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St. James’s Trail

One of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Europe is St. James’s Trail, also called from Spanish  Camino de Santiago. The trail leads to St. James’s town Santiago de Compostela, situated in north-western part of Spain.

St. James’s Ways (smaller sections of the trail)run through nearly every part of Europe.

There are also several ways in Poland, such as:

Greater Polish Way (from Gniezno to Głogów)

Lesser Polish Way (from Sandomierz to Kraków)

Via Regia (from Korczowa in south-estern Poland to Görlitz in eastern Germany)

Lower Silesian Way (from Głogów to Görlitz)

Polish way, also called Camino Polaco, leads through Kuyavian- Pomeranian Voivodeship.

All the Ways come together in Germany, and through France lead the pilgrims to Spain.

The importance of St. James’s Trail was emphasized by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who claimed that the Ways have “formed” modern Europe. Also the Pope John Paul II during his pontificate visited Santiago de Compostela with a pilgrimage twice.

After the visit of John Paul II to Santiago de Compostela in 1982 the Council of Europe recognized St. James’s Trail as particularly significant for European culture and called for the reconstruction of forgotten Ways and maintaining  the Ways that still existed back then. In September 1987 the trail was awarded the title of the first European Cultural Route of the year and in 1993 listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The beginnings of St. James’s Trail in Kuyavian- Pomeranian Voivodeship

In 2005 Włodzimierz Antkowiak, a traveler and poet from Toruń,  made his first attempts to appoint the way of St. James’s Trail in Kuyavian- Pomeranian Voivodeship. His aim was to create a route which would  be attractive for tourists and, at the same time, correspond with trade route from Riga to Amsterdam. Additionally, he referred to tourist trails, especially yellow E-11, previously appointed by Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society(PTTK).

In 2007, on behalf of PTTK  unit in Toruń, Henryk Miłoszewski marked the first part of the trail from Iława to Toruń. This initiative was strongly supported by the local government  of Toruń, Brodnica and Kurzętniki. In April 2007,during the Days of Pampeluna, a brass board with a symbol of shell, which resemble the board on St. James Church in Göttingen, was unveiled on St. James Church in Toruń. After that, within less than a year, the southern part of the trail from Toruń to Trzemeszno was marked too. Again, the local authorities of Toruń and Kruszwica showed great support. Finally, in 2014, a special Kuyavian- Pomeranyan Badge of St. James  was established by  PTTK  unit in Toruń. This emblem is granted to the pilgrims who walk the minimal distance of 100 km, or cycle 150 km, on Kuyavian –Pomeranyan part of Camino Polaco trail.

Saint James the Elder

Saint James the Elder was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He came from the region of Lake Gennesaret, where he and his brother John worked as fishermen. In this way they supported their father Zebedee in everyday duties. Together with Peter and Andrew, James and John ran a minor fishing business, with their own fishing boats. From the very beginning fish, shells and water played a major role in the if  future preacher and patron saint of Spain.

His name James, from Hebrew „skeb”, means the heel. This name is a reference to James’s and his brother’s Ezaf’s story of birth.

James was one of Jesus’ privileged disciples, and the first apostle to be considered a martyr. He witness many miracles, such as resurrection of Jair’s daughter, Transfiguration of Jesus and Agony in the Garden. His nickname “Boanerges” (the sons of thunderclap) was given to him and his brother by Jesus himself when they cursed the City of Samaria, after its inhabitants refused to accept Juses and his apostles.

St. James preached the Gospel on Iberian Peninsula, which was the most western part of the Roman Empire. The apostle, however, was not very successful in his missionary activity. His greatest achievement was funding three Christian communities: Astorga, Lugo and Braga, which, over time, became significant episcopal centers.  After St. James had returned to Palestine, his duties were assigned to seven successors, sent there by St. Peter and St. Paul from Rome.

St. James was the first apostle ,and the second Christian, after St. Stephen, to be considered martyr of Christianity. He was beheaded in 44AD by King Herod Agrippa. As a sign of contempt, his body was dismembered and thrown outside the city walls, where his disciples gathered it and carried by the sea. According to the legend of Jacob de Voragine, translation of St. James’s relicts to Galicia, was effected by a series of miraculous happenings. His body was transported on a boast by two disciples Anastasius and Theodor. It was previously planned, that the remains of each of the Apostles would be carried to the place of his missionary activities. Additionally, there was a symbolic aspect: Galicia was considered the edge of the world, therefore that meant that Christian Gospel reached to every part of the universe. St. James was finally buried in a stone grave in Iria Flavia (Pedron).

In historic iconography St. James is presented in three main roles. Firstly,  as an Apostle, carrying the Book of Gospel, barefoot and with the symbol of shell.  Secondly, he is depicted as a pilgrim wearing sandals, short tunic and a coat decorated with shells. He is holding a walking stick and a water container. His third image, linked to St. James’s role in the reconquest of Iberia from Muslim rule, is one of a soldier, the defender of the faith.