Today is the feast of St James, one of Jesus' twelve disciples and the Patron Saint of Spain. Legend tells us his remains are resting in Santiago de Compostela in Barcelona.
The 'Way of St James' has been a traditional pilgrimage to the Saint's grave since the Middle Ages.
From the 12th to the 15th Century several thousand Pilgrims walked across Europe often for months to Compostella to worship the Saint. Pilgrims needs were met by a series of hospitals and hospices, under royal protection and were in fact a source of revenue flor hostellers and sellers of 'souvenirs'.
The Christian symbol for St James was a scallop shell and pilgrims wore such a sign to announce to anyone they were a pilgrim, thus giving them privileges such as sleeping in churches or ask for free meals. Additionally it ward off thieves who would not risk God's wrath and attack pilgrims.
The four ancient pilgrims routes across France toward Compostella includes: the Route of Paris, the Route of Vézolay, the Route of Le Puy, and the Route of Arles.
I found a very interesting site regarding this particular pilgrimage (here). Albeit a bicyle trip, there are enough information to give you an idea how beautiful the route actually is!
Since I myself have been blessed with two left feet, I would prefer to walk the route as many still do today!
For those of us who love baking, there is a wonderful recipe for an almond cake called St James tarta (here).
Finally, there is a still a Flemish tradition of freeing one prisoner a year under the condition this prisoner walks to Santiago wearing a heavy backpack whilst under guard.
Blessings to all,