Dwelling, Walking, Serving: Organic Preservation Along the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage Landscape

Mercedes C. Quesada-Embid (2008)

This study is an exploration of the people and the landscape of the well-known Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. Although there are many routes that make up the entirety of the pilgrimage, this research is specifically focused on the landscape of the Camino Francés, or French Route, in northern Spain. The path has been written about in many ways and for a myriad of reasons since it became affiliated with the Christian tradition in the early ninth century. This research, however, is different. By way of an environmental history and hermeneutic approach, an investigation of the interrelated and overlapping human actions of dwelling, movement, and service that stem from the pilgrimage tradition on the Camino de Santiago is conducted. Unlike other studies of this pilgrimage path, both pilgrim and resident receive equal attention, and the landscape emerges as central to the research. This study provides: an integrated evaluation of the ancient pre-Christian and medieval Christian histories and perceptions of the path; a description of the physical landscape; an in-depth assessment of conventional landscape and cultural heritage strategies for preservation; and a linguistic, social, and philosophical discussion of the correlations among dwelling, walking, serving, and preserving that are apparent on the landscape. Embedded within this examination of the Camino de Santiago landscape is a return to the essence and origin of the ideal of preservation itself. This analysis of landscape preservation is specifically centered on traditionally peopled landscapes and cultural landscapes, i.e., those with a deep history and presence of people. This study proposes that the Camino de Santiago landscape serves as a model for the preservation of tradition, history, culture, and nature. Moreover, it contends that the landscape is an exemplar of what I have termed organic preservation precisely because the people evolved in a reciprocal relationship with each other and the land. As a result of this study, the Camino de Santiago can become a part of the ongoing protected landscape dialogue, helping the current discourse to move toward a much needed different direction, perhaps even becoming the inspiration for a new and egalitarian preservation paradigm for traditionally peopled landscapes.

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