In the summer of 2017, the Departments of History and Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work took 23 UNF students to Spain to study pilgrimage on the Camino Francés. Generous grants from the International Center, Academic Affairs, and the University Board of Trustees helped make this trip possible. The Center for Instruction and Research Technology provided indispensible support and expertise that allowed students to present their experiences in engaging and sophisticated ways. Michael Boyles gave generously of his time and remarkable skills to document and publicize this transformational pilgrimage. The staff of the Cursos Internacionales at the University of Burgos provided gracious hospitality and once again made our stay in Burgos one of the highlights of the trip. Finally, we would also like to thank retired UNF Provost, Earle Traynham, for his support and encouragement.
During three weeks abroad, students traveled the entire length of the Camino Francés, from its traditional starting point in the French Basque town of St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela — ending the journey in Finisterre on the Atlantic Coast of Spain. Students walked the final 70 miles, traversing the stunning Galician countryside on foot and retracing the steps of more than a millennium of pilgrims seeking communion with St. James and his earthly relics. The shrine, which by the 12th century had emerged as the third most prestigious pilgrimage destination in the Catholic world — ranking below only Jerusalem and Rome — continues to draw thousands of pilgrims each year to the northwestern corner of Spain. In July of 2017 alone, more than 47,000 pilgrims received their Compostelas at the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago, reflecting the Camino’s burgeoning popularity.
Although engaged in a centuries-old pilgrimage tradition, students employed a variety of modern technologies to explore, analyze and document their physical and intellectual journeys. Students recorded GPS data, interviews, and soundscapes, created blogs, and gathered data to be included in a GIS story-mapping project. In addition, the project documented pilgrim spaces — church interiors, cafés, town squares, forests, and fields — using 360° photographic technology. Student-collected data and projects have been published on the UNF Camino 2017 website and are also included in the UNF Pilgrimage Project, an ongoing digital humanities initiative that combines interdisciplinary approaches with digital and STEM technologies to study the cultural, social, economic and environmental impact of pilgrimage.
Through landscape readings, spatial mapping, and ethnographic interviews, students explored the use of landscape to structure and give meaning to pilgrims’ experiences. At the same time, students documented the impact of pilgrimage on the landscape itself, observing the ways pilgrims and institutions shape the landscape to amplify and authenticate pilgrimage. The desire for an “authentic” spiritual journey also encourages pilgrims to render their experiences of these landscapes in deeply sensual terms. Like their medieval predecessors, today’s “authentic” pilgrims describe a hyper-awareness of the body and its sensory inputs.
These senses are ordered according to the traditional medieval hierarchy — sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Read more about pilgrimage and the senses here.
To explore the student blogs, galleries, mapping projects, soundscapes, student interviews and the book, visit the 2017 Pilgrimage Past and Present website.