Nuevo libro sobre pergrinación a Compostela

CARLOS SASTRE
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Nuevo libro sobre pergrinación a Compostela

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Ayer mismo lo tuve en mis manos durante un viaje en tren. Buena introducción al fenómeno de las peregrinaciones, con estupendas fotos

Ashley, Kathleen and Marilyn Deegan. _Being a Pilgrim: Art and
Ritual on the Medieval Routes to Santiago_ . Farnham and
Burlington: Lund Humphries, 2009. Pp. 264. $60. ISBN: 978-0-85331-
989-4.

he authors of this volume are to be commended for having produced
something rare and valuable: a book aimed at nonspecialist readers
which documents a facet of medieval culture, and does so without
lapsing into inaccuracy or painful oversimplification. <i>Being a
Pilgrim</i> instead provides an excellent and accessible introduction
to the vibrant tradition of the medieval Compostela pilgrimage.
Ashley and Deegan set out to capture "the experience of early
pilgrims" (7) in both photography and in text. The result is a series
of well-conceived essays describing various aspects of the Compostela
pilgrimage from roughly the tenth through the sixteenth centuries,
which are informed by hundreds of original color photographs of the
art and architecture along the pilgrims' route.

The essays in this volume assume the reader has no foreknowledge of
the topic, and give a balanced and clear introduction to medieval
religious culture and to the experiences of Compostela pilgrims in
particular. Organizing introductions to cultural-studies topics can
be challenging; it is tempting to fall back on chronology, or in the
case of pilgrimage, on geography, as a central organizing scheme, even
though such linear approaches tend to create too simplistic or static
an understanding of the phenomenon at hand. Here, the authors have
instead laid out material in a topical fashion, building up layers in
their model of a complex and dynamic medieval ritual. Beginning with
a discussion of the origins and history of the medieval pilgrimage to
Compostela, the authors move on to discuss several intersecting issues
surrounding the pilgrimage, from geography and infrastructure
(chapters 2 and 4) to the social and religious experiences of pilgrims
who moved along the route (as in chapter 3, on "Preparing for
Pilgrimage," and chapter 5, "Visiting the Saints.") The results are
illuminating without being confusing or repetitive.

The prose in these essays is clear, concise, and yet lively, and is
made more engaging by the authors' judicious use of excerpts from the
travelogues of medieval pilgrims such as Arnold von Harff, Leo von
Rozmital, and Domenico Laffi. And although the text covers many of the
topics one might expect, the authors also take on some lesser-known
issues. Chapter 7, entitled "Legends, Folklore, and Miracles," offers
an especially deft account of the ways in which the art and
architecture of the Compostela route absorbed and developed the
imagery associated with the legends of Charlemagne and of his nephew,
Roland, who supposedly died fighting a Moorish force at Roncevalles.
Similarly, Chapter 8, "The Musical Journey," offers an overview of the
use of music by pilgrims as it appears in pilgrim accounts, and also
in the representation of music and musical instruments in the art and
architecture along the Compostela routes. By the conclusion of the
chapter, the authors have made clear that music was not just an
adornment of pilgrimage or an occasional distraction for pilgrims, but
instead was "one of the most powerful practices of pilgrimage" (216).

The photographs which share the pages with these essays drive home the
way in which visual arts, much like music, were a more central
touchstone for medieval pilgrims than was text. The photography, by
itself, constitutes a valuable present-day travelogue; it captures
everything from larger vistas to the smallest of architectural and
sculptural details. Art historians will find the documentation and
comparison of decorative motifs used along the pilgrim route, which
constitute the majority of the images, especially valuable. But the
book also contains photographs of some mundane, humorous, and
unexpected details. Some of these, especially those illustrating
Chapter 4, "The Social and Architectural Infrastructure of
Pilgrimage," will be valuable to the social historian of the Middle
Ages; this chapter offers photographs of such utilitarian structures
as city gates, bridges, and even a thirteenth-century latrine. In
other places the authors have included images that give something of
the flavor of the pilgrimage as it is practiced today, including a
photograph of page from a modern <i>credencial</i>, or pilgrim-
passport (65), and one of the present-day sign at the cathedral of
Santiago de Compostela which invites visitors to "Hug the Apostle and
Visit the Tomb" (234). Throughout, the photographs are closely
matched with the text and give great depth to their descriptions. The
interplay between text and image is especially resonant in those
moments when the authors invite readers to compare a medieval
travelogue's description of a place with a photograph of that place as
it exists in the present day.

Although this book is aimed at a nonspecialist readership, its
scholarly underpinnings are accessible throughout. The essays are
end-noted, the book has been indexed, and the authors provide an
extensive "Further Reading" bibliography. As such, <i>Being A
Pilgrim</i> is not only a lovely introduction for the casual reader,
it will also be a valuable tool for use in pedagogy, and even a good
starting point for undergraduate research. It should also be required
reading for anyone interested in undertaking any portion of the
Compostela pilgrimage, which, as the authors note, has experienced a
significant revival in the last two decades (242).

There are a few additions that would have made the book a slightly
more complete overview of the medieval Compostela pilgrimage. The
most glaring oversight is the simplicity of the maps included in the
volume; they mark the three branches of the route through France and
note the major towns, but offer nothing further. Given the detail
included in the rest of the book, a set of more detailed maps would be
welcome. In particular, maps which display major rivers and other
geographic features, maps which mark more of the medieval communities,
large and small, along the route, and perhaps a map showing medieval
political or linguistic boundaries would be extremely valuable to
readers. This last issue of the crossing of political and language
boundaries also perhaps deserves more attention than it has received
in the body of the text; the authors' focus on ritual, artistic, and
social continuities along the routes, while convincing and effective,
has also somewhat downplayed the encounter between pilgrims and one or
more "foreign" cultures. The authors have, in the same vein, conveyed
a sense of unity and continuity among pilgrims themselves; they rely
on Turner and Turner's (1978) concept of <i>communitas</i>, the close
bonds which arise among pilgrims because of their shared liminal
state. This rosy image of pilgrim communities has been made
significantly more complex by many scholars since Tuner and Turner's
original publication, but the notion of tension among pilgrims is
somewhat underplayed here. However, these are very minor quibbles
about what is, overall, a revealing and beautiful volume.
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