A SACRED TOPOGRAPHY
Pilgrimage may be as old as man. The idea that there are places on earth which hold a powerful numinous attraction, be they natural phenomena or the location of the bones of saints, has held a grip on man’s imagination for millennia.
In matters of destination there is always the journey. Two sides of a single coin. The subject at hand is not Compostela alone but more the road taken.
In terms of content, this is fixed at a point some time around the middle of the twelfth century when the Book of Saint James, the Latin manuscript which is dedicated to the cult of the Apostle James at Compostela, was compiled.
In cultural terms, the Book of Saint James situates us at the end of that period which art historians refer to as the Romanesque and this site does not extend its remit beyond that point.
The Romanesque was the most significant cultural period in Western Europe since Late Antiquity and marked the reemergence of monumental stone sculpture for the first time since the fall of the Western Roman Empire, six centuries before.
Today those images in stone are still with us in remarkable number, especially along the pilgrimage roads and they form the bulk of the pictorial content of this site.
The Joining of Heaven and Earth considers that these images were not intended for crude pedagogical or moralising purposes but rather as complex symbolic representations of a metaphysical world.
The Book of Saint James, aside from hagiographical material, contains two remarkable texts. One is known as the History of Charlemagne and Roland and the other as the Pilgrims’ Guide. The Joining of Heaven and Earth is particularly concerned with both of these works.
Legends of saints and their miracles, epic heroes and legendary battles were recorded in these twelfth century manuscripts. Crusade, Holy War and Reconquest were set out against a background of the pilgrimage roads.
Thus, the third element is the Land itself, the space through which pilgrims journeyed, itself imbued with symbolic meaning. All three elements combined to form a sacred topography or if you prefer, a veritable and authentic psychogeography.