Menu del Peregrino – a blog about the Camino de Santiago

The four façades of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, built over the supposed resting place of the Apostle James/Santiago, is one of the most incredible medieval buildings on earth.  I, quite frankly, love it.  The first time I entered it was on a late evening in August 2016, after a friend from America and another from Germany and…

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Medieval Mapping – a superior technique for a modern pilgrim?

When chatting about guides and maps to the Camino, John Brierley’s A Pilgrim’s Guide is often spoken of approvingly, particularly for its maps.  Indeed, a separate smaller maps-only versions of his guide to the Camino Francés and Camino Portugués are also available.  Part of the reason they are so successful is that they follow a…

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The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 5 – Burgos)

I’ve been to the village of Tardajos three times (10km west of the centre of Burgos), in 2016, 2018 and 2022, and if you’ve walked the Camino Francés, you’ve certainly passed through it too.  When I was there in 2018 I noticed something that surprised me; the name of the principal street was Calle General…

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The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 4 – La Rioja)

There’s one person you’re bound to meet on your Camino, and if you don’t find him at first, keep looking and like Where’s Wally? (or Where’s Waldo? in the USA), he’ll eventually pop up — he’s José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and I first spotted him in La Rioja. You enter the famous winemaking region…

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The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 3 – Navarra)

Alto del Perdón, just south of Pamplona, features in almost every Camino guide thanks to a rust-coloured iron art installation of medieval pilgrims struggling into the wind, accompanied by the legend ‘Where the way of the wind meets that of the stars’ (Donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas).  Alto…

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The Spanish Inquisition and the Camino

The Inquisition was an office within the Catholic Church that dealt with matters of religious orthodoxy (proper belief and practice), and the Spanish Inquisition’s reputation is not simply a result of its activities, but also of propaganda wars of the sixteenth century and later.  As Spain increasingly portrayed itself as a champion of Catholicism and…

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The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 2 – Navarra)

As you walk through Pamplona, you are guided along the Camino by the usual yellow arrows and occasional blue sign, but also by a series of shiny aluminum discs embedded in the pavements, with an engraved shell-star and a little biker symbol (I’ll confess that it was probably my third visit to Pamplona when I…

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How to read a (church) door

One of the most common scenes you’ll see over an external church door is the Last Judgement, where all the dead are summoned and Christ grants heaven to some and condemns others to hell (each according to their merits).  The sculpturing of these doors is amazing and was executed according to a universally understood design…

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The Camino and the Spanish Civil War (part 1)

You might not notice it, but the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) is a conflict still alive in Spain.  Any Spanish person you meet of 60 years or older (e.g. some of the hospitalero who run the albergues you stay in) will not simply be old enough to have lived under the dictatorship, but will have…

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Compostela — ‘Field of the Star’?

In a previous post I mentioned seeing the Perseid meteor shower about halfway between Burgos and León and it got me thinking about the origins of the name Compostela, which some suggest comes from the Latin Campus Stellae ‘Field of the Star’. Etymologies — the origin and explanations of names — can be fun.  For…

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Know your Camino architecture: Romanesque and Gothic

Do you have a favourite type of medieval architecture?  Weird question?  Personally, as a medieval nerd I’m a bit torn between Romanesque and Gothic, but I think the older Romanesque wins out.  Why?  Well firstly it comes down to what they can and can’t do. Romanesque and Gothic are readily identifiable by their trademark arches;…

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Eucalyptus — a (un)welcome smell on the Camino?

Eucalyptus is one of the smells I associate with the Camino, particularly stretches of the Camino del Norte/Primativo, and while I enjoy the sweetness that fills the air as its thimble-like seed capsules crunch underfoot in the early morning, I can’t help but wish it wasn’t there. Perhaps that’s because one interloper rarely likes another?…

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So the donkey stuff again…

So I was asked to clarify about the donkey stuff in my first blog post (‘The oldest guide to the Camino’) — specifically about how it’s done!  I mean, really?  That’s what you want to know?  Well, in lieu of finding and posting a video to something that would probably get me fired should my…

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A recipe for pleasure: Tarta de Santiago (Santiago’s Cake)

Tarta de Santiago (or Torta de Santiago in Galego, the language of Galicia) is one of my favourite deserts and is a wonderful expression of what is best in Spanish cooking — good ingredients used simply but effectively.  Essentially, it’s a flat cake of almonds, eggs and sugar, in roughly equal measure, which mightn’t sound…

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The oldest guide to the Camino

Keeping donkeys for oral sex does not seem like the kind of thing you would normally associate with a travel guide, especially one dedicated to a pilgrimage, but sure enough there it is in the oldest guide book to the Camino, the twelfth-century Pilgrim’s Guide in the Codex Calixtinus: In some places, like Vizcaya and…

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The botafumeiro: the oldest swinger in town

Apologies for the bad pun in the title, but one of the most impressive of all sights for pilgrims who reach Santiago de Compostela is the swinging of the botafumeiro — the great incense burner that hangs from the ceiling of the cathedral.  The botafumeiro (‘smoke expeller’) is essentially a version of the thurible (hand-swung…

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The wine of La Rioja

La Rioja is the smallest of Spain’s autonomous regions and is synonymous with quality wine in the way that Bordeaux is in France or Napa Valley in the US.  Indeed, it’s sometimes known as the Bordeaux of Spain, not least because French winemaking techniques were introduced to it in the later nineteenth century, which really…

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Yellow arrows and the Shell symbol

The yellow arrows and the scallop shell vie with each other for the honour of most recognisable symbol of the Camino and I think every perigrino’s heart has lightened on seeing them on those rare occasions when we’ve gone off the beaten track.  While the shell has a long association with the Camino, the yellow…

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Two Medieval Irishmen on the Camino

This is my first work of fiction and will be available to buy in 2022. All author profits will be donated to the Camino Society Ireland. You can access my camino blog in the ‘Camino de Santiago’ tab of the menu above.

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Denis Casey

I am a writer, historian and university educator, from Co. Kerry, Ireland, with a passion for things medieval and Celtic.

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Yellow arrows and the Shell symbol

The yellow arrows and the scallop shell vie with each other for the honour of most recognisable symbol of the Camino and I think every perigrino’s heart has lightened on seeing them on those rare occasions when we’ve gone off the beaten track.  While the shell has a long association with the Camino, the yellow…

The botafumeiro: the oldest swinger in town

Apologies for the bad pun in the title, but one of the most impressive of all sights for pilgrims who reach Santiago de Compostela is the swinging of the botafumeiro — the great incense burner that hangs from the ceiling of the cathedral.  The botafumeiro (‘smoke expeller’) is essentially a version of the thurible (hand-swung…

The wine of La Rioja

La Rioja is the smallest of Spain’s autonomous regions and is synonymous with quality wine in the way that Bordeaux is in France or Napa Valley in the US.  Indeed, it’s sometimes known as the Bordeaux of Spain, not least because French winemaking techniques were introduced to it in the later nineteenth century, which really…

Alto del Perdón botafumeiro Burgos Callixtus II Camino del Norte Camino Francés Camino Portugués Camino Primativo Carrión de los Condes Castille y León Codex Calixtinus Donkeys Eduardo María González-Pondal Abente Elias Valiña Sampedroto El País Vasco Emilio Mola Eucalyptus Finisterre Flora and Fauna Francisco Franco Galicia Gothic architecture John Devner José Antonio Primo de Rivera La Rioja Meseta Navarra Os Pinos O’Cebreiro Pamplona Perseid meteor shower Pilgrim’s Guide Ramón Bengaray Zabalza Raymond of Burgundy Red Kite Romanesque architecture Santiago Santiago de Compostela Santiago de Compostela Cathedral Spanish Civil War (1936-39) Tardajos Tarta de Santiago Urraca of León Wildlife Wine

Alto del Perdón botafumeiro Burgos Callixtus II Camino del Norte Camino Francés Camino Portugués Camino Primativo Carrión de los Condes Castille y León Codex Calixtinus Donkeys Eduardo María González-Pondal Abente Elias Valiña Sampedroto El País Vasco Emilio Mola Eucalyptus Finisterre Flora and Fauna Francisco Franco Galicia Gothic architecture John Devner José Antonio Primo de Rivera La Rioja Meseta Navarra Os Pinos O’Cebreiro Pamplona Perseid meteor shower Pilgrim’s Guide Ramón Bengaray Zabalza Raymond of Burgundy Red Kite Romanesque architecture Santiago Santiago de Compostela Santiago de Compostela Cathedral Spanish Civil War (1936-39) Tardajos Tarta de Santiago Urraca of León Wildlife Wine

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