Books and films about the Camino de Santiago

Throughout the centuries, the Camino de Santiago has served as inspiration for many artists (writers, painters, sculptors…) who had the opportunity to live in first person the experience of the Jacobean route. Hundreds of years later, interest in pilgrimages has not died out.

Last year marked the twentieth anniversary of the inclusion of the Way of St. James in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Another reason why 2014 has been very special for Compostela is due to the 800th anniversary of the pilgrimage of St. Francis of Assisi.

All these factors had an impact on a significant increase in the number of pilgrims (237,810 compared to 215,880 in 2013). However, one of the most curious data within these statistics, is the great influence that culture has had during the last decade in the increase of pilgrims of non-European origin.

For example, Brazilians increased their interest in the Jacobean route after the publication of Paulo Coelho’s novel The Pilgrim to Compostela.

Something similar happened in Korea after the release of a novel by South Korean writer Kim Hyo Sun, based on the Camino de Santiago, and which soon became a best-seller in South Korea (it is estimated to have attracted almost 2,500 Korean pilgrims since 2012).

In Germany, we have as an example Hape Kerkeling and his novel Bueno, me largo (2009), written as a traveler’s logbook to combat loneliness. The German writer is moved to confess: “Santiago is an almost magical place, capable of uniting all European culture in a single city”. His work was also among the best-selling books of that year.

For its part, the United States has registered a greater influx of pilgrimages since the release of the movie (drama) The Way (2010), starring Martin Sheen, which tells the story of a famous ophthalmologist from California (Tom Avery) who, after facing the tragic death of his son Daniel, discovers that before he died he was walking the Camino de Santiago. Tom Avery decides to finish it in his memory by carrying his son’s ashes in a box.

It is said that the success of The Way caused a boom of American pilgrims.

In the film, directed by Emilio Estevez, one of Martin Sheen’s sons, the protagonist’s Way ends in Muxía, in the sanctuary of A Virxe da Barca, which is, together with Finisterre, one of the possible extensions of the Jacobean route from Santiago to the Atlantic Ocean. In this place Tom Avery (played by Martin Sheen) will scatter the ashes of his son who died crossing the Pyrenees when he started the Way, which his father will finally complete for him.

The Way was not very well received in Spain, but was more successful among Anglo-Saxon audiences. According to data from the archbishopric of Compostela, pilgrims from the United States increased their numbers by 67% that year compared to two years earlier.

George Greenia, a professor at the University of William & Mary and one of the promoters of the Jacobean route in his country, says that the film is “a kind of love letter to Spain and the Camino. And not only in a historical sense, because in a first foray along the route Emilio’s son and Martin’s grandson met a young Spanish woman whom he later married”.

However, despite the success of The Way, the theme of the Camino de Santiago in cinema is not new. Only a year earlier, Al final del Camino (2009) was released, a Spanish romantic comedy directed by Roberto Santiago in which a pretend couple tries to solve their marital problems by making a pilgrimage to Santiago.

Another example is the French production La Mecque (2005), in which three brothers have as a condition to receive the inheritance of their deceased mother, to make a pilgrimage on foot from Le Puy-en-Velay (France) to Santiago de Compostela. Despite their rivalries and resentment towards each other, they decide to undertake the journey led by a guide. At the end of the journey, they discover that their destiny has changed forever.

During the same period, Americano (a romantic comedy with very traditional overtones) and Tres en el Camino (a Spanish-Anglo-Saxon production film/documentary) were also released. Both have the Camino de Santiago as the main theme.

If you like movies or reading, we recommend that you take a look at these works in your free time. But above all, we encourage you not to lose the illusion of being the next protagonist, find out more about our tours!

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