Medieval Italian pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela: New literary evidence

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-189
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Italian pilgrims' devotion to the cult of St James, while lacking extensive written documentation, was no less keen than that of other medieval Europeans. The twelfth-century Historia Compostellana (II, 50) includes Italy--Latium--among countries from which pilgrims came: Gallia, Anglia, Latium, Alemania, omnesque Christicolarum prouincie... J. Scattered documents prove that pilgrimages were made as early as the GLORIA ALLAIRE is Visiting Professor of'Italian at Purdue University. Her new book Andrea da Barberino and the Language of Chivalry (Gainesville, Florida) was published in 1997. She is currently preparing a transcription with translation of the Tristano panciatichiano manuscript. She has published numerous articles on manuscript discoveries, vernacular book culture and Italian chivalric literature in Viator, La Bibliofilia, Studi e problemi di critica testuale, Lettere ltaliane, Medioevo romanzo and Studi Mediolatini e Volgari. Her research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Fulbright Commission, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of California-Los Angeles and the American Philosophical Society. ~Historia compostellana, ed. E. Falque Rey (Corpus christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis, 70 (Turnhout, 1988), 307-308.


  • Literary evidence
  • Medieval Italian pilgrims
  • Santiago de Compostela

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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