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  • El culto a San Millán en Valderredible Cantabria: Las Iglesias rupestres y la formación del Camino de Santiago
  • Mary Baldridge
Kaplan, Gregory . El culto a San Millán en Valderredible Cantabria: Las Iglesias rupestres y la formación del Camino de Santiago. Cantabria: A. G. Quinzaños, 2007. 242 pp.

As its title clearly suggests, Gregory Kaplan's book, El culto a San Millán en Valderredible, Cantabria: Las iglesias rupestres y la formación del Camino de Santiago, links the cave churches in southern Cantabria to the cult of San Millán and the pre-ninth century formation of the Camino de Santiago. Evidence suggests that pilgrimage to Santiago predates the discovery of Saint James's remains in the ninth century (Cunningham). This calls into question the motives for pilgrimage to (and through) northern Spain prior to the discovery of Santiago's remains, and the placement of the different routes that currently make up the Camino. Gregory Kaplan provides a partial answer to those questions in his study, showing evidence that San Millán's cult in Valderredible led to the establishment of a pilgrimage tradition along what would later become part of the Camino de Santiago.

The Valderredible Valley hosts the largest grouping of cave churches in all of Spain. The region is home to more than fifty documented cave churches, necropolises, and other caverns, with the possibility that many more remain undiscovered ("Entrevista a Gregory Kaplan"). The dating of these sites, formed from natural caves that were further excavated to create churches, is difficult due to their states of deterioration. However, Kaplan focuses on the architecture and architectural dimensions of the churches. Basing his study on Jerrilynn Dodds's research showing that the architecture of Visigothic churches symbolically enacts Visigothic laws intended to extend control of the monarchy over the Hispano-Roman populace, Kaplan focuses on the dimensions of the horseshoe arch in each of these cave churches and the arch's relationship to the size and shape of the apse; he then compares those measurements to studies done on other Visigothic churches in order to arrive at approximate dates of construction.

Kaplan begins his study with a brief historical section regarding the relationship between the Visigothic government and the Catholic Church. After the Visigothic monarchy converted to Christianity in the late sixth century, the Visigothic leaders formed a symbiotic relationship with the Church in order to legitimize their authority. This led to the creation of canon law that helped concretize the idea that Visigothic rule was divinely appointed. Changes in architectural norms for churches arose out of this new canon law. Dodds's aforementioned study of Visigothic churches shows how this relationship between church and state played out in the building agenda of the time; for example, the apses of these churches were partitioned from the rest of [End Page 247] the church to physically segregate them from the area open to congregants (Dodds 21-26). This characteristic is common to churches built in the Visigothic period and is seen as an identifying characteristic of that time.

The next section of Kaplan's book compares the two extant versions of the life of San Millán. By far the better known version of Millán's life is Gonzalo de Berceo's Vida de San Millán de la Cogolla, which locates Millán's years of hermitage in the region of La Rioja, in the monastery that now bears his name. However, Berceo's version was written nearly six hundred years after Millán's death. For that reason, Berceo relied on the much earlier Vita S. Emiliani, written by Braulius of Zaragoza, which dates to some seventy years after Millán's death in 574. In spite of the fact that Berceo relied on Braulius's version, Kaplan draws attention to some of the notable discrepancies between the two versions. Brian Dutton recognized that many stories about San Millán from Berceo's time period were falsifications, created to benefit his monastery (viii). While Berceo claimed that Millán retired to a cave in what is today San Millán de la Cogolla de Suso (the upper monastery), the fact...


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pp. 247-249
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