Santiago certainly exists, the place itself and the myth of the wandering apostle. All those routes, all those shells, all those shrines. Botticelli may have conceived Venus, born out of a scallop shell, but the figure of James, without any foundation in fact, only the roots of legend and myth, was born so many years earlier with his shells intact. A bright star, a shepherd, and the birth of an archetype. James, close to Christ, but still, simply one who is 'on the Way'. Everyman. The Wayfarer. The Pilgrim. When it suited the times and the culture, he was turned into a soldier, devastator of the infidel. Today he has shaken back down again into being a simple, pilgrim force.
There is such freedom in the myth of James and in the final celebration of the cathedral itself. A healing feast for the psyche. The present Pope has been to Santiago, but the myth led to the Pope. The myth retains its freedom. Like some extravagant theatre of texture and imagination, its lack of certainty is its strength.
From On Pilgrimage: A Time To Seek (1991) by JENNIFER LASH