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Staff, pouch, shell and water bottle

The song of homework for the pilgrims, distributed by litterature of colportage of the XVIII century, obligated a pilgrim to carry some accessories of identification along the route :

The necessary things
It is necesscery to be adorned
Of the example of the Fathers
Don't be penniless
The staff, the mallet
Also a big hat
and against the storm
to have a good coat.


pilgrim by Grégory DELAUNAY

These elements are necessary for every traveller, but Jean of Bonnecaze, when he left the Pyrénées for Compostela in the middle of the XVIIIth century didn't have a lot a baggage, but a haver-sack containing several shirts and for the symbol, a hat.

In fact, these symbols were those which appeared in the very ancient liturgic formulas of the Benediction of the travellers. Here is one, from the Codex Calixtinus, especially made for the pilgrims of Compostelle :

"Receive this pouch, sign of your pilgrimage,
so that you merit to arrive at the house of Saint James where you wish to return...
Receive this staff, comfort against the fatigue of the walk in the path of your pilgrimage,
so that you push to come in all tranquility to the sanctuary of Saint James...


The church gave these symbols a higher allegoric value : "The pouch symbolises the generosity of the alms" said the Codex Calixtinus

and later the song of homework of the pilgrims will celebrate the staff :
"The Stick of Hope
Shoed of charity
Covered with Consistancy
Love and Chastity..."

Thus equipped with these blessed and recognisable objects, the pilgrim is under the protection of the Lex Peregrinorum which, theoretically protects him. Through the centuries, the "pèlerine", a leather mantlet which covers the shoulders has been added. With the return, some of these objects became memory objects, sometimes conserved piously in families. Certain ancient pilgrims of Compostela asked to be buried with their staff, like Guillaume Ytasse in 1603, a turner of Beaugency. On his tomb stone, he asks that his effigy be engraved with the pilgrim costume opposite to Saint James. Nevertheless, all the tombstones carrying these symbols may not strongly represent a pilgrim of Compostela, but the attributes in common with all the pilgrims, whatever their destination. Maybe they were only pilgrims of "Human life" asking Saint James for his protection on the great voyage to the Hereafter.

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