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Truth-SpotsHow Places Make People Believe$
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Thomas F. Gieryn

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226561950

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226562001.001.0001

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Trapdoor to the Transcendent

Trapdoor to the Transcendent

(p.74) 5 Trapdoor to the Transcendent

Thomas F. Gieryn

University of Chicago Press

Since medieval times, pilgrims have walked for a month through the plains and mountains of northern Spain, on the Way of St. James that culminates at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage journey is typically one of affirmation, lending credibility to old or new thoughts about the meaning of life, about transcendence, about faith. Strange places along the Camino take pilgrims out of their familiar ways of life back home, making them vulnerable and receptive to intense insights and spiritual transformations. The rugged terrain poses daily challenges (blisters on blisters) that increase the value and validity of the struggle: truths found there are hard-won and thus reliable. The Way is lined with profane temptations like fancy hotels and handy buses (pilgrims are expected to sacrifice as they walk) that reassert by contrast the significance of the sacred places one also encounters along the path: churches, monasteries, and shrines. The Way is haunted by the footsteps of pilgrims past, which create for later pilgrims an obligation to sustain belief in the transformative and transcendent power of the Camino experience.

Keywords:   Way of St. James, Santiago de Compostela, pilgrimage, affirmation, transcendence, faith, spiritual transformation, sacred places, churches, belief

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