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The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook Paperback – July 21, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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About the Author

David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson, specialists in Hispanic studies at the University of Rhode Island, met on the Road on their first pilgrimage to Santiago in 1974. Davidson has written several scholarly works on the pilgrimage to Compostela with co-author Maryjane Dunn. Gitlitz is the author of various books on Hispanic and Sephardic culture, including the prize-winning Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews. Their first book written together, also from St. Martin's Press, was A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Secret Jews, for which they won the National Jewish Book Award and the award for Distinguished Scholarship form the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312254164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312254162
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As is apparent from other reviews in this thread, "The Pilgrim's Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook" by Gitlitz and Davidson elicits strong feelings, both pro and con. I personally found this book to be an invaluable reference while walking the pilgrimage route. However, I recognize how other individuals might differ in their assessment.
First and foremost, it is essential to recognize what this book is NOT designed to do.
The handbook is not a trail guide.
It does not list refuges or explain where to camp.
It does not tell you where to eat or what to pack.
If this is what you are looking for, find another book.
With that said and done, the handbook did provide me with an extremely valuable reference in establishing a cultural context for the sites that I was visiting. I am not an expert in Romanesque architecture, nor do I know the lives of Roman Catholic saints well enough to recognize the major figures in a Retablo. I never had the opportunity to extensively study the history of the pilgrimage. Left to my own devices, I would most certainly never have read much in the way of medieval Spanish poetry. In all honesty, even after walking the pilgrimage route, I am still far from expert in all of these areas. However, the handbook did provide me with enough information that I was able to appreciate much more of the sites that I was visiting.
As other individuals have noted, time for sightseeing is often short. I found the handbook to be extremely useful in prioritizing my time and determining which sites would be most interesting to visit. As an example, none of the other sources that I consulted noted the existence of the Blacksmith forge at Compludo which may very well have been my favorite part of the trip.
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Format: Paperback
David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson have written a remarkable cultural handbook on the Road to Santiago. Basing the book on their own information gained from over a quarter of century of walks to Santiago, they have composed a text that is a must read for all manner of pilgrims to Santiago as well as any student of Spanish cultural history. It is also the one book written over the past 500 years that would have been both credible and interesting to pilgrims from the Renaissance. Examining layer after layer of medieval, Renaissance and modern culture from even the most obscure sites along the road, Gitlitz and Davidson make it possible to finally see the Road to Santiago for the rich cultural, social and religious experience that it is.
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Format: Paperback
In preparation for my first official pilgrimage to Compostela, I've sought out references from every possible fountain. Davidson and Gitlitz offer the consumate guide to the novice pilgrim, with plenty for the seasoned shell-bearer. This book is thorough in its detail, appealing in its prose and appetizing in its descriptions. Having lived in many of the places along the road, I've been critical of many of the books I've read as too heavy on the "Big C" culture: That which isn't really culture at all...just the obvious stereotype. This book is heavy on the "Little C" culture, as a book which delves into little-known asides which inspire the traveler to seek and find, and create a unique memory for themselves.
It offers a variety of insights on history, lore, architecture, terrain, and other "bonuses". It's a quick read, but allows you enough of the whole to enitce you to explore and gain the rest on your own industry.
Of all the guidebooks I've purchased, this is the ONLY one that will be travelling in my pack on the Road to Santiago.
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Format: Paperback
I walked the Camino in the Fall of 2004 and took this book along with a much thinner more practical guide book. I loved, loved, loved having this book! My thin, practical guidebook told me of the trail, and places to stay and eat. This guidebook brought the experience alive for me. Everynight before I went to sleep, I would read the passage about the day I had just walked, and then would read the passage about the next day's walk. I saw and experienced things I would have totally missed if I did not have this book. I would walk along and think of the millions of pilgrams that had walked this path for over 1000 years. In this books there are excerpts from journals of medieval pilgrams, which really made me feel the history of this pilgramage. I too worried about the weight of the book, but found that in the long run it was really worth the added pound in my backpack. I do recommend taking a more practical guidebook as well. I found the guidebook put out by the Confraternity of St. James to be great! If you are not one bit interested in the History and Folklore of the Camino, then skip this book. But if you are, this book is invaluable. I found that I was sharing it with other pilgrams all the time, who wanted more info on what we were experiencing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I did the Camino in 2003 using this book as a guide. In fact it was the only one I brought with me.

It's strengths are not in the trail directions it gives. There are much better guides for that. I suggest you consult one of the Camino web sites to find out the most current and recommended version of those. the operative word is current. The Camino does change from year to year, new alberges open, others disappear, the trail moves, street names change (Franco related ones are definitely on the outs), etc.

That said, this is a wonderful book for the historical background and descriptions of the countryside it provides. I read this book and I became fixated on doing the Camino. If you are going to do the Camino or are just interested in the Camino, read this book. If you know someone who is going to do the Camino, get them this book. It is the best book I've ever read in terms of Camino cultural information.
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