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       the pilgrim pathways
  a founding theme  
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To put into practice Recommendation 987 (1984) of its Parliamentary Assembly and following the discussions during the second European Conference of the Ministers responsible for the Architectural Heritage (Granada 1985), in 1987 the Council of Europe accepted the Ways towards Santiago de Compostella as the First European Cultural Route.

The Parliamentary Assembly asked the Committee of Ministers to encourage co-operation between Member States, intended to preserve and develop international pilgrimage routes, while taking as a starting point the example of the ways towards Santiago de Compostella.

a declaration

The Declaration presented at Santiago de Compostella on October 23, 1987 in the presence of European Ministers of culture records the objectives and defines the philosophy of the first cultural route: to incite the citizens of a Europe in construction and particularly the new generation:

  • to rediscover the Ways to Santiago,
  • to take note of everything that the movement towards Compostella brought to the European cultural identity,
  • to follow these ways with a sense of the future.

"The meaning of the human in society, the ideas of freedom and justice, and confidence in progress are principles that historically forged the various cultures creating the European identity". This cultural identity, added the Declaration, is, today as yesterday, the fruit of the existence of a European space full of collective memory and furrowed by ways that overcome distances, borders and incomprehension.

From this point of view and beyond their religious dimension, the Ways to Santiago de Compostella constitute a highly symbolic example: a space of tolerance, of mutual knowledge and solidarity, a space of dialogue and meeting, as well as a space of creativity where the European idea is forged concretely.

The Via Francigena, pilgrimage route towards Rome, was presented at the Advisory Committee of Cultural Routes by the Italian Government and adopted by the Culture Committee in 1994.

The topic grew rich in specific routes by giving birth to a more general framework: The Pilgrimage Ways.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela). Photo MTP

european importance of the theme of pilgrimage ways

The pilgrims' travels towards Santiago de Compostella, towards Rome and Jerusalem, and towards many other places of worship (Mount Saint-Michel, Canterbury, Le Puy, Aix-la-Chapelle, Saint-Gilles du Gard...) constituted a dynamics of civilisation on the scale of the European continent and represented "in the High Middle Ages, a space open to the free circulation of ideas and people" (José Maria Ballester).

Kings such as Saint Louis of France (in Rocamadour), personalities such as Holy Brigitte of Sweden (in Compostella, Rome and Jerusalem), bishops and great lords, bourgeoisie and merchants, craftsmen or ordinary citizens, shared the physical effort and the search for a common ideal in their pilgrimages.

Pilgrimway close to Astorga, Spain. Photo MTP

On his return the pilgrim was considered a new man, firstly on a spiritual level and according to the mentality of the time, because he had drawn benefit from his pilgrimage, but also on the human level, because he had gone very far in Europe. He had approached other horizons, other nationalities and other cultures. Because he had known other ways of life and had learned how to emphasise difference, he had really taken part in the construction of a new world where intercultural dialogue plays a determining role.

The vestiges of the work of civilisation developed by pilgrimage movements constitute today a major artistic, architectural, musical, literary, ethnographic and imaginary heritage, which enables us to reconstitute from one end of Europe to another the pilgrimage paths. But with very rare exceptions, there were no ways reserved for pilgrimages only, because those who traveled on the ways on political missions, for commercial or artistic reasons, were also pilgrims. Sometimes the vestige of a sanctuary of pilgrimage and its specific way remain. It is along these ways, which belonged to all those who developed Roman and later Gothic art, that the "chansons de geste" circulated, which produced the synthesis of erudite and folk cultures in medieval Europe. These paths constituted the skeleton of our modern transportation routes.

current relevance of the topic

Today new pilgrimage ways accommodate hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and walkers. They are frequented by Europeans of all ages and religions, even agnostics. There they find a space of devotion and meditation, just like a space of personal discovery. Sports tourism is practised there, on foot, horse or bicycle. It is an array of roads connecting the imaginary to social reality, as much as a structuring element of regional planning allowing the revitalisation of small localities, the revival of alternative tourism and the creation of jobs.

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 more infos ...
 other web sites
 Parliamentary Assemby
  The Assembly which recommended the programme of cultural routes.
 editorial content
 pilgrimage, a present phenomena
  A set of pages on pilgrimages, in history and today.
 Seminar in Lisbon
  Introduction to Lisbon seminar 10-11 November 2000.
 Seminar of Lisbon Agenda
 Routes to Santiago in France
  Speech of Michel Thomas-Penette in Burgos. 27 November 2002 (es).
 Associate EICR - FERPEL
 Declaration of Santiago
  French version
 Santiago de Compostela declaration
  October 1987 English version
 media library
 In the footsteps of saint James
  From Aachen to Santiago, from dream to reality. Denise Péricard-Méa.
 Saint James of Compostela's ways
  Gallimard guidebook.
 Pilgrimage and European culture
  Seminar of Viterbe, Italy.
 Guidebook of the pilgrim
  French translation of a manuscript from XIIth century.
 Compostela and saint James
  Recent research results
 L'An Mil
  Georges Duby proposes the description of a civilisation's change.
 Guidebook on European pilgrimages
  Volume 1.
 Guidebook on European pilgrimages
  Volume 2. Italy.


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