Buen Camino! This greeting is passed along the trail to the pilgrimage site, Santiago de Compostella, in Galicia, Spain. A popular shrine with medieval promotional literatures spanning genres of romance, ethnography, hagiography, and liturgical sources, the relics of St. James had a booming career in the twelfth century, and again in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
On September 29th, 2017, both of Dr. Suzanne Yeager’s course sections of Medieval Traveler heard first-hand about pilgrim experience from recent peregrinas, Dr. Christina Carlson and Rachel Podd. Dr. Carlson, a professor of Literature at Iona College, NY, graduate of Fordham University’s Doctoral Program in English, and recipient of Fordham’s Doctoral Certificate in Medieval Studies, shared her experiences of the trail, alongside Rachel Podd, a current advanced student in Fordham’s Doctoral program in History. “If making the pilgrimage is this gruelling today, even with all of our modern conveniences,” one student mused, “then this presentation gave me much more respect for the undertaking it was for medieval pilgrims.” Students were interested to learn of the intersections of medieval and modern, secular and spiritual aspects which both scholars presented. For Dr. Carlson, this was a first-time pilgrimage to Compostella, but she is a long-time traveler to the island of Iona, where she takes her undergraduate students on pilgrimage on a routine basis. For Ms. Podd, the journey was the third time she had made the trek, assisting Fordham students on their pilgrimages.
Clearly both scholars have a lifetime of medieval literature, history, and travel in their futures. Podd spoke of the rare scent of glacial mountains, when the wind was blowing just right. “I wish I could bottle the air!” she reflected. We were grateful for these Fordham scholars for offering us a vicarious taste or their pilgrimages.