The Four Roads to Heaven: France and the Santiago Pilgrimage

Interlink. Apr. 2018. 258p. illus. maps. ISBN 9781623719913. $20. TRAV
OrangeReviewStarWriter/journalist/filmmaker Mullins (The Pilgrimage to Santiago) offers a detailed, enjoyable examination of "the social phenomenon which has been the Santiago pilgrimage," the ancient walk to the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The author structures his work according to the French roads medieval pilgrims used to reach their goal, also describing entries from the period Pilgrims Guide. He emphasizes the outsize role the journey had in the medieval mind and life. The pilgrims' practices and needs caused a dedicated world to grow around the route, which Mullins shows was a series of visits to relic-owning churches. The pilgrimage also assumed a political role, with powerful religious figures encouraging and protecting the faithful who were assisting the Christian reconquest of Muslim Spain, and the faithful in turn enriching the church with donations and endorsements of even the most outlandish religious claims (e.g., churches claiming to have body parts of various biblical figures). Numerous photographs show some of the statues and carvings described in the book.
VERDICT Essential for potential pilgrims and an excellent European history for others.
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