TOURISM - An International Interdisciplinary Journal

Volume 59 / 2011 / Number 3 ISSN 1332-7461 

Francois CAZAUX

To be a pilgrim: A contested identity on Saint James' Way

Saint James' Way, after having almost disappeared from memory in the 20th century, has been the object of renewed interest over the last twenty years or so, becoming one of the most highly publicised pilgrimage routes of our time. Structured and institutionalised since the Middle Ages, this pilgrimage path is today, as in the past, at the origin of a prosperous economy in the regions it crosses. However, it is far from these considerations that, each year, an increasing number of individuals decide to leave their home to go walking towards the apostle's grave. Considering the tension between tradition and modernity, in this paper I will analyse the extent to which this "invented" space is at the same time a source of dissent between the different actors, while crystallizing the expectations, hopes and doubts of thousands of individuals in Western society, individuals who constantly redefine this space by endowing a new identity, the one of pilgrims of Saint James.