Show & Tell: The scallop and my 300th post

This is an emblem on our front porch.

If you were a Spaniard, the symbol above would be as meaningful and familiar to you as this.

Many years ago (BK, before kids), Roger and I crossed northern Spain by car, staying in various paradores, historic sites converted to hotels with surprisingly affordable prices.

Along the way and every few hundred feet, we would see people walking west in the same direction we were driving. Sometimes singly, sometimes in small groups, but never seeking a ride. We realized we were at the peak season for the pilgrimage. All these people were headed toward a city in Galicia: Santiago de Campostela, or St James of the Field of the Star. From Wikipedia:

Legend holds that St. James’s [the Greater] remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.

[The route] was considered one of three pilgrimages on which a plenary indulgence could be earned; the others are the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

So what’s up with the shell? One legend says that the ship carrying St James’ body was sunk in a storm and his body lost. After awhile, though, his body washed ashore undamaged and covered in scallops.

The scallop shell has become a metaphor for a pilgrim, with God’s hand guiding pilgrims to Santiago. Also, the multiple lines converging at one point can signify the various routes that bring seekers to Santiago.

Even today, tens of thousands or peregrinos set out each year to traverse this route that is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a few euros, they can purchase a credencial (Pilgrim’s Passport) that entitles them to reduced rate or free stays at refugios (hostels).

The way, the hostels, the watering spots, the sites along the route to mark assistance for or welcoming of peregrinos — these are all indicated by this.


Travelers whom I know from blogland are welcome in my home.

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More Show & Tell entries can be found at Mel’s Place.

19 thoughts on “Show & Tell: The scallop and my 300th post”

  1. What a cool story and I love the symbol. The warm welcome is most wonderful too! Did you buy that scallop tile in Spain or did you get it here? I really would like something like that.

  2. I love this story! what a great post. happy 300! I may just have to take you up on your offer next time we’re in town…

  3. What a wonderful post! I live half an hour from Galicia, right on the Santiago trail. Many pilgrims come through Braga, also known as the “via mourisca”, on their way to Santiago de Compostela, one of my absolute favourite places. I go there every year with my family.RAxx

  4. I love the symbol and what it stands for. It seems appropriate for any gathering place. Even if the “travelers” come together from places that are not so far apart, they are each coming from their own personal journey to converge at one meeting place, or one understanding. Love it.

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