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The scallop shell was the sign of the pilgrimage to Compostela. They were plentiful on the coast of Galicia where pilgrims would go the short distance to reach the western sea shore as the final act of their journey to collect their emblem.

At the Burgundian shrine of Saint Lazarus at Autun, there is the great porch sculpture of the Final Judgment. Christ reigns in Majesty, to the left is the college of the Apostles and to the right the Weighing of Souls.


On the lintel below is the procession of the Damned and the Elect. At the head of the line of the Elect is a diminutive figure bearing a scallop shell on his bag, the first to be admitted to the Heavenly Paradise: the Compostelan pilgrim.

At this cathedral dedicated to Lazarus, celebrated as the first to be resurrected by Christ, the importance placed on the pilgrimage to Compostela by medieval man could hardly be more clearly evident .


  1. The figure above is a pilgrim, how can I asume that he is a “compostelan pilgrim” ?

    Compostelle n’était pas le seul but de pèlerinage médiéval. Les pèlerins du Mont Saint-Michel portaient aussi des coquilles et bien d’autres … La coquille est un symbole bien antérieur à Compostelle. Elle a certes été utilisée à Compostelle. mais toute coquille ne peut être mise en relation univoque avec Compostelle.


    • How can I assume that that he is a Compostelan pilgrim? I admit to being surprised by this question. Also, I was not aware that the scallop shell was used by pilgrims to other destinations and I would be grateful for further information on this.
      As always there is a mystery in romanesque sculpture, an ambivalence and an allegorical significance so that a single meaning can rarely be given to any image.
      The scallop shell is clearly an intriguing image and its symbolic potential obviously predates the pilgrimage to Compostela by millenia, so that the explanation for its use in the Codex Calixtus’ sermon the Veneranda Dies is more than a little dubious. That it was adopted in some way for the Compostelan pilgrimage by the late eleventh and twelfth century seems evident from its use at Santa Marta de Tera, Santo Domingo de Silos, the cathedral at Bayonne and the cloister of Saint Trophime at Arles.
      As regards its use on the lintel at Autun two things may be said. Firstly, we know of the Burgundian connections with Compostela which were both political and religious and although the question of Cluny’s sponsorship of the pilgrimage to Compostela is often questioned it would be perverse to suggest that it did not exist in some form. Secondly, the figure bearing the Shell immediately precedes another bearing the Cross. It seems unlikely that the authors of the sculpture at Autun would be implying the precedence of a pilgrimage destination before Jerusalem other than Compostela.
      However, when all is said and done, it remains clear that the Scallop Shell is essentially as symbol of resurrection and the pilgrim of the Autun lintel eloquently testifies to this identification.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] places associated with the extension of the journey to the sea itself and the association with the scallop shell. The Torres de Oeste facing the open sea remains a place of considerable mystical […]

  2. […] saints of Bethany were highly venerated in the medieval West. The relics of Lazarus were kept at Autun. It was he who according to the Gospel of John that Jesus was raised from the dead. Their sister […]

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