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The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago

Book Review

book cover The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago:
The Complete Cultural Handbook

David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson
Griffin Trade Paperback, 440 pages
St. Martin's Press, New York

Also see:
Santiago de Compostela travel guide (with photos)

The Way of St. James across Northern Spain to the Galician town of Santiago de Compostela has been a major Christian pilgrimage route since the middle ages. St. James the Apostle is said to be buried here, and the town's name--"Santiago"--is the Spanish version of the saint's name.

In 1974, David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson met on the road to Santiago. After four more pilgrimages with groups of college students, the authors--both Hispanic history specialists at the University of Rhode Island--wrote The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago as "a step-by-step guide to the cultural history of the Road for pilgrims, hikers, and armchair travelers alike."

Their guide is billed as "the complete cultural handbook" to the Road's art, architecture, geology, history, folklore, saints' lives, flora, and fauna. The bulk of the 440-page handbook is divided into 88 chapters, one for each stage of the journey from the French border to the cathedral and university town of Santiago de Compostela.

Within each chapter, you'll find mini-guides to towns and villages, historical background, descriptions of churches and other monuments, and--in many cases--suggestions for local walks and excursions. The writing is lively, and the text is broken up with bullet points and boxes for ease of navigation.

The book's final 70 pages are devoted to "Reference Points" such as a table of abbreviations, a Spanish-English glossary, a section on art styles, descriptions of saints, a timeline of rulers and events, a bibliography, and a detailed index.

At first glance, the sheer quantity of text may look intimidating--but if you're a pilgrim walking from the French border to Santiago, you'll have plenty of time to digest the book's contents in bite-size chunks along the way. And if you're an armchair traveler with an interest in religious history and art, The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago will tempt you to leave your recliner and experience The Way of St. James firsthand.

Next page: Excerpt from the book

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Book excerpt  

Also see:
Santiago de Compostela travel guide (with photos)
Galicia - Index of articles

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