Pilgrim Clothing

One of the distinctive marks of the pilgrim, was and is his clothing. At the beginnings, the garments and footwear used had a practical reason, but eventually remained the same and went on become a characteristic attire of the pilgrims of St James. The majority of texts about history and iconography of pilgrimage, talks about that outfit. According to Xosé Ramón Pousa, the pilgrim is represented with seven elements which complete the characteristics of the walker over a thousand kilometers long of the route, and they are: wide-brimmed hat to protect from the sun and rain, coat with short cloak to shelter from cold and snow; strong footwear, to resist millions of footsteps on the stones; the staff which protected them against the wild animals and was useful as a support; the pumpkin in which conserve water or wine for each stretch; the pouch for keeping the food, money and some pieces of cloth; and the scallop shell on the front, holding the wide brimmed hat. But the typical complement, undoubtedly, has been for centuries the shell, scallop or zamburiña, obtained by the pilgrims almost like a trophy at the end of the pilgrimage to Santiago.
Today, a scallop is an implicit reference to the St James’ Way and is part of the treasury signs along the different routes which form it. Equipped in this way, the pilgrim had free way and was well received in the many shelters in the route. He was provided with all the attentions: food, religious and medical assistance, if necessary. We should add that not everything was bright in pilgrimages. Facing widespread goodness for the pilgrim, there was also abuse and trickery on the part of innkeepers and lodging managers. Vagrants and robbers were not missing, who roamed the roads waiting for unsuspecting walkers. The Orders of Santiago and the Temple watched the paths and routes, protecting the pilgrims, even militarily. The majority of texts containing the history of pilgrimages agree that, just as the clothing, the pilgrim is distinguished by the songs that vented all the hardships of the road and the legends who accompanied it. All that, in many cases, was preserved and transmitted from generation to generation. In fact, the songbook became one of the most popular elements in the medieval pilgrimages. The pilgrims sang. A lot. Well or not. But they sang. And their songs, along with Romanesque art, are one of the richest cultural and artistic legacies that have been passed on to subsequent generations. There have been collected and even published numerous songbooks of pilgrimage (the first already in the 12nd century, in the Codex Calixtinus, reproduced in disk today) on which the first examples for more than one voice known in the peninsula appear: the descants. The other traditional element linked to the songs, is the set of legends and miracles that, “passed from voice to voice, served to fill the evenings and inflame the walker, forming a kind of magical aura around the Apostle and his shrine”. The main topic of most of them is the miraculous rescue that James gave to the pilgrims in trouble. The Codex Calixtinus contains a generous sampling of these legends.
The Codex Calixtinus or Liber Sanct Jacobi is the historic text of reference about the St James’ Way, especially the French way. The original document, whose origin is not exactly known but it’s previous to 1173, is a manuscript of 226 pages on parchment. It is divided into 5 parts containing sermons, liturgical texts, stories of miracles performed by the Apostle, the legend of Charlemagne and the Aymeric Picaud Guide, considered the first guide of the Way because of the information given about the different places where it went on. The Codex was restored in 1964 and is stored in the archives of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.