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  • Pilgrims and Politics: Rediscovering the Power of the Pilgrimage ed. by Antón M. Pazos
  • Leanne Good
Pilgrims and Politics: Rediscovering the Power of the Pilgrimage, ed. Antón M. Pazos, Compostela International Studies in Pilgrimage History and Culture (Burlington: Ashgate 2012) 211 pp.

The articles in this volume derive from a conference held in Compostela in 2008 on the intersections between pilgrimage and political power. Four of the twelve essays concentrate on the Iberian Peninsula. Most focus on the medieval period, but there are contributions covering the contemporary period, as well. The definition of pilgrimage thus varies, although the term “political” appears more narrowly defined, referring to a governing monarch or state in almost every instance.

In the first essay concerning medieval Iberia, Ana María Carballeira Debasa surveys the information that appears in medieval Arabic texts from the Islamic East and West concerning Santiago de Compostela and its pilgrimage routes. She concludes that knowledge was often secondhand and incomplete, and interest was primarily focused on military and economic concerns.

Carlos Baliñas Pérez reveals the early history of the cult of Saint James, in which the young King Alfonso III (866–910) wrested the episcopal see of Iria from Bishop Adaulfo II. Control of this Galician bishopric benefited the Asturian monarchy; the saint’s cult served as an ideological tool to further unity and expansion. [End Page 315]

Paula Maria de Carvalho Pinto Costa contributes a study of the role of the Hospitaller Order of St. John in Northern Portugal. Their presence in the twelfth century, in support of pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostela, preceded both their presence in Galicia, and the establishment of the Kingdom of Portugal. It was thus a step in “the political-ecclesiastical evolution in the Peninsula” (73). The comendas (commanderies) of the Hospitallers were situated along the routes leading to Santiago, and the safety of these routes guaranteed pilgrimage to the site. Pinto affirms that the subsequent increase in pilgrimage contributed to the overall development of the Iberian Peninsula. From the year 1000, pilgrimage towards this western holy site increased significantly in comparison to the traditional pilgrimage sites of Rome and Jerusalem.

It was Innocent III (1198–1216) who set about to renew Rome’s primacy as a pilgrimage site, in competition with Jerusalem and Compostela. Rome’s pilgrim traffic had declined since the Carolingian era. Brenda Bolton describes the strategies employed by Innocent: he made efforts to resolve the rivalry between the Lateran and St. Peter’s, awarded an indulgence in the form of the remission of penance for pilgrims, and conferred on the canons of St. Peter’s the right to sell pilgrim badges. In a further effort to raise the status of St. Peter’s, Innocent granted the canons the revenues which the popes had previously received from pilgrim gifts, as well as the right to strike the pilgrim badges. Concerns regarding personal security and the care for those who fell sick or died whilst on pilgrimage were also addressed by Innocent. Finally, a new liturgical station was established in 1208, at which the sudarium (the cloth on which Jesus’s face had been wiped) was displayed. Finally, the pope required all archbishops to travel to Rome in order to collect their pallia, and the Fourth Lateran Council drew together bishops from across Christendom. Bolton argues that Innocent attempted to repair damage from the political strife that had riven the Church by re-focusing on Rome as a religious center.

Yvonne Friedman analyzes the political aspects of pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the Crusades. She draws attention to the account of Guibert of Nogent, who describes the taxes on pilgrims abroad as one of Urban II’s motivations for encouraging the First Crusade. The rights of pilgrims imposed a duty on both Muslim and Christian rulers in the region, who took care to include in their treaties arrangements for pilgrims from their own faiths. These rights of access to holy shrines also could be used as a strategic tool. For example, Saladin permitted Christian pilgrims access to the Holy Sepulcher, removing one of the motivations for soldier-pilgrims to fight for Richard. After the end...


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