Incredible but true: Codex Calixtinus stolen from Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela

Detail from Codex CalixtinusDetail from Codex CalixtinusFor all of us who have walked the Camino, or those who dream of walking the Camino, the Codex Calixtinus is our original guide. But now the oldest version of it, an illuminated manuscript from the 12th Century, has been stolen from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The book consists of  225 parchment pages  which include a guide to the pilgrimage routes to Santiago, generally credited to a French friar, Aymeric Picaud, and said to have been comissioned by Pope Calixtus II. In reality its authorship is much more complex and its offerings more diverse.

The Codex  tell the story of how St James the Apostle's body was supposedly transported from Judea on a raft without oars or sails, which swiftly crossed the Mediterranean and travelled north through the Atlantic before grounding in north-western Spain. From there it was supposedly dragged inland by two oxen, and the body was buried in a forest.

A page from the Codex CalixtinusA page from the Codex Calixtinus








Here is a taste of what the text of the Codex is like. This is from Chapter VII, "The Lands and Peoples along the Camino de Santiago."

After this valley you come to the province of Navarre, which has plenty of bread, wine, milk and cattle. The Navarrese and the Basques have similar food, clothes and language, although the Basques have a fairer complexion. The Navarrese wear black outfits down as far as their knees, like the Scots. They tie untreated leather scrips around their feet, leaving bare everything except their soles. They have dark, elbow-length woollen cloaks, fringed like a traveller's cape, which they call 'sayas'. Their clothing is visibly shabby.

Navarrese eating and drinking habits are disgusting. The entire family - servant, master, maid, mistress - feed with their hands from one pot in which all the food is mixed together, and swill from one cup, like pigs or dogs. And when they speak, their language sounds so raw, it's like hearing a dog bark.

These are an undeveloped people, with different customs and characteristics than other races. They're malicious, dark, hostile-looking types, crooked, perverse, treacherous, corrupt and untrustworthy, obsessed with sex and booze, steeped in violence, wild, savage, condemned and rejected, sour, horrible, and squabbling. They are badness and nastiness personified, utterly lacking in any good qualities. They're as bad as the Getes and the Saracens, and they despise us French. If they could, a Basque or Navarrese would kill a Frenchman for a cent. 

In some places, like Vizcaya and Alava, when they get warmed up, the men and women show off their private parts to each other. The Navarrese also have sex with their farm animals. And it's said that they put a lock on the backsides of their mules and horses so that nobody except themselves can have at them. Moreover, they kiss lasciviously the vaginas of women and of mules.

You can read the entire Codex in English online here.