Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela from the Irish midlands in the fifteenth century by Bernadette Cunningham

 

Santiago de Compostela became an international pilgrimage destination in the twelfth century, at a time when the doctrine of purgatory was widely promulgated and the idea of indulgences was gaining popularity. The local archbishop, Diego Gelmírez (d.1140), promoted the cult of St James and the shrine in the Cathedral of Santiago became one of the three major pilgrimage destinations of the Christian world. This offered those living on the Atlantic edge of Europe an accessible alternative to Rome and Jerusalem.
There were two separate phases of the Santiago pilgrimage from medieval Ireland. The earlier phase, beginning in the thirteenth century, was a distinctly Anglo-Norman one, with pilgrims drawn from towns on the east and south coast. During the second phase – in the fifteenth century – Gaelic pilgrims from throughout Ireland, including the midlands, displayed a strong interest in going to Santiago. They almost invariably made the pilgrimage in jubilee years, when the feast of St James (25 July) fell on a Sunday and special indulgences could be earned.

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The O’Sullivans in Santiago de Compostela, by Elías Cueto

Galicia is known to many Irish people as Camino country. The Way of St James or Camino de Santiago begins for the Irish at St James’ Gate in Dublin, more usually known for the black stuff. For Irish peregriños, however, it will also conjure up memories of scallop shells, yellow arrows, meandering paths through the meseta, and the magnificent cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Now as the summer ends and many of us back from our travels, let’s take a look at some of the historic links between Galicia and Ireland with this guest post from Elías Cueto , an historian from Santiago whose research on the urban history of the city has been recently published.  Continue reading