The Pilgrim as Temporary Pauper: The Changing Landscape of Hospitality on the Camino de Santiago, 1550-1750




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Manchester University Press


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Peer reviewed



Pilgrimage, a journey undertaken for spiritual purposes, was one of the most enduring devotional activities of pre-modern Catholic Christianity. Pilgrims, particularly those travelling to distant as opposed to neighbourhood shrines, voluntarily took on the identity of ‘pauper’ in order to imitate Christ and the apostles, and to perform a penitential good work. The motive of the pilgrim in becoming a temporary pauper, and the civic and religious institutions which relieved this distinctive traveller, are examined in this essay, with particular reference to the Camino de Santiago through northern Italy, France and Spain, in the period 1550-1750. Long-distance pilgrimage across Europe declined in the mid-sixteenth century, a result of Protestant Reformation in many states, along with war and unrest throughout the continent, but it became important again as a devotional activity from c.1575 onwards. Attitudes towards and institutions for pilgrims inherited from the Middle Ages, which transformed across the seventeenth century, show us a great deal about the changing views of poverty and paupers themselves. From the central Middle Ages, many towns had institutionally organised ‘pasado’, food and small coin alms for pilgrims, along with hostels run by confraternities and religious orders. In these, paupers and pilgrims were often relieved together. As attitudes to poverty and especially vagrancy changed from the sixteenth century onwards, there was increasing separation of the two: ‘false’ pilgrims, that is, beggars in disguise, were the subject of laws and punishment, to separate the religious from the fraudster and to ensure they did not benefit from alms for religious travellers. At the same time, hostels and hospitals were increasingly given over to the poor and pilgrims were marginalised or excluded. Finally, from the later seventeenth century, pilgrims themselves were increasingly seen as errant, treated by an increasingly regulatory state as ‘masterless’ men and women, and discouraged. Pilgrims were no longer looked on as holy folk; religious devotion, as with charity, was best kept at home.



Pilgimage, poverty, Catholicism, early modern, Spain, Europe


Tingle, E. (2023) The Pilgrim as Temporary Pauper: The Changing Landscape of Hospitality on the Camino de Santiago, 1550-1750. In: In Do good unto all: Charity and poor relief across Christian Europe, 1400-1800, ed. by Jared Bradley and Timothy Fehler. Manchester: Manchester University Press


Research Institute

Institute of History