Karolus Magnus then saw above in the sky a road made of stars.
It began at the Frisian sea and went through Germany and Italy, between Gaul and Aquitanien, straight through Gascogne, the Basque country, Navarra and Spain, right to Galicia, where Sankt James’ body at the time rested unknown. (1)
The road of stars that Charlemagne in the year 778 saw in a vision, according to the chronicles, was the road to Santiago de Compostela in the north western corner of Spain.
In a dream the Holy James reveals himself to Charlemagne and tells him to go to war against the Muslim Saracens (2), who by then rule over most of the Iberian Peninsula, and to open a road from France across Northern Spain, so that Christians from all over the world, without danger, can flock to the grave of the saint in Santiago.
Listen to the old Swedish hymn: Du livsens bröd
Who was Saint James?
Scholars have argued through history about the real identity of Saint James; Was he one of Jesu’s apostle, Jacob Zebedæi, murdered by king Herod in the year 44? Or was he rather that James, who in the New Testament is mentioned as brother of Jesus and who later became the congregation’s leader in Jerusalem and sentenced to death in the year 62?
Whoever he was, according to the chronicles, his dead body came sailing all the way from Jerusalem to Galicia on a rock!
For the medieval man it has probably been without greater importance whether James, from a historically point of view, was one or the other person and also why – and how – his earthly remains ended up near Finisterre, the world’s outer edge.
He saw and appreciated Holy James unconditionally in his three different shapes: as an apostle, knight and pilgrim.
It was especially in the last shape, in combination with the first, that Saint James offered companionship to the many thousands of pilgrims who walked the long and dangerous way to the grave of Sct. James (Santiago) on the star plain (Compostella).
The road of Saint James
Sct. James’ pilgrims have come hiking from all parts of the Christian world, but the main traffic vein, “El Camino Francés” started in four French localities: Tour, Vézelay, Le Puy and Arles for later merging near the Pyrenees and there becoming one road, which crossed the area that in the VIII century, according to the chronicles, was freed by Charlemagne and his brave knights Roland and Ogier the Dane.
Pilgrims from Scandinavia have hiked via Hamburg, Cologne and Liege in order to join the main traffic connections at Tour or Vézelay.
The ancient pilgrim roads still lie there, like a living document of the history of European civilization. By these trafficked road systems cultural interchange took place over the centuries, across the inner frontiers of Europe, in spite of wars and language difficulties. In a time that lies light years from the modern knowledge society with its satelites and internet, the travellers on the pilgrim roads exchanged arts and crafts, stories, poems and music and became inspired by the new things they were presented to.
With our concert theme “Via Stellae” we pretend to bring the audience on a exciting musical journey along the pilgrim route, from Nidaros in the north, to Santiago in the south, through the beautiful musical landscapes of the Medieval times.
(1): Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi de Liber Sancti Jacobi