BOOKS AND MOVIES about the Camino

The Camino way-marking. Navarrete, La Rioja The Camino way-marking. Navarrete Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

My favourite book on the Camino Frances is “The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago. The complete cultural handbook” by David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson, specialists in Hispanic studies at the University of Rhode Island. The text is the result of over twenty years of extensive research of these two scholars who went to Santiago for the first time in the 1970s and fell in love with the road. On the Camino, they both examined every stone, surprised locals by singing medieval songs and demanded free lodging and meals in the Hostal de Los Reyes Catolicos invoking the 15th-century charter. The book covers all aspects of the Way from art, architecture and history, folklore, flora, fauna to the saint’s lives. “The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago” is an academic textbook but written with a sense of humour. I hope that one day that brilliant book will be republished as an album, this time equipped with good photographs. If that happened it would be the best souvenir of the Way.

There are many travel journals written by pilgrims over the centuries. My favourite is “The Pilgrim’s Guide. A 12th century Guide for the Pilgrim to St James of Compostela”. I used, for the purpose of this publication, a translation done by James Hogarth and published by Confraternity of Saint James. The book has a good introduction and footnotes that explain the text well and give it a historical context.

Each province prepares leaflets with the available albergues and general information about the Camino for pilgrims. However, many Spanish use a website from the Eroski Consumer, a chain of hypermarkets that invested in a web portal about the Camino It is very useful, and I especially recommend the often-updated section about the albergues. The website is in Spanish.

The latest movie about the Camino is from 2010 called “The Way” by Emilio Estevez with his father Martin Sheen playing the main part. While promoting the movie in London both father and son said they felt under great pressure to get the film right. Doubtless, ‘The Way’ is a success. I like this movie a lot because it shows the Camino just as it is starting from geographical details, the typical situations you find yourself in, to the type of people you meet on the way. The pace of the movie is deliberately slow, just like the Camino itself. “The Way” is a brilliant, moving film that according to Emilio Estevez himself is: “(…) pro-people, pro-life – not anti – anything. It invites you to grab a backpack and jump onto the screen with us.” Highly recommended.

The Confraternity of Saint James, a charity founded in 1983, has its seat close to Blackfriars Bridge in London. It has an excellently supplied library and bookshop with all the best books on the Camino. Confraternity is well known for its wide range of annually updated guidebooks. It regularly organizes meetings for those who consider going to Santiago. It also has an excellent website that answers most if not all of your questions.