17 March 2010



The Way of St. James, World Heritage Site. Cultural dimensions

Mr. Juan M. Monterroso Montero.
University of Santiago de Compostela

The Way of St. James, first written request, as a pilgrimage route and, with the passing of the centuries, as an access route of forms and mentalities and cultural pathway , is a project whose vitality, far from diminishing with the passing of time and with the obligatory cultural and ideological changes, has reached a complex and diverse dimension.

Logically, our perception of this pilgrimage route that, since the 9th century, has been the backbone of an idea of Europe that has been forged in our time, deserves an explanation that transcends the historical and aesthetic concerns that, on the other hand, have singularized it and turned it into a cultural phenomenon of the first order. For this, it is not necessary to go back in time to very distant dates and alien to our time; it is enough to remember that the pilgrimage to Compostela received the inestimable impulse -as it happened in other moments of its history- of individuals and institutions that knew how to see in it a series of unique values. Figures such as Popes John XXIII or John Paul II, institutions such as UNESCO, the committee of Europe or the European Parliament, established throughout the second half of the 20th century the instructions of an idea that today has crystallized as the first European cultural pathway and heritage of humanity.

For this reason, the objectives governing this lecture will focus on those other dimensions of the Camino de Santiago that, despite having been highlighted on many occasions, it is necessary to bring together in a single image that helps to explain the wealth that is treasured in each of its buildings and landscapes.

The Camino de Santiago is transformed at this point into an enormous container of report in which there is room for the values inherent to the "civilized landscape" -that joint action of nature and man-; to a religious culture that has given it meaning; to the testimonies of a more or less distant history -where the keys are found to understand complex processes of territorial, political or economic configuration-; to literary samples that take us from the Songs of Deeds to the Miracles of Our Lady; or simply to traditions of various kinds in which the contemporary pilgrim, as well as the one who traveled this route nine centuries ago, discovers himself as an integral part of a cultural whole that identifies us as individuals.