John Dagenais

title.none: Melczer, Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago

identifier.other: baj9928.9505.007 95.05.07

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John Dagenais, Northwestern University

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1995

identifier.citation: Melczer, William. The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela: First English Translation, with Introduction, Commentaries, and Notes. New York: Italica Press, 1993. Pp. xv + 345; 18 black and white plates. $17.50. ISBN: ISBN 0-934977-25-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 95.05.07

Melczer, William. The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela: First English Translation, with Introduction, Commentaries, and Notes. New York: Italica Press, 1993. Pp. xv + 345; 18 black and white plates. $17.50. ISBN: ISBN 0-934977-25-9.

Reviewed by:

John Dagenais
Northwestern University

New pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela will be pleased by this opportunity to have as their guide William Melczer who over the past several years has been leading educational journeys along the Camino as part of a Syracuse University Traveling Seminar. The centerpiece of the book is an English translation of Book V of the Codex Calixtinus, the famous 12th-century guidebook for French pilgrims to Compostela. But this translation occupies only 50 pages of the book. The remainder of the book is dedicated to an extensive and useful Introduction, a Hagiographical Register of the saints mentioned in the guide, a Gazetteer, an extensive Bibliography and a brief Index. The translation itself is annotated with more than 600 endnotes occupying nearly 100 pages. Given this 2:1 proportion between notes and text, readers already familiar with the text of the Guide may find themselves reading the annotations seriatim and referring back to the translation only when necessary for clarification of the context of a note.

A list of major divisions and subdivisions of the Introduction provides an overview of its contents: "Relics and Pilgrimages"; "The Origin of the Cult of St. James"; "Myth and Historical Reality"; "The Iter Sancti Jacobi" (on the routes themselves); "The Liber Sancti Jacobi"; "Pilgrimage without Ideology"; and "The Iconography of St. James." The section on "Pilgrimage without Ideology" is further subdivided into the following sections: "The Society of Pilgrims"; "The Motivations of the Pilgrimage"; "The Geography of the Road"; "Companions on the Road"; "The Hazards of the Road"; "Money for the Journey"; "Hospitals, Hospices, and Monasteries"; "Pilgrims' Outfit"; and "Departure, Arrival, and Return." This section is an especially valuable introduction to the condition of being a pilgrim on the road to Santiago (and back). An important theme running through the introduction is Melczer's view of the road to Compostela as a "Broadway of the Saints" along which pilgrims were eager to view, and touch, relics of the Saints which lined the road.

The Hagiographical Register tells the lives and legends of saints from Caesarius of Arles to William of Aquitaine. The Gazetteer covers Agen to Vizcaya in an alphabetical listing.

Most of my quibbles with the book are minor, more in the category of discomforts. The organization of the book into five major sections (Introduction: notes; Translation: notes; Hagiographical Register; Gazetteer; Bibliography) sometimes makes it difficult to figure out where one is likely to find the most complete information on a given topic, or to make sure that one has found all information on that topic. But it also makes this a wonderful book to poke around in. I think the book should be viewed as one best suited to leisurely perusal rather than scholarly scrounging for facts. I do find that the practice of inventing a special ad-hoc and oddly abbreviated and spaced code for each and every item in the Bibliography makes it harder, not easier, to consult that section. A standard author-title or author-date format would have made perusal and consultation of the bibliography a more pleasant experience. Fuller bibliography on medieval pilgrimage in general may be found in Davidson/Dunn-Wood.

Any two translators of a given text will always find things to disagree about, but I think the translation is solid and reliable over all. What linguistic infelicities there are, both in the translation and in the accompanying material, have been anticipated, for the most part, by Melczer's own reference to his "incorrigible Germanisms and Latinisms" (xv). They become one of the things, then, that make this into a personal, rather than a strictly scholarly book. The same may be said of the occasional "relevantizing" comments. In the note on the attitude of the French author toward the Navarrese, Melczer points out that the xenophobia implicit in the remarks, "to no mean extent, lives until our own days" (143). True enough, but some readers may find comments of this type cloying or excessively preachy. We might best see them in the context of the personal nature of the book and in the special nature of the experience of the Camino itself, which tends to unite individuals and individual experience, not only in space, but in time as well.

Two of my quibbles are slightly more important. One has to do with the absence of clear information regarding the text used to prepare the translation. The only indication I have been able to locate is that found on p. 83, the title page to the translation of the Guide: "An English Translation of Book Five of the Codex Calixtinus in the archival library of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela." But it is not clear to me from this brief indication whether the translator worked directly from the manuscript or from a published Latin version, perhaps that of Whitehill or Vielliard. One gets the impression that Melczer has relied substantially on the versions found in Vielliard for both the text and the translation, but in the absence of clear indications this must remain only an impression.

The other quibble derives admittedly from my own special interests as an Iberianist and as someone who might like to use this book to teach students in Spanish classes about the culture of medieval Iberia. I would like to have seen more references to Santiago's role in the formation of power relations in the Peninsula, especially the role of continuing controversies over the "voto de Santiago" (a "contribution" in wheat and other products to be be paid to the church of Santiago by those living in lands "liberated" from the Moors with Santiago's aid, based on a forged document and in effect in some places until the early nineteenth century)in the enrichment and empowerment of Compostela. Clavijo, the battle in which the patron saint first appears to Christian troops in a victory against the Moors (an. 844) is mentioned but once and all too briefly. The French orientation of much of the Codex Calixtinus and the important role of Frenchmen in the phenomenon of Santiago de Compostela and the road there (the via francigena, after all) certainly justify the book's emphasis on the Gallic experience along the road, but the book might have been more useful as a general introduction if the Iberian roles of Santiago had been given more attention.

For example, Melczer states in reference to one of the prime representations of Santiago as Santiago Matamoros, the horseman saint who leads the Spanish (and often French) troops against the Infidel, sword in hand, that "Outside Spain, the iconography of the riding saint is little known" (p. 66). If this statement is meant to refer only to medieval Europe, it is no doubt true, but by ignoring the Iberian context Melczer neglects the important ancillary point that it is Santiago Matamoros who survives in the iconography of the saint throughout the Hispanic world from the Caribbean to New Mexico and on to the Philippines (see Myers for examples). I invite Internet dwellers to examine the all too graphic illustration of Santiago's role in the conquest of the New World which can be found in the file conquist.gif in the Library of Congress's on-line exhibit of 1492 [WebRef 1—see below]:

file:// laims.Amer/


Here, in an illustration from the early seventeenth-century Nueva coronica y Buen gobierno by Guaman Poma de Ayala, the mounted Santiago tramples, not a Moor, but one of the New World's indigenous inhabitants. The iconography in this illustration is precisely that of medieval Iberian representations of the Saint, who charges ahead scattering Moorish body parts in his wake.

It is probably inaccurate, then, for Melczer to speak, as he does in his introduction of "A Pilgrimage without Ideology." It is not quite clear what point Melczer is trying to make, and even if we grant that the pilgrims themselves were without ideology, we miss a key feature of the phenomenon of Santiago if we igonre the fact that most of those who hosted the pilgrims along their way and those who carried on Santiago's own pilgrimage in the colonial world which was born out of the Middle Ages were certainly not "without ideology."

These concerns aside, however, I heartily recommend this book as a first step with which to begin one's personal journey to Santiago de Compostela. It is chock full of useful information on the Camino, and, like a journey itself, it offers the traveller the opportunity to follow many interesting by-ways (whether geographical or bibliographical) along the way.