Ultreia!

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One of the words most frequently associated with the Camino, to the point of finding it in all kinds of contexts during the journey, is “Ultreia!” What does it mean and where does it come from?

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“Ultreia” is a latin word, and it literally means “beyond”. It originally appeared in the “Codex calixtinus”, the well known medieval manuscript that constitutes an invaluable document about pilgrimage during the Middle Ages, to the point of being called by some the first “travel guide” for the Camino. In one of the appendices of this manuscript, devoted to religious hymns, we can find this line:

“E ultreia, e suseia,
Deus adiuva nos”

(Go beyond, go higher, protect us God).

“Suseia”, in turn, means “go higher”. The legend says that, in old times, when pilgrims found each other, they exchanged these words as salutation: “¡Ultreia!” “¡Et susaeia!”

Yellow arrows and the Father Elías Valiña

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If you have ever made the pilgrimage to Santiago, or are currently doing it, you shall know by now how well marked the route is, and you will be quite familiar with the infallible and ubiquitous symbol of the yellow arrow, the standard indicator in every Jacobean route, and the most safe sign that we are in the right path and heading to Santiago.

The symbol of the yellow arrow is relatively recent, and contemporary with the Jacobean pilgrimage revival at mid eighties. Its presence is not incidental or spontaneous, but the result of a huge effort by the man who made the transformation of an almost forgotten old tradition into the mass phenomenon that we know today possible: the Father Elías Valiña (1929-1989), who since 1957, when he was made the parish priest of Santa María do Cebreiro, became the greatest champion of the recovery of the ancient route that passed in front of his church.

It was in 1984, as part of his tireless work for the restoration and promotion of the pilgrimage to Santiago, that the need of an adequate signaling of the route arose.

Elías Valiña was receiving many complaints from the scarce pilgrims who then walked the route that they were constantly missing the path. The Father acquired a batch of spare yellow paint of the type used in Spain to make surface markings on stretches of roads as a roadwork sign, and he went to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the French starting point of the French Way, in his Citroën 2CV, and from there right down to Santiago, signaling with a hand painted yellow arrow every one of the hundreds of points where the route could be missed by the pilgrims. That is the Jacobean route restored and signaled by Elías Valiña himself, and it is considered the most reliable restoration of the original medieval route. During these long efforts Elías Valiña became a great scholar in everything related to the Jacobean pilgrimage, with an ample knowledge about history, art and cultural heritage, and countless published works and papers.

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In his will, he left his family in charge of maintaining the proper signaling of the pilgrim’s way, a work that they are still carrying; but of course this is a work too demanding for so few people, and this heritage has been actually passed on to the many voluntary associations of the Camino and to the public administrations.

If today the Camino to Santiago is not just a beautiful memory of a splendorous medieval past, we owe it mostly to the selfless work of the Father Elías Valiña. The yellow arrow is a symbol not only of a collective selfless effort for guiding the pilgrim on a safe path, but it’s also a symbol of the great effort of transforming what was little more than a romantic memory of ancient medieval times in a mass phenomenon more alive than ever.

Exhibition “Master Mateo” in the Museo del Prado

Since last November, Museo del Prado in Madrid is hosting an exhibition of great appeal for all those interested in the history of the Santiago cathedral. The exhibition, named “Master Mateo”, hosts several works created by the medieval artisan for the lost west façade of the cathedral.

As we know, the current façade of Santiago’s cathedral (facing plaza de Obradoiro) comes from the XVIII century, and it replaces a former one, which is the one designed by Master Mateo himself. When the old façade was destroyed, some of its sculptures were reinstalled in other locations of the cathedral, while others were abandoned or became parts of museums and private collections. This exhibition reunites many of them, including the statue that was found last October in the cathedral during remodeling work.

Without a doubt, this is a very interesting visit for all those passionate about the cathedral and all things Santiago-related, and for those pilgrims who arrive to Spain via Madrid, it might be a worthwhile visit before traveling to their Camino starting points.

The exhibition will be open until April 24th.

Pamplona to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port: how to arrive

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Foto via https://flic.kr/p/5kc234

One of the most common starting points for pilgrims who walk the Camino de Santiago is Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in France. As we explain in our section “How to get there”, the main transport medium to reach this small village from Spain is the seasonal bus operated by CONDA (an ALSA subsidiary), covering the Pamplona to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port route.

The question for many pilgrims, as they plan their Camino every year, is when does the CONDA / ALSA bus service start. For 2017, according to ALSA, the starting dates are already out:

  • March 1st: one daily bus, departing from Pamplona at 14:30.
  • April 12th: two daily buses, at 14:30 anad 17:30.
  • June 1st: three daily buses, at 10:00, 14:30 and 17:30.

All of them depart from the Pamplona bus station.

Alternatively, if these bus dates are not convenient for you, we at Caminofacil also provide a taxi service that covers the same route. You can contact us for further details.

 

Christmas 2016: some Camino-related gift ideas

We are now in Christmas season, and we at Caminofacil have decided to talk here about a couple of Camino-related books that were published during this year, and that might be good gift ideas for children (coincidentally, both of the books that we are going to review here are targeted towards them).

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The first of them, “Huellas secretas en el Camino”, belong to the “Los sin miedo” series, authored by José María Plaza. It’s a series of children books, telling the adventures of a group of four friends, in the tradition of series like Enid Blyton’s “The fabulous five”. In this occasion, our four protagonists walk the Camino de Santiago during their summer holidays, and (as usual in the genre) find themselves involved in all kinds of adventures related to secret keys, templar legends and even a possible treasure.

The author uses the characters’ route through the most famous places of the Camino (Roncesvalles, Pamplona, San Juan de Ortega…) to introduce them to us, as well as to recount some of their associated legends. The familiarity is no wonder: as the author explains in the Appendix, he walked the entire Camino twice looking for information before he started writing.

“Huellas secretas en el Camino” is published in spanish by Edebé, and is oriented towards 10-year and older readers.

Buy “LOS SIN MIEDO 11. Huellas secretas en el Camino”

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The other book we want to recommend here is “Peregrinar a Compostela en la Edad Media”, an illustrated album published by the Fundación Santa María la Real, written by the historian Jaime Nuño and illustrated by Chema Román. As the title says, the book explains the pilgrimage phenomenom during the Middle Ages in all its aspects: who the pilgrims were, how did they travel, the dangers of the roead, daily life in the albergues… The author also puts the Santiago pilgrimages in an historical context, devoting chapters to the role of religion in medieval society, the pilgrimages to Rome and even the Mecca ones in the islamic world. All of this, accompanied with excellent full-page illustrations.

It’s a very interesting, very throughfully put together book, and not only for children; in fact, even adult readers might learn something new about the Camino in it. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best divulgation works about the Camino that we have seen.

Buy “Peregrinar a Compostela en la Edad Media”

Sarria in 360º

(Wait a few seconds, then drag with your mouse over the picture).

RTVE’s “El Camino de Santiago por León”, in its entirety

Spanish public TV broadcaster TVE has been showing for the last two months, in its show “La aventura del saber”, a 8-part documentary series about “El Camino de Santiago through León”. For those who could not catch it, we have compiled in this post the 8 episodes:

Episode 1 (Sahagún to Calzada del Coto) (min. 44:49):

Episode 2 (Bercianos del Real Camino to Reliegos) (min. 10:30):

Episode 3 (Villasabaariego to León) (min. 14:12)

Episode 4 (Chozas de Abajo to Villar de Matarife) (min.: 14:08)

Episode 5 (Santa Marina del Rey to Villavante) (min. 13:34)

Episode 6 (Villadangos del Páramo to Astorga) (min. 15:18)

Episode 7 (Santa Colomba de Somoza to Ponferrada) (min. 11:55)

Episode 8 (Camponaraya to Villafranca del Bierzo) (min. 13:53)

We now have a Youtube channel!

We are glad to announce a new social media channel through which to share news, views and information about the Camino and about our service. It’s our new Youtube channel.

From now on, we will be publishing videos in our channel on a regular basis. For the moment, here is the first of them, a mini-visit to Villafranca Montes de Oca: