The Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago de Compostela: Critical Edition

A review by Janet L. Nelson

The following article first appeared in our Bulletin no. 65 in March 1999, and is included here by permission of the author and the editor. You may quote reasonable extracts without permission, though we would appreciate an acknowledgement. For more substantial use, please contact the Secretary.

The Pilgrim’s Guide To Santiago de Compostela. Critical Edition. Volume I: The Manuscripts, by Alison Stones, Jeanne Krochalis, Paula Gerson and Annie Shaver-Crandell; Volume II: The Text, by Paula Gerson, Annie Shaver-Crandell, Alison Stones and Jeanne Krochalis, Harvey Miller Publishers, London 1998, £125. ISBN 0905203526

These two volumes have very evidently been a labour of love. The inspiration behind them is one that many readers of the Bulletin will share, since ‘the idea for [them] began’, say the authors in their Preface, ‘along the pilgrimage route to Santiago… [when] our most valued text … was Jeanne Vielliard’s edition of the Pilgrim’s Guide in Latin…’ Few can travel that route nowadays without sparing thoughts for those who took it centuries ago. This new edition and translation of the earliest account of the ‘ways of St James’ bears a title that promises to put pilgrim-readers in contact with their medieval antecedents. Yet this text is neither a personal record of a journey made (like the late-Roman Egeria’s or the eighth-century Willibald’s of their journeys to the Holy Land), nor is it truly a guide-book. It is a unique, not to say peculiar and puzzling, text, only to be understood in the context of the clerical confections in whose manuscript-company it travelled. In the earliest manuscript, which dates from the middle decades of the twelfth century, the so-called ‘Guide’ figures as ‘Book V’ of a collection of material honouring St James. Some parts assert themselves to be the work of Pope Calixtus II (1119-24): hence the name Codex Calixtinus by which the whole manuscript is generally known. Professor Stones et al. make slightly heavy weather of Calixtus’s alleged authorship: it has been known for centuries that the attribution is false, though there are good reasons, including some discussed at volume I, pp. 17-18, why it was made. Forgery in the twelfth century had its own rationales as well as justifications, as Michael Clanchy, Christopher Brooke, E.A.R. Brown, and others have pointed out. Calixtus’s was a papal name to conjure with at Santiago but also in various parts of France; and the mid-twelfth century was a great age of provincially-solicited papal interventionism.

Book I contains the liturgy for the feasts of St James; Book II is a little collection of twenty-two of St James’s miracles; Book III recounts (in variant versions) the translation of St James’ relics to Spain; Book IV consists of the History of Charlemagne and Roland, purportedly written by Charlemagne’s archbishop of Rheims, Turpin, but in fact produced by a cleric in, very probably, south-west France c. 1100; Book V is the ‘Guide’. That the History, in which St James inspires Charlemagne to successive expeditions against the Moors in Spain, was an almost wholly mythical learned pastiche was suggested in 1937 by H.M. Smyser in his edition of Pseudo-Turpin. The late and regretted Christopher Hohler propounded a similar view of the ‘Guide’ in 1972: it was written, he argued, for schoolroom use. Unlike Mme Vielliard, who wrote before 1972, and unlike Professor Melczer, who in his translation of the ‘Guide’ listed Hohler’s paper in his bibliography but ignored its contents, Professor Stones and her colleagues have taken Hohler on board. If theirs is a self-proclaimed ‘revisionist interpretation’ (p. 8), it is so thanks to Hohler. Yet the context for both the History that was no history and the ‘Guide’ that was no guide was a historically true one: that of a world in which pilgrimage to Santiago had become relatively widely known and widely practised as far as the élite of western and southern France were concerned. Without that context, neither History nor ‘Guide’ make sense.

Professor Stones and her colleagues, as art historians, latinists, and codicologists, are indeed equipped ‘to do what no-one [has] yet done …: examine all twelve extant manuscripts … to find out who had read and used the text’, and to confront the questions: ‘When, where and why was it copied and read?’ (I, p. 7). Volume I provides a full catalogue of the manuscripts (pp. 51-195), with a collation of them (pp. 196-240) to elucidate their relationships, and 48 pages of black and white plates, rounded off by a map of the pilgrimage routes. Volume II consists of an edition based on the earliest manuscript (C), in the Cathedral Library at Santiago, together with an English translation. Fifty pages of notes to the Latin text mostly give manuscript variants. Some seventy pages of notes to the translation offer an often ample commentary with very full bibliographical references. The bibliography runs to nearly sixty pages. It should be added that these volumes complement, and in so far as the translation is concerned overlap with, the Gazeteer published by Professors Shaver-Crandell and Gerson in 1995.

What does this edition add to Vielliard’s? She too, unsurprisingly, used C as the base-manuscript, but only collated one other (the next earliest), whereas Stones et al. give variants of all twelve manuscripts. While this additional information will be appreciated by specialists, it is unlikely to be of much interest to others, since the variants are in most cases trivial, and all the manuscripts descend from C or something very like it. In practice, what will appeal to anglophone readers is the translation. Here the authors’ ‘primary concern has been to present a readable text, while staying as close to the Latin as possible’. How does the result compare with the paperback translations of Melczer (1993) or – and it is sad to see no room found for it in a near-sixty-page bibliography – James Hogarth (1992) published by the CSJ? In terms of readability, there is little to choose between them. The commentary of Stones et al. is fuller, though, and includes more extensive references. Readers may judge the relative merits of the following renderings of c. V: Haec sunt nomina quorundam viatorum…, translated by Stones et al.: ‘These are the names of certain overseers of roads’; by Vielliard: ‘Voici les noms de quelques routiers…’; by Melczer: ‘Here are the names of some roadmen…’; and by Hogarth: ‘Here are the names… of those who repaired the road’. Vielliard, appealing (but without a precise reference) to the seventeenth-century savant Du Cange, asserts that viator never means ‘official concerned with the upkeep of roads’ (‘agent qui s’occupe de l’entretien des routes’). Hogarth evidently follows this. Melczer claims that Vielliard and others ‘interpret viator in the same way’ as he does, that is, to mean ‘those engaged in public works as restorers of the roads’; Stones et al. say that Du Cange ‘equates viator with viarius, a minor justiciary’ (sic) (he lists this as one possible meaning), and they ‘therefore translate “overseers of roads”‘ (though no explanation is given for why ‘justiciary’ here should mean that).

Further comparison of the flavours of the different modem translations can be made in c. VIII. In the section on St Giles, Melczer, p. 163, n. 154, accepts Vielliard’s reading of the curious phrase Tedet me mori: ‘I regret indeed having to die before being able to report all [St Giles’] feats worthy of veneration’ (p. 99). Hogarth, p. 30, apparently accepting a variant reading in one sixteenth-century manuscript (M), has: ‘I regret that my memory does not enable me to recount all his memorable deeds’. This gets round the oddity of the original remark, yet misses its ironic double-entendre. Stones et al. offer: ‘It would take me to my dying day to recount all his venerable deeds…’: they note (p. 172, n. 30, with a cross-reference to p. 171, n. 21) Hohler’s suggestion that St Giles is being mocked throughout this section, yet they don’t comment on the sharp, classicising latinity on display here, nor do they quite bring out Hohler’s point that the author’s prejudice arises from his preference for St Denis and the History’s pitting of these two saints against each other as rival patrons of Charlemagne. Near the end of c. VIII, the mention of Roland as ‘a blessed martyr’ evokes no specific comment from Vielliard (p. 79 and n. 2) nor from Melczer (p. 117, with p. 186, n. 346): Stones et al., acknowledging Hohler’s help, suggest that the author of the ‘Guide’ is ‘playing on the propaganda idea that a Crusader who dies in battle is a martyr’ (p. 191, n. 183). They quote St Bernard, In Praise of the New Knighthood, but without pointing out how sparingly Bernard uses the idea, or noting the difficulties John Cowdrey has shown inherent in it from the Church’s point of view. The notes to the new edition and translation, in short, are much fuller than Vielliard’s and often shed more light than Melczer’s, yet don’t always show acquaintance with the best and most up-to-date historical scholarship.

From a general reader’s viewpoint, the new work scores highest in the substantial Introduction to volume I. The ‘Guide’ is firmly situated in its manuscript context (pp. 12-15) and the authorship question is discussed at some length (pp. 15-27) – even though it is described as ‘a substantial red herring’ (p. 12). A ground-clearing exercise is effective, as the case for Aimery Picaud’s authorship is held ‘possible … but… unproven’ (p. 21). Stones et al., having announced themselves as revisionists, still seem slightly disconcerted by their own findings. They consider ‘the most surprising thing about the manuscript tradition’ that ‘only twelve copies survive’, and they regard the ‘almost entirely Iberian circulation’ of the ‘Guide’ as ‘even more curious’ (pp. 11, 13). They contrast the large number (‘close to 200’, p. 11; ‘over 200’, p. 13) of manuscripts of Pseudo-Turpin, but suggest no explanation for this contrast (pp. 11, 13). There is no very clear attempt here to link the production of the Codex Calixtinus with the patronage of Diego Gelmírez, who held the see of Santiago for an extraordinary forty years (bishop 1100-1120, archbishop 1120-1140), though the notes to the English translation in volume II, pp. 153-4, 113, 218, suggest his key importance in the promotion of both see and cult. The latter part of the Introduction discusses the manuscripts in detail (pp. 27-37, with notes, pp. 46-50) offering some particularly interesting comments on the illustrated copies, Stones’s forte, and their possible implications for a lost archetype (pp. 28-30), and also on the fourteenth century as ‘the most prolific period of copying’ – with three manuscripts. This peak is attributed, plausibly enough, to ‘an effort to reaffirm Santiago’s historic importance and the cult of its patron at a time when the Inquisition was at the height of its powers’ (p. 33). If a French Dominican archbishop of Santiago interested in combatting heresy was the patron of these three copies made in the 1320s, that would represent historical contingency on a par with the original production by a French resident at Santiago of the Codex Calixtinus under the patronage of another exceptionally busy and ambitious archbishop.

These handsomely-produced volumes deserve two-and-a-half cheers. They will stand, assuredly, as works of reference for scholars interested in the ‘Guide’ and, especially, in its manuscripts and their full contents. For general readers, however, the price is regrettably high, while the lack of an Index is a major and inexplicable drawback (Vielliard, Melzcer, and Hogarth all do better in this respect). As for the prospective pilgrim, however roomy his or her rucksack, these two weighty volumes are unlikely to find a place therein. Even xeroxes of the extensive commentary-notes in volume II might prove prohibitively bulky. Vielliard, even in hardback, is lighter than Melczer’s paperback, and her (French) translation is elegant. But Hogarth is lightest of all, and pocket-sized; his, the first English translation, is also, for my money, the best. If you want full notes and commentary en route, Melczer (warts and all) might be worth finding room for. Stones et al. should be sampled before you set out, or after your return – but whichever you do, do it in the Confraternity Library where you can follow up references: otherwise you risk serious frustration!

Source: Confraternity of St James Bulletin Nº 65 pp. 25-29.

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