Recommended Websites and Books
Australian Friends of the Camino
This association officially issues pilgrim passports – credencials – which pilgrims need to complete if they are planning to receive a Compostela, the official certification of a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela. Based in Adelaide, they hold pilgrim gatherings and members receive a regular newsy bulletin.
The Confraternity of Saint James
Start your Santiago pilgrimage research on this website. Not only does it provide excellent background on the different pilgrim routes and the history of the pilgrimage, it has a good on-line bookshop. Even better, join The Confraternity of Saint James (CSJ) and receive its wonderful quarterly bulletin. The CSJ has been mapping pilgrim paths, writing guidebooks and helping pilgrims in whatever way it can since 1983. Its ongoing research into the history of the pilgrimage and the advice and guidance it gives modern pilgrims in its untiring and gracious way, makes this organisation very special indeed. It even runs two pilgrim refuges in Spain.
Pilgrims in Sydney
An informal group of ‘pilgrims helping pilgrims’ that meets monthly to provide support for those planning a pilgrimage.
Santiago Pilgrimage: Guidebooks and Other Favourites
A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: A Practical and Mystical Manual for the Modern Day Pilgrim,
Camino Guides, Findhorn, 2014
If I had room in my backpack on the Camino Francés for only one guidebook, this would be it. It provides a good balance of practical and historical information, and whether your camino is spiritual or not, John Brierley’s daily reflections are thought-provoking. Pilgrimage maps and guidebooks for other paths are available from his website, as well as sound, general information.
Edited by Thomas F. Coffey, Linda Kay Davidson and Maryjane Dunn,
The Miracles of Saint James,
Italica Press, 1996
Despite its title, this book illuminates the Santiago pilgrimage beyond the translation of the twenty-two miracles of Saint James from the twelfth-century Codex Calixtinus, the manuscript detailing all aspects of the Saint James story, worship and history. Anyone wanting to understand the wider history of the pilgrimage will benefit greatly from reading this book.
Nancy Louise Frey,
Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago,
University of California Press, 1998
My camino travels with Nancy confirmed the view that I formed while reading her book – that few truly understand the motivations for modern pilgrims better than she does. Her book grew out of her PhD dissertation and nothing helped me comprehend better the reason why this ancient religious pilgrimage is suddenly so popular again in our increasingly secular times.
Galicia-based Nancy and her husband Jose Placer also take small guided groups on the Camino Francés and other pilgrim paths. They describe their itineraries as “walking and hiking educational adventures” but as I discovered to my daily joy on one of her tours, they are much, much more.
José María Anguita Jaén,
The Road to Santiago: The Pilgrim’s Practical Guide,
Editorial Everest, 2005
This book includes practical stage-by-stage maps and information for the Camino Francés, along with details of other routes. Its historical information is based primarily on the section of the Codex Calixtinus called Liber Peregrinationis, also known as The Pilgrim’s Guide. This famous twelfth-century source is usually described as the first ever travel guide, so read this book for detail on the life and landscape experienced by medieval pilgrim
Walking the Camino: A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago,
Scribe Publications, 2007
The former Australian diplomat followed lesser- known routes from the south of Spain to Santiago for his camino. The book combines a moving and honest self-appraisal with a practised diplomat’s interpretation of contemporary Spain.
The Field of the Star: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela,
It’s not uncommon for people to undertake the pilgrimage at times of great personal tragedy. The late English travel writer Nicholas Luard, the husband of food writer Elisabeth, walked from Le Puy to Santiago in stages over four years to reflect on his daughter’s terminal illness. A warts-and-all insight into day-to-day life on the pilgrimage in France and Spain, and a raw and moving account of a complicated father–child relationship.
Rag and Bone: A Journey among the World’s Holy Dead,
Henry Holt and Co, 2009
Can you have a rollicking book about holy relics? Yes – this is it! When my fascination with relics was at fever pitch after my Spanish camino, this book came along and answered so many questions. And made me laugh out loud, too.
James A. Michener,
Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections,
Random House, 1968
I can only think that this tome is so chunky because Michener’s editors couldn’t bear to cut a word of his beautifully descriptive, intensely researched writing. Reviewers raved about it when it was published in the 1960s, and half a century later I urge anyone interested in the camino to please, please read at least the final chapter about the Santiago pilgrimage.
Barrie & Jenkins, 1988
The bookseller I bought this from via the internet contacted me to say how sad he was to see it go. It is a beautifully illustrated edition of a landmark book by one of the best travel writers. First published in 1979, it reaches into the heart and history – and some uncomfortable truths – of Spain as it emerged from the Franco era.
Roads to Santiago: Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain (translated by Ina Rilke),
Erudite and absorbing, this is a book so rich in insights and knowledge that it is no surprise to discover its Dutch author is also a poet.
In Search of Cluny: God’s Lost Empire,
Signal Books, 2006
This is the story of the Benedictine Cluniac monks, medieval powerbrokers to kings and popes. Without them, the Santiago pilgrimage may not have become the greatest of its age. Mullins’ history of the politics and of medieval monastic life is authoritative and very readable.
The Pilgrimage to Santiago,
Signal Books, 2001
Wonderful travel writing with scholarly insights. The author starts his pilgrimage in Paris, which is a bonus, as many of the books on the camino concentrate only on the Spanish routes. Hooray for the publishers who reissued this 1970s classic.
The Confraternity of Saint James, 2006
Experienced, passionate pilgrims from this British organisation compile a well-regarded range of small guides to all the major pilgrimage routes, including this one, which I recommend for anyone wondering what route will best suit their purpose. The website is also a mine of information.
Julie Roux (editor),
The Roads to Santiago de Compostela (translated by Barbara Davoust),
As my level of interest in the pilgrimage deepened, this book became an indispensable reference. Compiled with lots of input from leading pilgrimage scholars, it provides comprehensive, accessible background history as well as sections on each of the main routes.
The Pilgrim’s Guide: A 12th Century Guide for the Pilgrim to St James of Compostella (translated from the Latin by James Hogarth),
Confraternity of Saint James, 1992
An English translation of what is commonly referred to as the first travel guide, one of the five books in the Codex Calixtinus, the twelfth- century manuscript detailing all aspects of the Saint James story, worship and history. For readers interested in the wider network of pilgrim paths in France, it confirms the existence in the Middle Ages of the four French main paths that have been retraced for modern pilgrims. Pilgrimage historians will appreciate a firsthand account of medieval pilgrimage. There are colourful descriptions of local peoples and extensive backgrounds to shrines along The Way.