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Christian writers, from the earliest years were keen to set down in writing the lives of the saints and the miracles which they performed, whether during their lifetime or through their relics after death. Many of these texts failed to survive the ravages of religious warfare and revolutionary zeal. At the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela there exists in complete form the full twelfth century text of the cult which was venerated there.

The Liber Sancti Iacobi or the Book of Saint James is often referred to as the The Codex Calixtinus after Pope Calixtus II by whom it was purportedly written, although it is clearly derived from a number of sources. Scholars are agreed that it was written  around the middle of the twelfth century and comprises five books.

Book One consists of liturgical material. Book Two consists of the accounts twenty-two miracles performed by Saint James. Book Three consists of the story of Saint James’ translation from Palestine and burial at Compostela.

Book Four is called the History of Charlemagne and Roland and is a Latin version of the Chanson de Geste known as the Song of Roland with a strong emphasis on the pilgrimage to Compostela.

Book Five is today often referred to as the Pilgrim’s Guide. It is a curious manuscript whose intention has been much disputed. It is ostensibly a guide to travellers to the shrine of Saint James via four roads which cross France and meet beyond the Pyrenees  in Navarre where they join to form a single road to Compostela.

There is advice on matters concerning pilgrims such as the inhabitants of the countries they must pass through, which rivers are poisonous, but above all which saintly relics to visit along the way.

Modern historians have attempted to recreate the old pilgrim roads using these locations as markers and filling in the rest with reference to surviving buildings, most often the many eleventh and twelfth century churches which still exist. How well they have succeeded is open to opinion, as is the more difficult question of how much the Pilgrim’s Guide can be said to reflect a true picture of twelfth century pilgrimage.

14 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] all those who died fighting Holy War. In the legend of Charlemagne and Roland which was part of the Book of Saint James of Compostela, the emperor’s archbishop similarly granted remission to those who went to fight against the […]

  2. […] all those who died fighting Holy War. In the legend of Charlemagne and Roland which was part of the Book of Saint James of Compostela, the emperor’s archbishop similarly granted remission to those who went to fight against the […]

  3. […] scallop shell as an emblem of the pilgrimage is in one of the miracles included in Book Two of the Liber Sancti Iacobi which is dated 1106. Thus we can be certain that the scallop was used as a symbol of the pilgrimage […]

  4. […] Espalion. Yet Conques was plainly an integral part of the Compostelan pilgrimage long before the Book of Saint James was ever […]

  5. […] Compostela was especially redolent of the legend of Charlemagne and his Paladins. Book Four of the Liber Sancti Iacobi, the History of Charlemagne and Roland, relates the emperor’s long struggle against the Saracens […]

  6. […] recorded almost contemporaneously in the twelfth century manuscript book five of the  Jacobus or Codex Calixtinus, known as The Pilgrim’s […]

  7. […] route is recorded in the Jacobus, that twelfth century medieval manuscript devoted to the cult of Santiago de Compostela which […]

  8. […] Jacobus, a compilation of writings devoted to the cult of the Apostle James, was such a document. However, […]

  9. […] of the text of Book Five of the Jacobus, the so-called Pilgrim’s Guide is attributed to Pope Calixtus II and a certain Aimery and […]

  10. […] final book of the Codex Calixtus, often called the Pilgrim’s Guide, begins with these words: “There are four roads which, […]

  11. […] fifth part of the twelfth century Book of Saint James offers us a detailed extensive description of the church, its decorative elements and liturgical […]

  12. […] author of the description of the cathedral in the Book of Saint James, makes much of this, referring to it as an image of a woman taken in adultery. The writer however […]

  13. […] above the western entrance in a massive sculpted relief of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The Jacobus describes the emplacement there of the large scale depiction of the theophanic vision described […]

  14. […] pilgrimage roads as defined in the twelfth century manuscript referred to as the Book of Saint James follow four distinct routes across France. As they reach Spain they join to form a single route, […]

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