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El Camino Primitivo

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Pilgrimage
blog 2012

Background to the Camino Primitivo

Call to Pilgrimage

In the early 9th Century, between 820 and 830 A.D., the Bishop Teodomirus announced the discovery of the remains of St. James, the disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ. A shepherd / hermit named Pelayo had seen mysterious lights on a hillside, accompanied by angelic voices. On investigation, the bishop and his men discovered three stone coffins which held the remains of St. James and his two companions. The site near the Roman seaport of Iria Flavia, modern Padron, was named Compostela - Field of Stars.

On hearing of the discovery, Alfonso II, king of Asturias, made the first recorded pilgrimage to the tomb of Santiago. Guided by the Milky Way he travelled from his capital city of Oviedo, through the mountains to Lugo and then down the Roman road, the Via Romana Lucus Iria Flavia to Compostela. The route he took is now known as the 'Camino Primitivo', the 'Ancient Road'.

At the time of the discovery, Christian Spain consisted of the Kingdom (Principality) of Asturias and some areas just west of the Pyrenees, 'liberated' by Charlemagne. The Moors controlled all of southern Spain under the Emirate of Cordoba, Al-Andalus.

Today, in the Camara Santa, the 'Holy Room' of the cathedral of Oviedo, there are sacred relics of those early times. The cathedral itself is dedicated to 'The Holy Saviour' and is part of the legend of 'The Way of St. James'.
"Whoever goes to St. James and not to the Saviour, visits the servant and misses the Master."


For me the visit to Oviedo was an essential part of my pilgrimage, and the inspiration for my poem
Pilgrimage to Santiago.


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