A Precious Ancient Souvenir Given to the First Pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela
By Roger E. Reynolds
Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture, Vol.4:3 (2014)
Introduction: All of us who have made pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwest Spain – three for me – are often reminded of their visits by the souvenirs they bring home. One may be a cockleshell with the cross of Santiago emblazoned on it. Another may be a gourd, hollowed out as a water container. Yet a third may be a tiny silver replica of the famous botafumiero, the gigantic thurible or censer swung on ropes by eight red-robed tiraboleiros through the transept of the basilica at Santiago belching incense and flames.
Or it may be a book, such as a modern copy of the famous twelfth-century Codex Callixtinus describing the basilica, hostels and shrines along the Camino, and miracles.
Also important is a Camino passport with stamps of many of the stops one has made on the route demonstrating that one has walked at least 100 km. to Santiago.
All of these souvenirs are modern, but there still exists a precious souvenir of over 1,000 years old that one may hold in one’s hands by going to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris and ordering MS Latin 2855.
This manuscript, as is now bound, is actually in three parts and only the third part is this souvenir. The first two sections have the works of Paschasius Radbertus of Corbie on the real presence of Christ in the host and an unusual treatise on the making of Eucharistic hosts and their distribution on the altar. The manuscript as a whole is widely known as the Godescalc manuscript, described as such on the first page of the manuscript as a whole.
This reference is to Bishop Godescalc of Le Puy, the first recorded pilgrim to Santiago, who on his way to Santiago in 950-951 made a detour in order to request and then pick up the manuscript from the abbey of San Martin de Albelda, south of Logroño.