Pomeranian Way of St. James

Pomeranian Way of St. James

RECReate - re-vitalisation of the European
Culture Route in the South Baltic Area

Strona projektu w języju Polskim Project site in English

Way of St James. James
Map Way of St James. James
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  1. Polska  The Municipality of Lębork, Lead Beneficiary
  2. Polska  The Country of Lębork
  3. Polska  The Self-government of Zachodniopomorskie Voivodeship
  4. Polska  The Self-government of Pomorskie Voivodeship
  5. Polska  Szczecinska Foundation
  6. Polska  The Pomeranian Regional Tourist Organization
  7. Lithuania  Kretinga District
  8. Deutsch  The Ernst Moritz Arndt university of Greifswald

History
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The Ways or Routes of St James came into existence in the Middle Ages and have survived almost unchanged to this day. They led from the tomb of St James the Elder, an apostle of Jesus Christ, brother of John the Evangelist, the first bishop of Jerusalem, and the first martyr from the Twelve, beheaded by Herod Agrippa I in the year 44 A.D..  Tradition has it that in the 6th century, the body of St James was moved from Jerusalem to the town of Iria, Spain, where it went missing. It was not until the year 813  that the tomb was discovered by a hermit named Pelayo. He was guided to the place by shooting stars falling on a graveyard hill. When he got there, he found a marble sarcophagus with the remains of the Apostle of Spain inside. Soon after, a settlement was founded near the tomb. It was called Campus Stellae (the Field of Stars). Later, the name was distorted and became Compostela. According to the tradition, the development of the worship of the apostle was spurred by, among others, his appearance during the battle of Clavio fought in 844 between Christians and Moors and won by the former. The apostle earned the appellation Matamaros, which means the Moorslayer, and before long, was declared the patron saint of Spain.

Pilgrimages to the Apostle’s tomb began as early as in the 9th century. It was then that the first church was erected over the relics. In 900, the seat of the bishop was moved to Compostela. The fame of the cult of the Apostle soon crossed the borders of Spain. At the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries a magnificent cathedral was built and more and more pilgrims arrived.

In the 12th century, by virtue of papal bull the place was declared one of the three (next to Jerusalem and Rome) most important centres for Christians.

A large number of wayfarers were penitents. Therefore, Compostela was considered to be the destination of true pilgrims. According to Dante (13th century) the wayfarers heading for Jerusalem were called palm tree wayfarers, for Rome- Romani, whereas those heading for Santiago were called peregrini meaning pilgrims. Up to as many as 500 thousand pilgrims per annum were registered in Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages.

The 16th century saw changes that resulted in almost total collapse of mass pilgrimages which for a few centuries had been contributing to “the growth of mutual understanding amongst so different European peoples like Roman, Germanic, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Slavic peoples. Pilgrimages brought the peoples closer, offered them an opportunity of becoming familiar with different cultures and united the peoples who over the centuries became more aware of the prophesies of the witnesses of Christ and who accepted the Bible, while- as one may say- being formed as peoples and nations at the same time”.      

In 1517, Martin Luther announced his ninety-five theses, the fact considered to have sparked the Reformation and religious wars that ensued from it. In addition to that, in 1589 the relics of the Saint were concealed for fear of Compostela being invaded by Francis Drake, a British privateer. The relics were found almost three centuries later (1879) and their authenticity was confirmed in the papal bull issued by Pope Leon XIII in 1884. Mass pilgrimages were revived but still they were to go through phases of thriving, stagnation and regress in modern times.

The revival of mass pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in the Old Europe.

It could be stated that Compostela was ‘discovered’ anew in 1982 when Pope John Paul II, the Great Pilgrim, made a pilgrimage to the tomb of James the Apostle. What played an especially significant role was the presentation of so-called European Act which was a warm and cordial invitation to reviving Christian tradition of going on pilgrimages: I, John Paul, son of the Polish nation which has always considered itself European by its origins, traditions, culture and vital relationships, Slavic among the Latins and Latin among the Slavs (…) from Santiago, I utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love: Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots”.

This called evoked a response from the youth and in 1989, the World Youth Day IV took place in Santiago de Compostela, again with the participation of Pope John Paul II.

Nonetheless, there was an even quicker  response from the European Council and the government of Spain:

  • 1987- the Council of Europe declared the Way of St James the first cultural route,
  •  the Council of Europe simultaneously encourages local authorities to rebuild the routes of camino and prepare them to meet pilgrims’ needs,
  • at the same time, the government of Spain appoints so-called Jacobean Council to coordinate and support works on revitalisation of the ways.   

Progress of works, combined with meticulous attention to preserving the spiritual and cultural dimension  of Camino de Santiago, which was best confirmed by more and more pilgrims arriving, resulted in the following:

  • in 1993, the Way of St James in Spain was added to UNESCO’s list of World Cultural Heritage of Mankind,
  • and in 1998, the Ways of St James in France were also added to this UNESCO list.

The number of pilgrims was growing very rapidly, too. The fact was confirmed by the registers of  certificates of accomplishment of the pilgrimage to the tomb of St James- so-called ‘compostelas’, given to pilgrims after documenting that they have walked the last 100km or cycled or rode on horseback the last 200km of the Way. And so:

  • 1970 – 68 pilgrims,
  • 1980 – 209 pilgrims,
  • 1982 – 1.868 people  - the pilgrimage made by John Paul II,
  • 1998 – 30.126 pilgrims,
  • but in 1993 r. (the year of St James– when the festival of St James on 25th November , during which pilgrims are granted a plenary indulgence, falls on a Sunday) – 99.436 pilgrims.

In the first years of the revival of pilgrimages to the tomb of St James, the most numerous group were young people at the age of up to 35 years (55% in early 1990s), especially students, being 40% of all pilgrims.

The most frequently walked Ways of St James are those running through Spain, France and Portugal.

They are, above all:

Spain:

  • Camino Francés- the most popular and best developed one (ca.800 km – from Saint Jean Pied de Port or from the pass of Roscenvalles, via  Puente la Reina to Santiago)
  • Camino Aragones (245 km – from the pass of Somport to Puente la Reina)
  • Camino de la Costa (765 km – in the north of Spain from Hendaya to Santiago)
  • Camino Primitivo (369 km – from Oviedo to Santiago)
  • Via de la Plata (676 km – from Sevilla in Andalusia to Santiago)
  • Camino de Fisterra (141km – from Santiago to Fisterra)

France:

  • Chemin du Piemont (525km – from Narbonne via Lourdes to St. Jean Pied de Port, where the French Way starts)

Portugal:

  • Camino Portuguese (1050 km from Lagos to Santiago)
  • Camino Portugués de la Vía de la Plata (268 km from Zamora to Santiago)

The revival of German Ways of St James (Jakobswege)

The reconstruction of  the Ways of St James in Germany began in the south of the country in mid 1990s. Nonetheless, what is important for us, Project Partners, is what happened in the north of Germany, especially in the qualified region of the South Baltic Cross-border Cooperation Programme, namely sub-regions of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Greifswald, Rostock, Stralsund, Wismar, Bad Doberan, Nordvorpommern, Nordwestmecklenburg, Ostvorpommern, Rügen, Uecker-Randow.

The 2005 Project was very important here. Its aim was signposting 3 main routes:    

  • Via Jutlandica, that is connecting pilgrimage routes from Denmark (Jutland) and Norway to the European network;
  • Via Scandinavica - connecting pilgrimage routes from Denmark, Sweden and Norway to the camino network, and in particular
  • Via Baltica – Baltic pilgrimage routes (the coastal route), with a possibility of accepting pilgrims from Northern Poland.

Owing to their deep commitment, community workers and volunteers associated with German Society of St James succeeded in reviving over 3.300 kilometres of Camino de Santiago routes in a very short time. An extraordinary act, best showing the ecumenical and, at the same time, very existential dimension of camino.    

 The Ways of St James in contemporary Germany

Name of way

Length

Via Baltica

780 km

Brandenbugischen Jakobsweg

216 km

Jakobsweg von Magdeburg nach Bonn

531 km

Jakobsweg von Wuppertal nach Aachen

127,5 km

Via Regia

474,3 km

Jakobsweg von Marburg nach Köln

166 km

Jakobsweg von Köln nach Trier

232,5 km

Jakobsweg im Taubertal

170 km

Jakobsweg in Bayerisch Schwaben

338 km

Münchener Jakobsweg

306,5 km

Via Baltica, i.e. Der Baltisch – Westfälische Jakobsweg, the route that we, the animators of the re-vitalisation of the Pomeranian Way of St James, are interested in, is the northernmost way of St James in Germany. It starts in Kamminke on the island of Usedom - on the Polish-German border. After entering the mainland, the Way heads for Rostock and goes further towards Lübeck, Hamburg, Bremen to Osnabrück. A few other ways join it along the route. In Köln, it connects with previously existing route to Aachen or Trier to finally join the French network of ways. Via Baltica is the distance of 780 kilometres of  signposted routes altogether. It is the longest camino in Germany. For RECReate, especially important is the first section, the one from Kamminke to Greifswald, where the seat of our Project Partner is. It is surely the quickest way to walk for us and easiest to follow the example of as far as transfer of know-how is concerned.

The revival of Camino de Santiago in Poland

The cult of St James the Elder  in Poland has been very intense since the very beginning of Christianity. From the 11th and 13th centuries it was Benedictines and Dominicans respectively that made  the greatest contribution to its development. The shells of St James found during archeological works in different parts of Poland as well as Spanish archives confirm that pilgrims from Poland were present in Santiago de Compostela centuries ago. 

It comes as no surprise that with the appeal of John Paul II issued in Compostela in 1982 still vividly in their minds, people started to restore the ways as soon as favourable conditions set in. Two issues were of great importance here: leading the network of the Ways of St James (i.e. re-signposting them) to our western border which coincided with actual liquidation of border crossings and possibility to travel without passports- the effect of Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004.

Over 2200km of signposted routes were prepared for pilgrims with the Shell of St James in Poland in the years 2005-2010.

The first way  was the Lower Silesian Way of St James (Dolnośląska Droga św. Jakuba) from Głogów through Jakubowo to Zgorzelec where it connected with the Görlitz -Bautzen Way and then with the fork of the way leading further to Leipzig or Dresden  or so-called Zittau Way (Droga Żytawska) heading for Prague about 160km away.

The Ways of St James the Elder in Poland (1)

DATE CREATED

NAME OF WAY

ROUTE

DISTANCE

24th July 2005

Lower Silesian Way of St James

Głogów -Zgorzelec

ca. 164 km

6th November 2006

Wielkopolska Way of St James

Gniezno- Poznań – Głogów

ca. 234 km

May 2006

Zittau Way

Zgorzelec - Praga

ca. 157 km

2006

Polish Way

Olsztyn - Gietrzwałd

ca. 18 km

2007

Polish Way

Gietrzwałd -Toruń

ca. 155 km

2008

Małopolska Way of St James

Sandomierz - Kraków

ca.200 km

2009

Polish Way

Toruń -Trzemeszno

ca. 108 km

An interesting phenomenon demonstrating how intense the cult of St James is in Poland is the number of grassroots initiatives to revive ways of St James taken by different entities: societies, foundations and self-governments. Very often, as in the case of Olsztyn-Gietrzwałd fragment of the Polish Way or Lębork Way (Sianowo-Smołdzino) it was the reconstruction of the ways connecting local sanctuaries, St James’ churches and sacred sites only with no immediate connection with the European network. Waiting for a way to come to a pilgrim because that was what he needed was pointless, so routes began to be marked out starting from thresholds of people’s houses and bounds of towns and villages.     

The Ways of St James the Elder in Poland (2)

DATE CREATED

NAME OF WAY

ROUTE

DISTANCE

2009

Lower Silesian Way of St James

Murowana Goślina- Słubice

ca. 164 km

2009

Way of St James

Via Regia

Pilzno – Kraków - Zgorzelec

 708 km

2009

Lębork Way of St James

Sianowo – Lębork-Smołdzino

ca. 100 km

2008-2010

Sudeten Way of St James

Jelenia Góra- Lubań

105 km

2009

Ślęża Way of St James

Ślęża – Sobótka – Środa Śląska

55 km

2009

Copper Way of St James

Ścinawa – Lubin – Chocianów

45 km

2009

Nysa Way of St James

Głuchołazy – Nysa – Skorogoszcz

100 km

Lębork District as the centre of the worship of St James.

The cult of St James the Apostle has been connected with Lębork since the foundation of this town on the Łeba River in 1341. It was then that the construction of St James church began, too. Another roman-catholic parish was established only in 1958. In case of Lębork, the breath of freedom from the early 1980s gave rise to, among other things, mass pilgrimages on foot to the Sanctuary of the Queen of Kashubian District in Sianowo, and to Wejherowo Calvary later on.

However, the real outburst of the worship of the Son of Thunder falls at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. The celebration of the Apostle’s birthday goes far beyond the church walls- the church fair events reach the whole town; the fair becomes more and more interesting and attractive in terms of religious, cultural and recreational activities offered to all residents of Lębork and numerous guests and tourists visiting the town at the end of July. What attracts them is, as far as cultural aspect is concerned, building of the unity out of diversity. At the request of the residents and self-government St James has been declared the official patron of Lębork.                 

Simultaneously, a newly established St James Parish, being the youngest St James parish in Poland, develops rapidly in Łeba situated 30km away. Whereas, grade 1 relics of the Apostle were placed in both churches.

The number of pilgrimages is growing, too. Next to traditional pilgrimages with cheerful singing and conferences made by people to be granted indulgence and attended by more and more numerous groups of pilgrims, individual pilgrimages start to occur. People begin to make individual pilgrimages to calm themselves down, reflect on their encounters with God and look inside themselves. They use for this purpose, among others, Lębork Way of St James.

The atmosphere being so, establishment of the Chapter of the Pomeranian Way of St James became inevitable in 2008. On 21st May 2010, the Chapter, acting in cooperation with and through the self-government of the town of Lębork, applies to the South Baltic Cross-border Cooperation Programme for earmarking a significant amount of co-financing of RECReate Project around which we are gather today. 

The cult of St James in Lębork would not last and flourish if it was not for fortunate and equal commitment of laypersons and clergymen alike. Mutual inspiration and respect were the basis for work of the Community Committee of St James Church Fair at first, and then Lębork Society of St James the Apostle which was set up on the foundation of the former in 2001. The need for cooperation was formally expressed in the Statute of the Society. According to its provisions, the current St James Parish Priest, upon accepting the appointment, is a member of the Board of Lębork Society of St James the Apostle and all Franciscans of Lębork monastery are to be members of the organisation as honorary members at least.    

The goals pursued by Lębork Society of St James the Apostle attracted many people of goodwill from different backgrounds, whereas the experience gained during achieving the goals became the basis for assembling the members of and setting out the rules and regulations of work of later Chapter of the Pomeranian Way of St James.

The goals are as follows:

  1. dissemination of knowledge about St James the Greater and his apostle’s message,
  2. development of Christian ecumenism and interfaith cooperation,
  3. mass pilgrimages to sanctuaries and sacred sites,
  4. co-organisation of the festival of the Patron Saint of the town of Lębork,
  5. dissemination of information on cultural achievements of ethnic and national groups living in the historic Lębork District,
  6. promotion of Lębork District,
  7. helping the poor, the lonely and the suffering,
  8. promotion of attitudes, forms of vocational activity, entertainment and leisure activities rooted in Christian tradition. 

One of the effects of commitment of people associated with Lębork Society was marking out and signposting the 100km long Lębork Way of St James from the Sanctuary of the Queen of Kashubian District in Sianowo to Smołdzino in 2007. The task was carried out by the Local Tourist Organisation “Ziemia Lęborska” and financed by the grant from the Self-government of Lębork County.   

The creation of Lebork Way met with warm approval. Still, it left pilgrims unsatisfied because after three or four days of walking the route ended suddenly. To continue, they had to move over 300km to Kamminke on the island of Usedom, where Via Baltica starts.

The Chapter of the Pomeranian Way of St James, established on 15th October 2008, undertook to finalise the re-vitalisation of camino running throughout northern Poland. Representatives of local self-governments, church institutions, tourist organizations and NGOs were invited to cooperate. At present they are the representatives of:

  1. The Municipality of Lębork
  2. Kartuzy Commune
  3. the Self-government of Lębork County
  4. the Self-government of Pomorskie Voivodeship, Department of Tourism of the Office of the Marshal of Pomorskie Voivodeship,
  5. St James the Apostle Parish in Lębork,
  6. St James the Apostle Parish in Łeba,
  7. the Metropolitan Basilica of St James the Apostle in Szczecin,
  8. the Community of Capuchin Friars Minor from Gdańsk, running St James Church in Gdańsk in ul. Wałowa 28,
  9. the Holy Trinity Church in Smołdzino,
  10. the Sanctuary of the Mother of God Thrice Extraordinary on Chełmno Hill,
  11. the Curia of the Bishop of koszalińsko-kołobrzeska Diocese, the Pastoral Department,    
  12. Local Tourist Organisation Ziemia Lęborska,
  13. Local Tourist Organisation Łeba,
  14. Pomeranian Regional Tourist Organisation,
  15. Lębork Society of St James,
  16. Conservation Office in Szczecin, Koszalin Branch.

Two years’ preparations, including several field meetings with regional environments and circles and open meetings of the Chapter in Lębork, resulted in working out the principles of the re-vitalisation of the Pomeranian Way of St James and setting the key sites along the route of the Way. Eventually, we were able to draw up and submit an application to the South Baltic Cross-border Cooperation Programme, which, fortunately, obtained the approval of the Steering Committee on 29th September 2010.  

The suggested route, devised in cooperation with the friends of the Way, is presented on the Map of the Pomeranian Way that everyone is familiar with, we presume. It allows for creating ways that diverge from the main route and lead to sites of religious and/or cultural importance or to pilgrim groups who would like the Way to start at the bounds of their towns or villages. A good example of such a grassroots, local initiative is Sierakowice Branch which at first diverges to rejoin Lębork Way of St James after 20km walk.

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