Presented by Cathy Scuffil - Dublin City Council Historian
Recently the Camino Society was delighted to have Cathy Scuffil talk on Dublin's connection with the Camino de Santiago. Cathy is Historian in Residence in Dublin City Council.
To learn about this connection, we were told that we need to focus on one part of Dublin – from St. James's Street to Trinity College. Not only is this part of Dublin popular for tourists, but if you look closely enough, you will see plenty of evidence of the Camino within this short distance. We were told that this route was taken by pilgrims as they assembled at St. James’s Gate, walked through the city, before embarking on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Lazar’s Hill – St James’s Hospital.
800 years ago, Henry de Loundres, Archbishop of Dublin, founded the Hospital of Saint James, a hostel for pilgrims and the poor of Dublin, on present day Townsend Street, then known as Lazar’s Hill or Lazy Hill. It stood roughly where Hawkins House stands today, right beside the All Hallows Monastery, which later became Trinity College.
In medieval times, pilgrim ships destined for Santiago apparently docked alongside this Hospital, then sailed directly to the coast of Galicia, at Ferrol or A Coruña, from where the pilgrims made their way to Santiago overland. By the mid-13th century, some of these ships were carrying people with leprosy who were desperate for a miraculous cure.
A rather more downtrodden colony is said to have existed in what is today, Misery Hill. Sufferers lived in these monastic-type establishments not simply for the good of their health, but also as a form of perpetual quarantine. The only acceptable way to check out of the hospice was to perish. Another word for these quarantine stations was ‘Lazaretto’ (linked to Saint Lazarus) and it is from this that Townsend Street took its former name of Lazar Hill, sometimes shortened to ‘Lazy Hill’.
Above is a map of the city of Dublin by John Speed, published in 1610. You will see St. James Street in the lower left area of the map while further to the right (listed 10. The Hospital) is St James’s Hospital on what is Townsend Street today. This is where pilgrims would rest before making their way to Spain by ship.
The scallop shell and water
The two things you associate with St James are the scallop shell and water, so even in the current tradition, those two things are replicated in ways that seem to commemorate the pilgrim.
For example, have you seen the street fountain on Lord Edward Street? It was installed in the 19th century and if you look closely, you will see the scallop shell motif at the top. Another example of something similar - the two holy water founts at the front of St Audoen’s Church on High Street. Both founts are large shell-like features and were brought back from South America in the 19th century.
Other examples include
- A baptismal font in St Audoen’s Church of Ireland church which contains the scallop shell on each side of its font.
- The Tailor's Hall, Merchant Quay - Its fireplace contains no ornamentation except for a single shell.
- Hawkins House, Poolbeg Street - The Department for Health is located on the exact spot where the original St. James's Hospital was located.
- The Fountain at James's Street - It was a custom that funeral processions passing the fountain would circle it three times before carrying on to the cemetery at St James's Church where Pearse Lyons Distillery is now. There are also two scallop shells on the Fountain, but we are not sure if the water is for drinking!
- St. James's Gate - Perhaps, for many people, visiting St. James's Gate is like a pilgrimage. With over 1.7 million people visiting in 2017, it is a great attraction and adds to the area.
- Pearse Lyons Distillery - The newest visitors' attraction in the area which was the original Church of St. James.
- St. James's Hospital - The Hospital's logo contains a scallop shell.
These are all areas along our route that have an image of the scallop shell included.
Discovery at Frawleys on Thomas Street
Frawleys is currently being redeveloped into student accommodation, and if you walk by it, you will see nothing more than a building site. The builder was given permission to dig down. However, the city archaeologist had a feeling that there might be something there that she might like to know about. On their first dig, they found a skeleton with a scallop shell. All work has stopped and there is currently a 9-month archaeological dig taking place on the Thomas Street site. Since then, over 120 skeletons and 2 scallop shells have been found on the site. This further strengthens the connection between Dublin and the Camino. It is believed that the bodies have been there since the 12th century and you will all agree that this is exciting news and we wait for further news from this dig. All these burials are connected with the Abbey of St. Thomas and the Abbey would have had a guesthouse that pilgrims could have used. It would have been on the pilgrimage route. We know that the Abbey of St. Thomas was behind Frawleys and the graveyard was under Frawleys. Two of the 120 burials were pilgrim burials in that they were buried with scallop shells. These are significant finds and absolute confirmation that we are on a pilgrimage route.
Cathy has requested that if anyone sees an image of a scallop shell, whether it be on the end of a church pew, on an altar, in the Dublin area, particularly in the Liberties area, could you please contact her. You can contact Cathy on Twitter @DubHistorians or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.