Pilgrimage route

The text below is by Dr Wiktor Szymborski from the JU’s Institute of History.
The tactile graphics have been made by Lech Kolasiński, a painting artist. Thanks to the graphic adaptations blind and partially sighted persons are able to become familiar with the exhibit through touch.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by Breydenbach

The miniature comes from a particularly valuable work by a canon from Mainz, Bernard Breidenbach. It was translated by Father Andrzej Wargocki and later published by Szymon Kempini’s printing house in Krakow in 1610 under the title of Peregrynacya arabska albo do grobu S. Katarzyny panny y męczenniczki, którą aniołowie Swięći w Arabie ná górze Synai pogrzebali, zacnych ludzi niektórych rodu niemieckiego 1483 pielgrzymowánie. Imioná ich są niżey. Ma rzeczy y z strony nabożeństwá, y spraw potocznych záprawde dziwne, czytániá godne [The Arab peregrination or a 1483 pilgrimage by some righteous Germans to the grave of St. Catherine, a maiden and martyr buried by holy angels on Mount Sinai in the Arab land. Their names are given below. The work is truly interesting and worth reading, both in terms of religious and earthly matters]. The author of the text, an account and guide for the pilgrims heading for the Holy Land, was a dean of the Mainz chapter who in 1483 embarked on the pilgrimage himself and setting off from Venice reached Jerusalem through Istria and Greece. On the way back, the canon of Mainz went to Mount Sinai and through Cairo returned to Venice in 1484. His account of the pilgrimage was the first to feature maps of Palestine. Medieval pilgrims going to the Holy Land could use rich literature or guidebooks aimed at familiarising them with the importance and significance of their destinations. As print was invented, printed reports and guides appeared, the source of this miniature. Printed materials for pilgrims included not just essentials information concerning sanctuaries but also drawings with buildings. In modern times, it became popular to buy models of either the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the church in Bethlehem. Many prints for pilgrims also featured lists of the most important and indispensible expressions and were as if a model for the now popular phrasebooks tourists buy.

Orginal and tactile adaptationsource: Bernhard von Breydenbach, Peregrinatio in terram sanctam, Speyer 1490 retrieved http://www.bibliotekacyfrowa.pl/dlibra/doccontent?id=29505

Pilgrim’s hat

In the Middle Ages, pilgrims used to wear special clothes thanks to which they could be recognised and identified as pious wanderers. One vital piece was a wide-brimmed hat made of black wool, intended as a head protection against the burning sun, necessary when going to, for instance, Santiago de Compostela, Rome or the Holy Land. Listening to the lyrics of a medieval pilgrims’ song we find a passage containing advice as to the pilgrim’s clothes. Going do Santiago, they were advised to take two pairs of shoes, a bottle, a bowl, a leather coat and a wide-brimmed hat. Similar advice was provided in guides for pilgrims where comfortable footwear and a cover for the head were particularly recommended.
The historic object presented here is unique for a couple of reasons, being one of the few pilgrim’s hats left, definitely the only one so richly decorated. Also the owner of the hat is known: Stefan III Praun, a sixteenth-century burgher from Nuremberg, who made pilgrimages to destinations across Europe and went to both Santiago de Compostela and Jerusalem, ultimately dying of plague when in Rome in 1591. The hat he used to wear is suffused with pilgrimage symbolism. Iconographic monuments providing information on pilgrims’ clothes do not report so richly decorated hats. It is nearly entirely covered with shells, miniature pilgrims’ staves/sticks and bota bags. At the hat’s top, the artist placed St. James on horseback fighting with Moors surrounded by numerous pilgrims’ staves and bota bags for water. Additionally, the entire hat is decorated with six figures, five times St. James and once St. Anthony of Padua. The hat front is marked by a large symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago used until today, namely a scallop shell.

Pilgrim's hatsource: Art and Architecture of Late Medieval Pilgrimage in Northern Europe and The British Isles. Plates, ed. S. Blick, R. Tekippe, Leiden-Boston 2005, illustration no 3

St. James shown as a pilgrim, a woodcut

The woodcut shows a standing St. James as a medieval pilgrim. As a model ideal pilgrim he has all necessary pilgrim’s attributes to identify him as a member of that social group. In the right hand, St. James is holding a pilgrim’s staff on which a small pouch is hanging with a symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago, a scallop shell. Additionally, the saint has been equipped with a wide-brimmed hat also featuring the symbolic shell. On his shoulders is a pilgrim’s cloak with the pilgrim’s symbol (shell) appearing yet again and crossed pilgrims’ staves. Around the saint, a pious wanderer is shown praying at a gallows, then during a pilgrimage praying on his knees in front of a wayside cross. On the left side, the pilgrim wearing a cloak and a wide-brimmed hat is holding a staff and heading for another sanctuary. His pilgrimage ends with a scene of the pilgrim kneeling before an altar and the celebrating priest facing him, something not practised in the Middle Ages (a reference to the liturgical reform, introduced as late as at the twentieth-century second Vatican Council).
A medieval guide for pilgrims going to just Santiago de Compostela features an allegorical description along an explanation of individual aspects of pilgrims’ clothes. Each pilgrim setting off on a pilgrimage would take a travelling bag, not just diminutive in size but also made of leather. The size of the bag was related to trust the pilgrim should have in God rather than accumulated provisions. Later reflection expanded on the symbolism of the bag. It was supposed to be open so that the pilgrim was not only ready to accept alms facilitating the journey but also to offer alms to poorer pilgrims. Leather of which the bag was made was supposed to recall the importance of mortifying the flesh. Additionally, pilgrims were supposed to suppress their bodily needs while the sense of hunger and thirst was to additionally mortify the entire body. The pilgrim’s cane or staff symbolised a fight with the devil. Given the fact that the staff was often useful for chasing away dogs and possibly wolves the reference to the fight with the devil was very appropriate indeed. Moreover, the pilgrim’s walking stick was associated with a symbolic third leg making the journey easier and the number three had after all its special meaning in medieval piety, evoking the Holy Trinity. It should be stressed that the distinctive pilgrims’ clothes were also supposed to make them safe.

Tactile adaptationsource: S. Hopper, To Be a Pilgrim. The Medieval Pilgrimage experience, Sutton 2002, A woodcut of St. James

Traces of Christ’s feet

Walking through the Holy Land and visiting traces of the presence and activity of Christ himself, medieval pilgrims went to a place with a stone bearing the traces of Christ’s feet. It was shown in one of the miniatures adorning a medieval manuscript, currently kept in the collections of the British Library. The sanctuary holding that relic was considered very important, marking the site of the Ascension. The erection of the structure dates back to the fourth century, where Poimeni founded a rotunda, then widened in the fifth century with an oratory added.
On the left side of the image, Christ’s feet imprinted in the stone can be seen and on the right a multisided gothic structure. Originally roofless, the octagon was built by the crusaders. The sharply pointed roof rests on four columns. The sanctuary was turned into a mosque as ordered by Saladin, an eminent Muslim leader, sultan of Egypt and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty.

Tactile adaptationsource: J. Brefeld, A Guidebook for the Jerusalem Pilgrimage in the Late Middle Ages. A Case for Computer-Aided Textual Criticism, Verloren 1994, p. 52

Medieval pilgrimage propaganda

Medieval and modern-time pilgrimages have been of interest to researchers for long. One of the subjects analysed is the organisation of the journeys and broadly understood pilgrimage-related propaganda: how to reach the faithful with information as to where they should go? This question is partly answered by a unique historical object currently kept in Munich, a woodcut from the second half of the fifteenth century. In a simple and friendly manner, it provides information concerning ostentations (public showings) of the relic that took place in 1468 or 1475 in Aachen, Maastricht and Cornelimünster. To make it easier for the prospective pilgrim to read the woodcut, the author presented the relics in a simplified form, then information was provided exactly about the ostentations of the relic.
To that end, the author of the woodcut divided it into three columns, then described the relics, their significance and cult role, and then sketchily drew the relics and even the reliquary where they were placed. That was repeated each time so the reader of the leaflet received a highly simple and clear message, brief information and a drawing of the relics. The woodcut is an interesting example of a fifteenth-century “advertising leaflet”. Interestingly, it was proceeded by the announcement of a unique xylographic work describing the life of St. Servatius and the transfer of his relics to a church in Maastricht. The author of the work combined colourful woodcuts with a description of the relics and even the miracles that took place by the agency of the saint. During ostentations such relics were publicly shown as the right arm of St. Thomas the Apostle, a cross made by St. Luke for the Blessed Virgin Mary and, understandably, the head of St. Servatius himself.

Tactile adaptationsource: Art and Architecture of Late Medieval Pilgrimage in Northern Europe and The British Isles. Plates, ed. S. Blick, R. Tekippe, Leiden-Boston 2005, illustration no 323

Pilgrim’s emblem featuring St. Stanislaus

A number of model medieval pilgrim’s symbols have survived, bought by pilgrims at the destination. They were brought back both to confirm having made the pilgrimage and out of the need to keep a souvenir from a holy place; they could also play the role of relics of sorts, a function particularly visible in all ampoules used to transport water or oil from miraculous sources. Some pilgrim’s emblems were additionally supposed to “reflect” the saint’s power and so were made in the form of a mirror. Pilgrim’s emblems were put into the grave so that on the day of Last Judgement the pilgrim could prove having made the pilgrimage and they were also found in wells, thrown there on purpose in order to ensure sacral protection of a given site. It was also popular to melt them into church bells, as the sacral power of the latter was multiplied when the quasi relic was added.
This emblem was executed on the occasion of celebrating the canonisation (1253) of St. Stanislaus in Krakow. The obverse features the bishop’s bust in the centre, his right hand raised in a gesture of benediction, the left one holding a crosier with the curvature directed inwards. The bishop is wearing liturgical robes, a chasuble and pallium, and a mitre. Around him are four eagles with their heads facing the bishop. The eagles are a reference to the legend of St. Stanislaus, supposedly protecting his body after the martyr’s death. The upper part of the image features an octagonal star, and the bottom section six domes and two towers on either side. Around runs an encircled Latin inscription reading that the emblem refers to the martyr and bishop of Krakow St. Stanislaus. It should be emphasised that four special handles were placed around the emblem, two surviving on one belonging to the Archive of the Krakow Cathedral Chapter. The handles were intended to facilitate the attachment of the emblem to the pilgrim’s outer clothes. According to Wojciech Mischke, the domes and towers shown at the bottom were supposed to stress the importance of the martyr, since the researcher identified them with a schematic representation of Heavenly Jerusalem stressing being in the presence of God.

Pilgrim’s emblem photo

Pilgrim’s emblem tactile adaptationsource: Źródła kultury duchowej Krakowa, Kraków 2007, p. 177


The text below is by Dr Maria Filipowicz-Rudek from the JU’s Institute of Romance Studies.
The tactile graphics have been made by Lech Kolasiński, a painting artist. Thanks to the graphic adaptations blind and partially sighted persons are able to become familiar with the exhibit through touch.



Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James is the first pilgrimage route entered on the list of Europe’s cultural heritage. Its beginnings date back to the remote ninth century, when Bishop Teodomirus announced to the Christian world that he had found the grave of Apostle James deep in the woods. The message soon reached all the corners of the continent inciting people to go to the Holy Sepulchre. Europe, including Poland, was nearly full of ways of St. James, and so a town began to rise around the burial site of the Apostle, today’s Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the Spanish province of Galicia, which later became an important pilgrimage destination, according to some the most important one in the Middle Ages. In modern times, the route enjoyed more or less popularity and in the first half of the twentieth century, due to wars and winds of history, it was temporarily forgotten. Fortunately, starting from the 1970s, the Camino progressively began to shine again, with towns and villages lying on the route renovated e.g. by the construction and reconstruction of a dense network of shelters for pilgrims, albergues. Currently the route is traversed annually by several tens of thousands of persons from across the globe.
De facto, there are many ways of St. James, a few in Spain alone, yet the so-called French way (camino francés) is considered most important; it is the oldest and most popular one. The route covers more than 1,000 km, starting on the French side of the Pyrenees, in two places (Roncesvalles Pass or Somport Pass), and then moving into Spain, going to Puente la Reina via either Pampeluna or Jaca and then on a single trail to Santiago, believed by the Romans to lie at the end of the world.
While the idea of a pilgrimage to Santiago is gaining popularity also in Poland, it is worthwhile to discover some details in order to be able to make full use of the goodness of St. James’ heritage whose religious, historical and cultural significance is boundless.

Here are the list of towns on the French Way: Jaca, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Pampeluna, Puente la Reina, Logroño, Burgos, León, O Cebreiro, and Santiago de Compostela

tactile map of Spain

tactile map of France

The shell of St. James

The symbol of Camino de Santiago, abundant in sea waters around Galicia and a shelter for the mollusc known as scallop, is called vieira in Galicia, the word coming from the Latin name venera. The name is due to the Roman goddess of beauty and love, also known as Venus, in Greece called Aphrodite. The shell, whose shape resembles an open hand, was associated very early on with travelling to the western borderlands of Europe. The open hand after all symbolises hospitality and openness, as well as God’s grace received by those who wanted to go to the grave of Apostle James tirelessly on their own feet. At the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a new more convenient type of pilgrimage developed, by means of another person that is, with the vieira becoming a material proof of having made the pilgrimage, for which the sinner unable to embark on it him- or herself would pay a lot. Such “professional pilgrims” were called bordoneros, from the staff (bordón) with which they walked and which they also received from the person sending them on a pilgrimage. The scallop shell has not only a symbolic meaning as it is a perfect vehicle for drawing water, so much needed after the hardship of the pilgrimage. And once the pilgrim has reached the destination, it is worthwhile to check out how much of a delicacy the scallop inhabiting the beautiful shell is, particularly in Galicia.