EUROPEAN GREEN PILGRIMAGE NETWORK SPRING 2019 NEWSLETTER
Learning and sharing for EGPN and the Green Pilgrimage Interreg Europe project
The importance of receiving pilgrims well: lessons from Santiago de Compostela
By EGPN's Berit Lånke
We were all looking forward to visiting Galicia as a part of our green pilgrimage project. This is the most walked route in Europe, with an unbroken history of pilgrims dating back hundreds of years. While at times there have been fewer pilgrims, the flow never really stopped; pilgrims have been coming to St James’ shrine at the Cathedral of Santiago, in Spain's northwest Galicia region, since the beginning of the 9th century.
Many of us had already visited Santiago de Compostela several times and had walked one or more of the routes leading to the Cathedral. However, this study visit offered a new way of experiencing this beautiful heritage, this time through the perspective of the Green Pilgrimage Interreg Europe group as well as through the eyes of its members who came from different corners of Europe.
We had many great moments during this study visit but I would like to focus on a few points through the eyes of the European Green Pilgrimage Network, which brings together our responsibility for Creation and the environment, the spiritual content of the pilgrimages and our cultural heritage.
Santiago de Compostela's reception centre
Santiago de Compostela opened its new pilgrim reception centre in 2015, and it has made a huge improvement in the way pilgrims are received. The centre is very welcoming: the chapel, the organisation, the beauty of the place, the volunteers receiving the pilgrims all show how important it is to have a proper reception centre that takes the pilgrims seriously after they have made such efforts to achieve their goal.
All pilgrims are different and have different needs. As well as welcoming pilgrims and handing out pilgrimage credentials and the ‘Compostela’, the reception centre offers other services such as a post office (with options for sending and receiving luggage) and a travel office for organising bus and train tickets. There is also a tourist office with information about Galicia, parking for bicycles, toilets for pilgrims (accessible for people with reduced mobility), a beautiful garden and a chapel for prayer and reflection, with possibilities for worship and Mass.
The reception centre is managed by the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and run by staff and volunteers together. It is a good example of cooperation between different groups and organisations.
The study visit emphasised that cooperation with the Church is essential for the work along the routes and in Santiago de Compostela. The Strategic Plan of the Way of St. James in Galicia 2015–2021 makes this clear: Collaboration between the Galician Government and the Galician Church Authorities, especially the
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, for, among other subjects, the pilgrim reception and the highlighting of the heritage.
It was encouraging to see Galicia's focus on making the Pilgrim Way environmentally sustainable. They have started to deal with waste along the route in a very simple way, but with great impact.
Galicia is also aware of the need to boost entrepreneurship and to help people living along the route grow their businesses and increase their share of income from pilgrims. This kind of "fair travel" industry is very much at the heart of the EGPN. It was interesting to see how small enterprises are taken seriously and helped to work, for example, by only opening public hostels once private accommodation is full.
As we remember that the EGPN's mother organisation, the Green Pilgrimage Network, had cooperation, exchange and dialogue with a large network of pilgrim places around the world, it was interesting to see the Santiago de Compostela cooperation with other pilgrim routes, even as far as Japan, both for learning and development, and for joint marketing.
The organisation both in Santiago and along the route is impressive, and with all the funds invested and years of work, they have a lot to share on all levels. Thank you to our host and thank you, everybody, for wonderful and enlightening days. Special thanks to Anxo Centelles who organised the programme and guided us through the whole visit.
EGPN offers support to Romania in developing the country's first pilgrim paths
Above, from left: The new National Cathedral in Bucharest (still under construction); Densus Church; and Snagov Monastery
Romania has great potential for pilgrimage: it has very many holy places linked with significant pilgrim feasts and events, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. However, no routes are marked, walked or promoted as pilgrim paths.
One of the partners in the Interreg Europe Green Pilgrimage Project is Romania's National Institute for Research and Development in Tourism. It has turned to the EGPN for support and advice on how to manage cooperation between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the authorities in developing pilgrim paths.
Part of EGPN’s role in the Interreg Europe project is to act as a broker linking local authorities and faith groups that manage pilgrimage routes and destinations: As pilgrimage experts, EPGN will advise the partners throughout the project on existing best practice across Europe.
It was agreed that EGPN should liaise with the Romanian Orthodox Church at the highest level as well as start discussions with possible partners. The EGPN has written to His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church and spoken with the Head of Protocol for the Patriarchal Administration.
Patriarchal adviser Rev. Dr. Michael Tita, who is responsible for inter-Orthodox, inter-Christian and inter-religious relations, as well as for the relations of the Romanian Patriarchate with state institutions, has expressed a positive view on the issue. It was agreed that a report would be written to His Beatitude on the cooperation between the Institute and the EGPN.
The recent inauguration of the Church's new National Cathedral in Bucharest, marking on 100 years since the creation of modern-day Romania, was attended by tens of thousands of pilgrims. EGPN was there as an observer, along with a representative from the University of Iasi (a possible partner). The occasion was also used to hold a joint meeting with Green Pilgrimage Partners in Romania (see box, right).
The recent joint meeting with Green Pilgrimage Partners in Romania was very successful. Concrete plans have been made and work is now underway to recruit the right partners to the project.
There is a common determination to develop a pilgrim route and a wish for a South-East Orthodox tradition pilgrim path that has the potential to become a Council of Europe Cultural Route.
The Romanian partner wants a dialogue with the Council of Europe Institute of Cultural Routes and has agreed that this should be done jointly with EGPN.
EGPN has promised to continue the dialogue with the Romanian Orthodox Church and to follow up the possible partners in Romania.
A joint workshop has been proposed, and the University of Iasi has been invited to the next Green Pilgrimage stakeholders' meeting by the National Institute for Research and Development in Tourism, Romania.
Norway's four pillars to pilgrimage: environment, commerce, church and culture
The National Pilgrim Centre of Norway hosted partners and stakeholders on a study visit in Norway focusing on policy and future strategy for the St. Olav Ways, an international pilgrim path and a Council of Europe Cultural Route.
As a Council of Europe Cultural Route, the St. Olav Ways consist of a network of routes, which goes through Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Most of them are remnants of historic routes leading to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim where St. Olav lies buried.
The City of Trondheim and the Bishop of Nidaros were together among of the initial founders of the Green Pilgrimage City Network which is the parent body of the EGPN.
The study visit took place over four days. Participants were introduced to the Norwegian policy on natural and cultural heritage, commerce and spirituality, and learned that the Norwegian strategy on pilgrimages is built on four pillars – environment, commerce, church and culture.
Key learning points from the study visit
From the EGPN point of view the study trip provided several important points of learning:
The first day of the study visit was a full day of conference during which participants were introduced to different themes related to St. Olav Ways. Speakers included the Chief Administrative Director of the City of Trondheim, Morten Wolden, who also was involved as a founding member of the Green Pilgrimage City Network. The Bishop of Nidaros, Herborg Finseth, underlined the spiritual and faith dimension in all its diversity.
The third day was spent exploring the path itself. A network of accommodation options has been established along the path, with most consisting of a simple yet pleasant standard. As participants walked along the path, they were introduced to the St. Olav Ways' signposting system and the management of trails. They also tasted regional and local food, ending up at the pilgrim reception centre in Trondheim, the Nidaros Pilgrim Centre.
Some participants (including EGPN) attended a steering committee meeting while others visited Stiklestad (see right). The steering committee meeting involved important in depth-discussions which led to interesting plans for the future. The EGPN was challenged by the lead partner to include the different churches, hopefully by involving their bishops, in setting up a workshop on the churches' theology, plans and involvement in pilgrimages.
The final day involved a peer review of the partners’ policy documents and discussions of how these policies could contribute to developing pilgrimage in different regions. The EGPN reminded participants of the GPN founding body’s basis, which was the written and signed commitments between faith leaders and local authorities for each pilgrim place. Setting out their theology on creation and their policy on greening had led to common agreements on how to make the pilgrim paths, cities and sanctuaries environmentally friendly.
The visit to Stiklestad
Participants were enthusiastic about the visit to Stiklestad, one of Norway's most important historical places and the site of St. Olav's martyrdom. King Olav Haraldsson, St. Olav, was born in Norway in 995 and was killed at the battle of Stiklestad on 29 July 1030.
One year later, he was declared holy and soon pilgrims started to visit his sanctuary. He was also honoured as Norway's apostle and patron saint as he managed to complete the long process of converting Norwegians to Christianity.
In the Middle Ages he became a popular and venerated saint, especially in northern Europe where many churches, chapels and altars are dedicated to him. The oldest surviving icon is painted on a pillar in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem.
News from Luss, Scotland, about plans to develop several pilgrim routes in Argyll & Bute
Exciting news from European Green Pilgrimage partner Luss, in Scotland, about developing pilgrimage further, throughout the Argyll & Bute Council area. Plans are well underway to adapt the existing core pilgrim path from Balloch to Tarbet via Luss, with links to other routes west and east.
A meeting of the Argyll Pilgrim Routes Network in November 2018 discussed the development of the core path, as well as several other routes. These include St Moluag’s Way, commemorating Argyll's patron saint. The pilgrim route from Tarbert to St Moluag's burial place on the island of Lismore is not way marked but is fully walkable on forestry tracks and minor roads..
Argyll offers huge potential for pilgrim routes due to its extensive Christian heritage. For example, the history of the church at Luss (top left) dates back to the martyrdom of St Kessog in 520 AD at the hands of local druids. However, as the meeting observed, more accommodation options are needed along the various routes and pilgrims' welfare also needs to be considered, especially when crossing open country with no footpaths.
The Argyll Pilgrim Routes Network was established by the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum, which began in 2012 and now has more than 75 organisations and individuals as members. One of its key priorities is to establish a ‘Scottish Pilgrim Ways’ accreditation scheme for pilgrim routes.