The Camino de Santiago originated as one of the 3 major Christian Pilgrimages in Medieval times. The pilgrimages were to Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain where St. James is buried. People famous and humble have walked to Santiago for nearly 1,200 years. Today it thrives with a life of its own as people from around the globe walk the road for an infinite number of reasons. Before it was a Christian Pilgrimage, the Romans built a road to the end of the earth at Finisterre along the same path. Earlier still, Celtic people congregated there and viewed it as an area of great spiritual significance. Even further back into antiquity, 14,000 years ago, the first two-dimensional artists painted stunning murals in caves throughout the region.
In former times Pilgrims began walking right out of their front door, so the Camino is actually a network of trails from all over Europe. You can click on these maps to enlarge them and get a better look at the routes. I walked the traditional route of the Camino in 2008 where most of these trails converge at the French-Spanish border. My walking partner and I began our trek in the Pyrenees Mountains of France and traversed northern Spain for 550 miles, drawing each day. My book, The Artist’s Journey: The Perfumed Pilgrim Tackles the Camino de Santiago, chronicles that adventure of the heart, feet and soul, supported by over 50 drawings of the imagery we encountered.
This year we will explore the route known as the Via de ls Plata, which led people to Santiago from North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor, and the south of Spain. It follows an old Roman Road northward, paralleling the mountains that separate Spain and Portugal. This natural corridor was home to Paleolithic people who hunted migrating animals along length. Later, Egyptians, Phoenicians and Greeks arrived in Southern Spain by boat and used this route to trade their goods for the gold and silver mined in the north. Hannibal rode his elephants this way, and the Conquistadors who explored the Americas returned here with their treasure. We will be walking through not only landscapes filled with olive groves and hill-top villages, but through history itself.