Together with Rome and Jerusalem, Santiago is one of the most important pilgrimage places of Christianity. In today’s blogpost we would like to initiate a new section in our blog, called “Symbols of the Camino”. It will be devoted to the origins of all those traditions that accompany the pilgrim, as the Scallop Shell of Camino de Santiago.

The origins of the Camino Vieira

Maybe you know already know it, but the well-know Scallop Shell of Camino de Santiago correspond to a mollusk called Vieira.

Originally from the Galician coasts, its scientific name is “Pecten Maximus”, because of the size of its shell, much bigger than any other variety.

They are raise close to the coast, in a no more than 100 meters depth, and in sandy land.

This mollusk is really appreciated in the Galician cuisine, which is enthusiastic about the very high quality seafood that they can enjoy during all the year.

Relation between the Scallop Shell of Camino de Santiago and the pilgrims

But where is the connection between these mollusks of the Camino and the pilgrims? Apart from being, of course, it is deleite of locals and pilgrims.

The origin of this symbols is not that clear, because histories and traditions are mixed.

Some people defend that the original pilgrims were received at the city of Santiago de Compostela by locals, who presented them these shells as a symbol of the universal welcome of the city.

Other people think that those beautiful shells were very useful for the original pilgrims in drinking from rivers and fountains, thanks to its huge size.

That is why time by time those objects became a symbol of the scarcity of the Camino, and the spirit of asceticism that accompany all the ones who decide to start this exciting adventure.

The legend of the groom and the Vieira shell

Last, but not least, some people prefers to fix the origin of this symbol in a much more interesting history, than all the previous.

There is a legend according to which the disciples who transported the body of the Santiago Apostle from Jerusalem, for his burial, arrived close to the Cies islands (at the entry of the nowadays Vigo Ria), to a place called Bouzas.

Suddenly, a very strong wind conducted the crew to the Coast, where a wedding took place. In that particular moment the groom was playing a popular game those days, called “abofardar”.

Unfortunately the groom and his horse sunk because of the wind, and seemed impossible for them to come back to the beach. However, just some minutes later they appeared again, completely covered by scallop shells.

The miraculous salvation of the groom was attributed to the presence of the Apostle Santiago’s body, still in the boat close to the place.

Consequently the groom embraced the Christianity immediately, as many other wedding guests.

For their part, the crew moved away from the coast, heading to the North.

They continued their way to the Ria de Arousa, where disembark the Apostle’s body, and transported  it to Iria Flavia (Padron) where they buried it.

From that moment, the tradition invites all those making the pilgrimage to Santiago’s grave to take with them the scallop shell, as a remembrance of that miracle occurred some centuries before.

What do you think, which could be the origin of this beautiful tradition? Have you recently made a pilgrimage to Santiago with the Scallop Shell of Camino de Santiago? We are waiting for your comments to this post!