Posted by: ktzefr | March 6, 2012

Seashell Journeys…

The scallop shell is the emblem of St. James.  It marks the Way of St. James, the route to the apostle’s shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  Christians have been making pilgrimages to this shrine since medieval times.

Legend has it that travelers carried scallop shells with them and would ask for food and drink at churches, castles, and abbeys along the way.  Even the poorest households could fill a scallop shell with something to eat or drink. Today, many pilgrims still carry a scallop shell or bring one home to symbolize the journey.  The shells are common along the shores of Galicia.




These shells are also common in the mountains of Mexico, many miles from the sea, but it’s all about symbolism here.  You can find them almost anywhere decorating the walls and doorways of homes and churches.  I took this photo of my niece a couple of weeks ago on one of my favorite streets in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico — at the intersection of Calle Aldama and Cuadrante.  The shell not only holds a picturesque spot beneath a profusion of bougainvillea, but it’s also a common resting place in this walking city of hills and cobblestone streets.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett


The scallop shell as metaphor…the grooves in the shell come together in a single point, representing the many routes pilgrims travel to arrive at a common destination: the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela.

One of the things I like most about travel, and especially about returning to places I’ve been before, is having the time to take note of the sights and sounds I may have missed on earlier trips.  Getting to know a place is like getting to know a person.  One small detail, like a seashell, can mark the start of a long and interesting journey.



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