The real story of St. James the Greater, namesake of the Camino de Santiago, will blow your mind. Learn why.
The most fun you can have learning about the Camino de Santiago with your clothes on, or your money back.
Read this seriously factual, side-splitting romp of a story and learn things you won't find in any other history of the Camino de Santiago.
James' main appearances with Jesus in the Gospels are, um, quite unusual. Find out why everyone is surprised to learn about his life in Israel with his mother, Salome, his mute brother John, and Jesus.
A heavily-researched, fact-based answer you will not find anywhere else, but without which you will walk the Camino in the dark. Which can hurt, based on personal experience.
Or at least the historical equivalent of a typo? Yes. Yes, it did. And that's just the beginning of the crazy facts illuminated in this story.
If so, whose might they be? Find out here! And what if the bones aren't St. James'? Find out why you should walk the Camino de Santiago anyway.
Learn about the historical forces at work when the Camino was invented - and how, in fact, most legends are created, and why.
Why on earth did Jesus give James and his brother John this nickname?
a. Something glowing and fervid in their personalities
b. They asked Jesus to call down fire to consume innocent civilians
c. They were always drumming, with the force of a thousand armored Crusaders
d. One of these is really correct . . .
Many of the events in the book happened to these real people who walked the Camino de Santiago. Other events could have, even if they didn’t.
Julio, the discoverer of the Codex of Alfonso II, which is the basis of True History of the Camino de Santiago, is a man of impeccable credentials and intellectual accomplishment. See for yourself, if you dare.
In spite of Mom’s recent surgery, recent plantar fasciitis on her foot, blisters, cancer, and nearly 500 miles of walking, our motley crew made it to Santiago. This is what it looks like when you accomplish a dream. Watch for the little surprise ceremony at the end . . .
“Samples? We don’t need no stinking samples. Samples can never do justice to the book’s wisdom and humanity, its quirkiness and wit.” — Pope Leo
But here are a few anyway. For you, pilgrim.
I was not what one might call a primal pilgrim, the pilgrim with the passion or fire to undertake the journey. That was my mother, and she, battling a deadly form of cancer, was on a mission. No, I was the secondary sort of pilgrim, the one asked by the passionate pilgrim to accompany her on her quest. I was the reluctant pilgrim. The pilgrim without a cause.
But as I prepared to walk the Camino with my mother, I became curious about the origins and history of the Camino de Santiago. What sorts of conditions could create a story powerful enough to last a thousand years? A story strong enough to convince people who were presumably initially sane to walk hundreds of miles, for weeks or even months?
From the Codex of Alfonso II:
A scribal notation in the Codex here indicates the following as the transcription of the speech of Rabbi Moishe Nahmanides to King Alfonso II:
During Jesus’ walk to Jerusalem with his disciples, your majesty, his Aunt Salome came to him and, referring to your James and his brother John, said, “Say that these two sons of mine can sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom.”
And Jesus said to her, “I don’t want to say that.”
So Salome gave a little bow and walked back to her place in line. Not long afterward, Jesus had bent down to pull a rock from his sandal when he felt a body collide with him from the back. It was the son of Salome and Zebedee – your James.
“Say, ah, Lord?” James said, “John and me were, ah, wondering” – now James indicated his mute brother, who had appeared at his elbow, just like that – “ah, well, we want you to do whatever we ask of you.”
At this John nodded gravely.
The Lord Jesus lifted an eyebrow. “Like what?”
The amateur Camino historian must now set aside the arresting fact that Vicious Pagan Queens would be a fantastic name for a rock and roll band. He must instead fast-forward to a time nearly 800 years later, in around 813 , in northwestern Spain. In that year of our Lord, anno domini, the sort of full-time pilgrim we know as a hermit, here named Pelayo, was said to have been out eating honey and things that crawled upon the ground, as hermits will, when he saw stars hovering directly over the wood of Libredón, near the river Sar. Good Pelayo followed the direction the stars were pointing out until he noticed the stars pointing to a particular bush. Pelayo heard angels singing, as angels will.
Well. Pelayo wrapped his animal skins about him and ran like Forrest Gump to tell Teodomirus, the Bishop of the diocese of Iria Flavia, about the helpful stars and the bush and the singing. Teodomirus, instantly convinced by the wild-eyed hermit’s story, hurried to the woods with Pelayo and located there a stone sepulcher containing three corpses, which, by either reading a toe tag or applying the most advanced forensic technology of the Dark Ages (the sources differ), Teodomirus was able to definitively identify as the bones of one St. James, Son of Thunder. Bishop Teodomirus also took care to deem genuine the bones of two of James’ seven disciples, Theodorus and Atanasius, whom, we are left to assume, died, or were tossed like cats and baubles into a Pharaoh’s tomb, during the digging of James’ Spanish grave.
It was Julio who figured it out. He realized where the stars had been meaning to point us since their light had first left them billions of years earlier. He began walking on the Camino path itself, toward the city limits, and then he turned and veered off the trail entirely.
“What are we doing?” I said.
“I hear singing,” he said.
“How many voices,” I asked, “this time?”
“They are from the outside,” he said, “this time.”
“Should I be coming with you?”
“Only if you hear the singing.”
“Who is singing?” I said.
“How should I know?” he said, annoyed. “Angels. Devils. Breetney Spears.”
Julio walked up to a small rock, paused, and finally plunged his right arm, up to the shoulder, into a hole I couldn’t see. “Cheesus Chrise!” he cried. Triumphantly, much as King Arthur must have first lifted Excalibur, he lifted up an old crumbling codex, which is an early ancestor of the bound book.
“What on earth?” I said.
Carefully, so it wouldn’t disintegrate in our hands, we cleared a spot on the ground. I turned on the torchlight of my cell phone and examined the codex carefully – carefully enough to determine that it had been written by a clerk in the court of Alfonso II sometime between 813 and 830 C.E.
“This is astonishing,” I said. “Can you translate this, Julio?”
I handed Julio the codex and my light. He opened the cover and began to study the frontispiece and some text below it.
“It says here it is the True History,“ Julio said, his voice shaking, “of the Camino de Santiago.” He looked at me and held his hand to his heart, as if to tell it to slow down. “In all my many years,” he said, his voice drifting off. Turning the page, he squinted at the codex again. “It talks about the Asturian King Alfonso the Second!” he cried, pointing to the text. “We call him the Chaste One. He was said to have been the first pilgrim to come to see the Apostle. He walked to James’ grave at night, with GPS courtesy of the Milky Way.”
“What does it say about him?” I said.
“It says,” Julio went on, “This is an account of a conference called by his majesty King Alfonso the Second, ruler of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias, protected from the heathen Moors by the mountains of León and a happy sight in the eyes of God. King Alfonso II sits on his throne in the new kingdom of Asturias. Alfonso II is surrounded by the advisors of his court, including the Jew, along with a dozen frivolous courtiers and two priests of the diocese of Iria Flavia, Father Athonicus and Father Teodomirus.”
Julio looked at me, and his eyes were wide. “Will the world finally learn what really happened?”
“We are going to win a Nobel Prize,” I breathed.
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This is no ordinary book. It’s a travelogue and memoir, a detective story and a love story, a learned historical argument and a bit of satire with hints of parody. Guaranteed, you will never look at legends, scriptures, pilgrimages, patron saints, bald Spaniards, or the Camino de Santiago the same way ever again. Neither will the people — perhaps your fellow pilgrims! — with whom you will want to share the fascinating trivia and hilarious set-pieces in this book . . .
Warning: this book will inspire you to follow your dreams wherever they take you.
Compete with the long-lost King of Asturias to see if you can come up with an object mentioned in the New Testament that has not already been found, in Europe, by the Catholic Church – and made into a relic.
Learn what art the Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena perfected in order to consolidate her son’s power – and how it relates to the Camino!
Learn what the One True Cross, the Holy Robe of Jesus, and the Sacred Foreskin of Jesus have in common with St. James’ bones.
Test your cultural literacy: can you spot the book’s lengthy allusion to the Plastics Scene from the movie “The Graduate”?
The Camino helped to forge Spain into a nation, defeat the Moors, bring light to the Dark Ages, spark the Renaissance, fashion the first international laws, and hint at the idea of a unified Europe. What if it all stemmed from the Dark Ages’ equivalent of a typo?
You might think the future St. James left Jerusalem for Spain to preach Christianity, but you’d be wrong. What message could James have preached in Spain?
As late as 2014, historians claimed to have discovered the Holy Grail of relics in an unlocked display case in a church in Spain. You’ll never guess which one.
Who else wants to laugh and learn and come away invigorated and renewed?
Outside of this book, you won't find a finer background on the Camino de Santiago. Inside this book, it's very dark.
Every person who walks the Camino, and is not insane, should read this book. Like its author, it is learned, funny, witty, and true.
Genius! Brilliant idea to have crafted a very humorous, intelligent and wonderfully entertaining conversation between King and court. Always my favorite part. Had me laughing out loud. As a passionate reader of many, many books, I know a good thing when I see it. I wish I had read this amazing book before I walked my Camino. You've got a choice I didn't have! Get it now.
I threw up in my mouth a little bit when I read this.
First the book about cats and now this? Powell is writing at the height of his powers.
'A brilliantly crafted story that brings to life the sweet magic of El Camino with the most comprehensive historical insights, utterly hilarious dialogues and incredible human sensibility. The deep personal journey of a greatly adored and courageous "cancer-fighting mum" is deeply engaging and awe inspiring. The author finds the true meaning of El Camino in his inner newly-conquered hero! Even for people who may not be so interested in the Camino itself, this book is not about the Camino but a personal healing quest for answers and self discovery. Anybody searching in Google for a topic like personal quest, self-discovery should get this ebook as a top suggestion :)