When looking at past narratives written by Pilgrims about their adventures, there are a few things to think about, such as when did they write the narrative or where did they write the narrative. It is also thought about what role the books had before, during, and after the pilgrimage. This lecture, given by Professor George Greenia, focused on these questions.
I found this lecture very interesting. I had never really thought about whether the pilgrims had any sort of writings for their pilgrimage, but it seems that it was pretty common. Most would travel to another land in order to write about their journey. They wouldn’t actually write about it until after there returned, however.
It was said that the pilgrims would often go in groups and write little notes on little wax tablets. They weren’t be able to write anything fully until they returned to their own country. Once returned, the group would work in collaboration and conjoin their ideas to finish a “prompting script” for each of them. They would then orally present their findings to whoever would listen and those people may ask for a copy. Their narratives were secular, utilitarian, and mostly oral.
The most famous narrative about a pilgrimage is called the Codex Calixtinus, or the Book of Saint James. It is often referred to as the first practical pilgrims guide. There are 22 witnesses left of it. It has a steady disregard for natives and is haughty and opinionated. It was more of a promotional effort for tourism. Still, it was very popular among the pilgrims’s own country. I found it quite fascinating that people found a narrative like this to be useful in their travelings.
Another interesting fact I learned was that pilgrims carried personal documentation just like we do now. They carried it as a safe conduct. Many were also sent with a corporate documentation to justify their travelings. If anyone questioned the pilgrim about why they were there, the pilgrim would be able to defend themselves by showing their personal documentation.
When thinking of pilgrims, I think more of the pilgrims that traveled to the Americas. However, this lecture is different. This lecture focused more on the places that had the most witnesses, which are Jerusalem, Rome, and the Camino de Santiago. These places have the most evidence left from the times that the pilgrims were narrating their pilgrimages. The sources of evidence are from itineraries, travel guides, souvenirs, etc. The archeologists who study pilgrimages are able to get the information in these and piece it together to understand the narratives.
I am glad I went to this lecture. I came away with a lot of new information I had no idea about. When thinking about it, it is quite interesting that some of the pilgrims narratives are still here today and that we could read them and see how they viewed the world back then. Some people apparently still use some of the narratives today as their guide through a new land. I don’t think I would ever do this, but reading it to get an idea of how the world was like back then would be quite interesting.