Independent Minds, Working Together

Faculty Lecture Series Features Talk by Madonna Hettinger

Professor of history to offer a modern perspective on a medieval pilgrimage on Nov. 19

11 November, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Madonna Hettinger, professor of history at The College of Wooster, will present “A Long Walk with Demons and Ghosts: 500 Miles on Foot on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela” at the next Faculty at Large lecture on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at 11 a.m. in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall (303 E. University St.). Admission is free and open to the public.

Hettinger will share insights from her recent research experience hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a medieval pilgrim route that stretches some 500 miles across northern Spain. Known in English as “The Way of Saint James,” this route has been traveled by pilgrims for more than 800 years. As one of the three most important pilgrim destinations in the Middle Ages, Santiago de Compostela held great significance as the burial site of Saint James the Elder, one of the original apostles. Medieval people walked to Santiago from all parts of western Europe, hoping to find religious solace in the physical challenges and personal sacrifices they faced along the way. There has been a revival of interest in this route in recent years and modern-day pilgrims bring their own range of motives and interests to the Camino de Santiago. What they share, however, with pilgrims of the Middle Ages, is the realization that the journey itself is as important as the destination. For Hettinger, the community of travelers on the Camino, past and present, also share the “demons and ghosts” referred to in the title of the talk.

Hettinger’s research on the Camino began with her interest in how western Europe was connected to the larger medieval world through overland travel routes that stretched from Asia through the Middle East and North Africa. Rather than investigate these routes solely through the written records of the Middle Ages, however, Hettinger decided to travel the routes herself as medieval people would have traveled them — slowly, on foot, with only the resources in her backpack.

Hettinger's usual focus is the social and cultural history of late medieval Europe. She teaches courses on “Medieval Europe,” “Renaissance Europe,” “Laws and Outlaws,” “Plague in the Towns of Tuscany,” “Mystics, Popes, and Pilgrims,” and “Environmental History of the Middle Ages.” She holds the Lawrence Stanley Professorship of Medieval History at Wooster, where she joined the faculty in 1989. Hettinger received her B.A. from Saint Francis College and her master's and doctoral degrees from Indiana University.

Additional information about the lecture is available by phone (330-263-2576) or e-mail.