incredible. Truly a step back in time. Words could not have described what this short video shows. I’m so grateful for everyone who has provided such detailed feedback to my original post. Thank you!
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Time of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
Toronto native Laurie Dennett walked the Camino in 1985, all the way from Paris. Her "A Hug for the Apostle," recently published in an updated edition, was pretty much the first of the ongoing Pilgrim Memoir genre -- and actually very well written (she is a professional author and historian.) https://wordsindeed.ca/books/a-hug-for-the-apostle/
She soon will release "Waybread," a collection of her writings, research, and experiences as a pilgrim, hospitalera, and witness to the history of the Camino from her home in O Cebreiro and a founder of Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal del Camino. Recent Camino history is a topic rarely addressed in English. "Waybread" will be a first! (for the sake of full disclosure, it's the next Peaceable Publishing offering. )
 
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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Time of past OR future Camino
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Does anyone know if the brown pilgrims’ cape was part of the revival, or if it was something pilgrims used to wear as recently as the 1990s (or maybe a bit of both)?

I’ve always been curious because on my first Camino Frances in 2007, there was a bartender in Sarria who proudly showed me photos of his pilgrimage years before. They looked to be at least ten years old, so no later than 1997, in winter around O Cebreiro. He was wearing normal cold-weather clothes and carried a large (non hi-tech) pack and a regular wooden walking stick – and he wore a striking long brown cape. It made quite an impression against the mountains. The next time I saw the cape was in Santiago, where it appeared more like a modern interpretation for tourists of what a medieval pilgrim would wear.

But because this Spanish pilgrim had worn one in the 90s – with plain shoulders, not the shell and cross insignias – I’ve always wondered if it used to be a normal, non-exotic piece of gear, especially among Spaniards or Galicians. (This is a very minor question in a broad and fascinating discussion, I know!)
I use a great big black pilgrim cape, and honestly it's always a bit of an affectation, except that on a longer Camino in cooler and wetter weather, it's very useful.

But even in Summer, it's very good to have as a blanket.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Time of past OR future Camino
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Here's a bit of how the French part of my 1994 from Paris was like.

No other pilgrims, no yellow arrows nor any other waymarkers, no clear sense of where to go except more or less "thataway", occasionally getting blocked by a railway, motorway, or river, until you start to work out how to avoid them in advance.

And also much sleeping outdoors, though local priests and monks and so on did help, and there were many more of them 30 years ago, and sometimes in glorious locations with views over incredible vistas under the sparkling Milky Way.

Sometimes in a bed, sometimes in the woods, sometimes on the floor, in a barn, on the grass, in a panorama of extraordinary beauty, or on wet leaves in the freezing cold. On dust, on mud, on concrete, on any surface at all to lay your head, with a welcome or denied it, that was and is the Camino when you are outside of the infrastructures, and how it was prior to their existence.

And with that, the help and love of strangers, in small matters and profound, some food, some drink, some comfort wherein to lay your head, or eat a simple feast, and even just be encouraged along the way.

I cut across the country avoiding Léon in 1994 as they had not seen fit to open an Albergue for the pilgrims that year, and I walked through villages where washer women shared the waters of the village fount with horses come there to quench their thirst from the heat of the day.

A little old lady in the midst of France giving with honour the gift of a simple omelette and a glass of clear water, to this day the best meal I have had on any of these Camino Ways.

It was and is a baroque assemblage of provision and want.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
1989
As was mentioned above, my first Camino was in the spring of 1989 - not too far off from Bradypus. I was living in Madrid at the time and the first thing I did was go to the Spanish Tourism office to see what they had. I picked up a couple of brochures on the "Camino de Santiago" (which, at the time, was synonymous with the Camino Frances, or the Camino Frances+Camino Aragones. No one was talking about the Camino del Norte, or the Camino Primitivo, or the Camino Portugues, or other Caminos in anything I could find at the time. Also of interest, perhaps, is that one of the brochures I was given (printed in the 70s) showed the Camino going along the roads and everywhere there was a gas station along the way. Even in the late 80s, it was not uncommon to find people driving the Camino instead of walking it. I will admit that the Camino I did then had a fair share of hitchhiking, as well as walking, unlike my subsequent Caminos. And many of the rides I got were from people on pilgrimage from Italy or Germany or elsewhere, driving along the Camino route from town to town and village to village.

I started in Roncesvalles, because I was coming from Madrid and from Spanish people, that's where I heard that the Camino started. When I got there I knew nothing about credencials, or the Compostela, or anything like that. I was given a credencial in Roncesvalles (which was a cardboard rectangle folded in half, specific to the Roncesvalles start point, with a limited number of spaces for stamps, each labelled with the town the stamp was to come from). The credencial came from the Friends of the Camino group in Estella. I never used it, not asked for my Compostela on that pilgrimage. That wasn't why I was doing the pilgrimage. I think I'm going to take it on my next Camino Frances and see if I can fill in the stamps and what they will make of it in Santiago.

As others have said, there was a lot less infrastructure back then. I have vivid memories of arriving in O Cebreiro, cold and wet. This was before the albergue had been build and before it had turned into the tourist mecca it is today. There was one inn in the village and it was full. They let me lay my sleeping back down before the fireplace in the main room. I don't think I ever felt as much like a medieval pilgrim as I did that night. I later heard that sometimes they let pilgrims sleep in the thatched roof pallozas.

I recently went back and looked at some old photos from that pilgrimage and I was surprised to see how much infrastructure there actually was at the time. Others have mentioned that the yellow arrows were already in place. In fact, 1989 was the same year that the person who was responsible for those yellow arrows passed away. But that wasn't all the signage. I have photos of those huge signboards you may recall from Castilla y Leon showing the Camino through the province marked vertically. They were already there. And I have photos of an elaborate mosaic on the streets of Santo Domingo de la Calzada showing the Camino route.

Another big difference back then was how the Camino ended. Back then, you didn't enter the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela like you do today, from the side. You entered through the Portico of Glory and you put your hand on the central Tree of Jesse pillar, in the grooves made by countless hands before you.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
You entered through the Portico of Glory and you put your hand on the central Tree of Jesse pillar, in the grooves made by countless hands before you.
And you could do it while still wearing your rucksack. It felt like a more natural and spontaneous end to the journey than today's business of having to find a place to store your pack first and then pass security at a side entrance.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, Portuguese, Finisterre, Muxia
As was mentioned above, my first Camino was in the spring of 1989 - not too far off from Bradypus. I was living in Madrid at the time and the first thing I did was go to the Spanish Tourism office to see what they had. I picked up a couple of brochures on the "Camino de Santiago" (which, at the time, was synonymous with the Camino Frances, or the Camino Frances+Camino Aragones. No one was talking about the Camino del Norte, or the Camino Primitivo, or the Camino Portugues, or other Caminos in anything I could find at the time. Also of interest, perhaps, is that one of the brochures I was given (printed in the 70s) showed the Camino going along the roads and everywhere there was a gas station along the way. Even in the late 80s, it was not uncommon to find people driving the Camino instead of walking it. I will admit that the Camino I did then had a fair share of hitchhiking, as well as walking, unlike my subsequent Caminos. And many of the rides I got were from people on pilgrimage from Italy or Germany or elsewhere, driving along the Camino route from town to town and village to village.

I started in Roncesvalles, because I was coming from Madrid and from Spanish people, that's where I heard that the Camino started. When I got there I knew nothing about credencials, or the Compostela, or anything like that. I was given a credencial in Roncesvalles (which was a cardboard rectangle folded in half, specific to the Roncesvalles start point, with a limited number of spaces for stamps, each labelled with the town the stamp was to come from). The credencial came from the Friends of the Camino group in Estella. I never used it, not asked for my Compostela on that pilgrimage. That wasn't why I was doing the pilgrimage. I think I'm going to take it on my next Camino Frances and see if I can fill in the stamps and what they will make of it in Santiago.

As others have said, there was a lot less infrastructure back then. I have vivid memories of arriving in O Cebreiro, cold and wet. This was before the albergue had been build and before it had turned into the tourist mecca it is today. There was one inn in the village and it was full. They let me lay my sleeping back down before the fireplace in the main room. I don't think I ever felt as much like a medieval pilgrim as I did that night. I later heard that sometimes they let pilgrims sleep in the thatched roof pallozas.

I recently went back and looked at some old photos from that pilgrimage and I was surprised to see how much infrastructure there actually was at the time. Others have mentioned that the yellow arrows were already in place. In fact, 1989 was the same year that the person who was responsible for those yellow arrows passed away. But that wasn't all the signage. I have photos of those huge signboards you may recall from Castilla y Leon showing the Camino through the province marked vertically. They were already there. And I have photos of an elaborate mosaic on the streets of Santo Domingo de la Calzada showing the Camino route.

Another big difference back then was how the Camino ended. Back then, you didn't enter the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela like you do today, from the side. You entered through the Portico of Glory and you put your hand on the central Tree of Jesse pillar, in the grooves made by countless hands before you.
Just curious. Back in ‘89, what was the driving force behind your Camino journey? Sport, exercise, religious, sense of adventure, etc?
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
1989
Just curious. Back in ‘89, what was the driving force behind your Camino journey? Sport, exercise, religious, sense of adventure, etc?
I was a medieval studies student at university before living in Spain, and, as a hobby, had been a bit of a medieval reenactor. So my primary motivation was cultural - to see all of the medieval culture. But not just to see the medieval culture, but to participate in it through the activity of pilgrimage. And, as really came across when reading my journals later, I very much saw myself as a pilgrim on the route, and noted how different the experience was to enter the churches along the pilgrimage route as a pilgrim, as compared to my experience entering other churches and cathedrals as a tourist.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Time of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I was a medieval studies student at university before living in Spain, and, as a hobby, had been a bit of a medieval reenactor. So my primary motivation was cultural - to see all of the medieval culture. But not just to see the medieval culture, but to participate in it through the activity of pilgrimage. And, as really came across when reading my journals later, I very much saw myself as a pilgrim on the route, and noted how different the experience was to enter the churches along the pilgrimage route as a pilgrim, as compared to my experience entering other churches and cathedrals as a tourist.
That was certainly my own experience on the French part of my 1994, but also my 2000 to Rome, and I would add several of the more DIY sections of my pilgrimages since, including several sections of the current one.
 

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