The Four Roads to Heaven

Edwin Mullins. Interlink, $20 (258p) ISBN 978-1-909930-50-6
Mullins (In Search of Cluny) combines armchair travel with social history in this enticing exploration of the pilgrimage to Santiago of Compostela. Tracing the four routes from France and the required holy sites along the way that make up The Pilgrim’s Guide (a guide to popular Christian sites in southern Europe that was widely read during the 12th century), Mullins offers some logistical discussions alongside enthusiastic promotion of the trip. Lavish descriptions of extant and lost buildings are interspersed with Mullins’s histories of political struggles, ambitious reforms, and the shadowy monks who stole holy objects and crafted implausible origin stories for the shrines along the pilgrimage route. Although skeptical of some stories and miracles associated with the relics along the path, Mullins does not present the original medieval pilgrims as dupes convinced by the redeeming powers of the pilgrimage. Rather, he provides justifications for their spiritual hopes and sympathetic descriptions of the many perils they faced during the long journey. Beyond an imaginative travelogue, Mullins also provides insights into the role of the pilgrimage during the re-Christianization of Moorish Spain. Readers with an interest in European spiritual history or church architecture will appreciate this window into the lush world of medieval Christianity. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/08/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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