Medieval Italian pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela: New literary evidence

Medieval Italian pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela: New literary evidence

By Gloria Allaire

Journal of Medieval History, Volume 24, Issue 2 (1998)

Abstract: This paper offers literary evidence of the interest in the cult of St James on the part of late medieval Italian pilgrims. While extant written itineraries are few, occasional literary references demonstrate this interest without furnishing precise details of the route to Santiago de Compostela. Compostela holds a special place in chivalric literature: the legendary wars against Muslims in Spain and the status of the warrior Roland as a popular saint derive much of their impetus from the piety centred on Santiago. One episode of the widely-circulated chivalric romance Guerrino il Meschino by the Florentine Andrea da Barberino displays its genre’s concern with the Spanish shrine and details and route from Rome to Compostela. Andrea, known for his verisimilar style, incorporates a virtuoso display of contemporary geographical knowledge which gives his fiction the texture of a chronicle. The author’s inclusion of towns not found in the chivalric literary corpus argue for his reliance on maps or the testimonies of returned pilgrims. Places named tally with those in actual pilgrim accounts. The passage in Guerrino furnishes evidence of Italian pilgrimages to Santiago in the early fifteenth century, a period for which no historical accounts remain.

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