Alexa Amore (Medieval Studies) returns from walking the Camino de Santiago

IMG_6247

Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) at Las Medulas (ancient Roman mines near Ponferrada, Spain).

Every year, students at Fordham University have the unique opportunity to walk the Camino de Santiago through the study abroad course Study Tour: Medieval Spain. This summer, graduate student Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) accompanied Professor David Myers, chaperones Alex Egler, Louisa Foroughi, and Rachel Podd, and a group of 24 undergraduate students (Fordham’s largest Camino group to date!) on the medieval pilgrimage route from León to Santiago de Compostela. The group was also thrilled to be joined in Spain by Katrine Funding Højgaard, a former visiting student from Denmark in Fordham’s graduate program in Medieval Studies.

IMG_5006

Apse of Sant Climent de Taüll (twelfth century romanesque fresco), National Art Museum of Catalonia, Barcelona.

As a medievalist with interests in pilgrimage studies and art history, Alexa was eager to follow the traditional pilgrimage route through Spain and to adopt the lifestyle of a pilgrim, or peregrina. She opted to travel as light as possible, leaving her laptop at home and bringing only a twelve pound backpack and camera with her for the entire trip. Alexa arrived in Spain several days before the official start of the study tour in order to spend some time in Barcelona and Madrid. Among the highlights from this part of her journey, she visited several famous Gaudí buildings including the Sagrada Familia as well as the National Art Museum of Catalonia, which houses one of the most important collections of romanesque frescoes in the world.

IMG_5325

Katrine Funding Højgaard (Fall 2015 visiting student, MA Program, Medieval Studies) standing in front of El Christo de la Luz, a mosque built c. 999-1000 CE and later converted into a church.

She also visited all three major museums in Madrid–the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen Bornemisza–and took a day trip to Toledo in order to see  several former synagogues and mosques, including El Cristo de la Luz. “As an undergraduate I took a class on Spanish art that covered everything from visigothic churches to Picasso’s Guernica,” she explained “so I was so excited to see all of these works of art in person.”

When she arrived in León, Alexa started to feel nervous about the two weeks of hiking that lay ahead of her. “I didn’t do much training ahead of time because I was so busy during the semester… I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, but I was determined to walk the whole way on my own two feet!”

IMG_5946

Sunrise at Rabanal del Camino, a tiny village on the Camino de Santiago with approximately 60 permanent residents.

For Alexa, the best part of the pilgrimage was the journey itself. She especially enjoyed the tiny villages along the Camino “where there was absolutely nothing going on and it was just peaceful and life was incredibly simple for the people living there. It was so nice to arrive, take off my shoes, and just sit and look at the sky and the mountains, listen to the birds and watch the sun set. And after a really long day’s walk, you just feel like you earned every minute of that stillness.”

IMG_6916

Katrine Funding Højgaard (Fall 2015 Visiting Student, MA Program, Medieval Studies) and Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) proudly display their completed credenciales and compostellas at the pilgrim’s office in Santiago de Compostella.

After the long-awaited arrival in Santiago de Compostela with the Fordham group, Alexa travelled south to spend a few days visiting Córdoba, Granada and Seville. 28 long days on the road later, she was happy to return to the United States. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that all along, I was actually on a pilgrimage to New York City,” she explained. “I really missed home, but I was so glad that I left it all behind in order to gain a fresh perspective on where I am in my life now and where I’m going in the future.”

IMG_7049

The Fordham Peregrinos of 2016!

For more on the Camino de Santiago, visit the Fordham peregrinos’ ongoing digital project, Mapping the Camino: The Student’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, which Alexa founded along with Professor Myers and the Fordham peregrinos of 2016.

Week in Review: Dee Dyas (University of York) delivers lecture on Medieval Pilgrimage

What was it actually like to be a pilgrim at a shrine in the Middle Ages?

dyasOn February 23rd, Dr. Dee Dyas (Department of History, Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, University of York) complicated and enriched our understanding of pilgrims’ experience at the shrine by highlighting vivid accounts of tactile and bodily sensation in her lecture entitled The Dynamics of Pilgrimage: Sensory Experience and the Power of Place.

Dr. Dyas’ research focuses on the history, experience, and significance of pilgrimage from late antiquity to the present. She is also interested in the use of technology and interactive resources in teaching. She has edited three substantial interactive resources (on the Bible and Medieval Art, Pilgrimage, and the Parish Church in England) produced by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture in collaboration with an international team of scholars.

deedyasIn her lecture, Dr. Dyas emphasized that an interdisciplinary approach to pilgrimage studies will shed light on the physical and multi-sensory aspects of encountering holy places in the Middle Ages. As pilgrims entered a church or approached a shrine, the sounds, physical contours, sights, and even smells the experienced brought nuance to their encounter with God and the Saints. Dr. Dyas pointed out that recent studies in neuroscience indicate that the act of looking up and down in a vast architectural space might create feelings of light-headedness and euphoria that deepened the gravity of the pilgrims’ perception of the shrine. Beyond the five senses, Dr. Dyas explained that feelings of pressure, temperature, and sensations of pain also may have affected pilgrims. Furthermore, she emphasized the interconnectivity of the senses, noting that vision is partly informed by tactile sensation.

Dr. Dyas showed that both pilgrim and shrine were transformed by contact, as many pilgrims sought to leave pieces of themselves behind or attempted to break off pieces and gather dust from sacred spaces in order to bring them back home with them. By refocusing on the pilgrimage space as the locus of liminal experience for medieval pilgrims, Dr. Dyas demonstrated that holy places were spaces of both revelation and transformation, as the site acted upon the pilgrim and the sensorial landscape fundamentally impacted the nature of revelatory experience at the shrine.

universityOfYork

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Alexa Amore