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Study Tour: Medieval Spain
Medieval Study Tour on the Camino de Santiago
29 May-12 June 2010

Class Schedule and Itinerary

(Dates for class meetings during the semester will be arranged at the first meeting)



January 19

Orientation meeting (2 hours)

(1) Presentation on the Camino de Santiago, Past and Present

(2) Discussion of Nancy Louise Frey, Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago, Journeys Along an Ancient Way in Modern Spain (1998---ISBN: 0520210840; BX2321.S3 F74 1998)

Participants will also meet regularly during the semester to walk in preparation. Each participant will need to sign up for at least 2 weekend walks (usually to City Island, about 12 miles total).

Past and Present

Reports on web accounts of at least two modern pilgrims: who? where? when? how? and any special points that you would like to emphasize. How have the historical destination and remains shaped the modern experience?


History and Legend

Discussion of the reading from the Codex calixtinus (William Melczer, The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela [1993]), and other assigned medieval legends. The account in the Codex calixtinus is a travelogue without much narrative, but we can ask how it compares to contemporary accounts like those on the web, and more significantly what it reveals about medieval expectations and values. What were the interests expressed in the account? How was the author presenting distance, time and the world around him?


Setting and Context (I)

Presentations of the sites and monuments along the way. Each participant will be responsible for two sites, one we will be walking through, and one from other parts of the medieval pilgrimage routes. For each of the sites, be prepared to hand out a page or two of outline information, and then use the Web (or you can copy the images in advance and show them via Powerpoint) to illustrate in an informal way the history, legends, main features, must-see items, and significance of your site. For instance, for Castrojeriz (on any earlier stage of the route), the references to the church of Santa Maria del Manzano in Alfonso X's Cantigas de Santa Maria, and the history of the castle on the hill are the starting points.

On the camino itself, you will be responsible for your town, as the resource person and guide (though we'll all work together on that), so imagine this presentation as the basis for the real-time, real-life consideration.


Setting and Context (II)

Continued presentations of the sites and monuments. For the rest of the class, I would like to review preparations for the walk.

Date Place Activities Principal Sites Notes



travel to Spain


usually air to Madrid, rail or air to León

1 (29 May)


-tour city

-gothic cathedral, s. xiii
-Collegiate church of San Isidoro (museum, romanesque frescoes in the Panteón de los Reyes)


2 (30 May)

San Martin del Camino

-walk 25 km (6 hrs)

-landscape (meseta, Páramo, adobe construction)


3 (31 May)


-walk via Hospital de Órbigo, 25 kms
-meeting/lecture at Hospital de Órbigo -tour Astorga

Hospital de Órbigo
-13th-century bridge, site of the 1434 paso honroso (tournament)
-Roman mosaics and city walls
-renaissance cathedral
-episcopal palace (Gaudí)


4 (1 June)

Rabanal del Camino

-walk 20.6 km (5 hrs)

-medieval towns of the Maragatería
-vespers in Rabanal


5 (2 June)


-walk 26 km (6 hrs)

-Monte Irago (Cruz de hierro/Cruz de ferro at 1504m. alt.)
-village of El Acebo
-medieval town
-romanesque bridge


6 (3 June)


-walk 7 km (2 hrs)
-tour of Ponferrada

-Templar castle


7 (4 June)

Villafranca del Bierzo

-walk 22.5 km (5 hrs 30 min)

-valley of El Bierzo
Villafranca del Bierzo
-church of Santiago, San Francisco and Santa María
-“calle del Agua”
-castle of the Marquis


8 (5 June)

O Cebreiro

-walk 30 km (8 hrs 30 mins)

-the village of O Cebreiro
-the 12th-century “holy Grail” in the pre-romanesque church of O Cebreiro


9 (6 June)


-walk 20.5 km (5 hrs)

-landscape (the view over Galicia)


10 (7 June)


-walk 17.5 km (4 hrs 30 mins)

-monastery of Samos
-churches of San Salvador
-13th-century towers and walls
-gothic convent of the Magdalena


11 (8 June)


-walk 22.5 km (5 hrs 45 mins)

-church of Barbadelo, sculptured tympanum
-romanesque churches of San Nicolás and San Pedro
-17th-century palace of Berbetoros
-16th-century comital house


12 (9 June)

Palas de Rei

-walk 24.5 km (6 hr 30 min)

-houses of Ligonde
-church of Eirexe
Palas de Rei
-church of San Tirso
-medieval houses


13 (10 June)


-walk 14.8 km (3 hr 45 min)

-14th-century castle of Pambre
-town of Leboreiro
-romanesque bridge of Furelos
-14th-century church of Sancti Spiritu
-romanesque church of Santa María de Melide
-pulpo at Exequiel!


14 (11 June)

Pedrouzo (Arca-Rua)

-walk 32.4 km (8 hrs)

-village of Boente
-Arzúa, church of Santiago


15 (12 June)


-walk 20.1 km (5 hrs)
-pilgrims’ mass at noon
-meeting with Nancy Louise Frey, author of one of the course texts
-tour of the city
-dinner at El Gato Negro

-end of the study tour

-romanesque cathedral (Portico de la Gloria) and museum
-city streets






air or train from Santiago to Madrid

26 June

Journals due (may be submitted as email attachments)

Note: the stages are selected to end each evening in towns with historic sites and available hotels or hostels. There are, however, many smaller villages along the route, many with hostels. In case of unexpected events, we may stay on occasion in alternative locales. From Palas de Rei, for instance, Melide is an interesting stopping point at 14.8 km; but Arzúa is a good alternative at 29.4 km. From Melide, it is possible to walk in a long day (52 km) all the way to Santiago, but the stage can be broken at several points---Ribadiso da Baixo, Arzúa, Arca, or Monte do Gozo---depending on the group and its interests.


Last modified: August 31, 2009
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