German St. James Society
The German St. James Society is an exclusively nonprofit and nonpartisan organization.
RESEARCH AND DOCUMENTATION Since its foundation in 1987, the society has organized annual conferences, to which scholars not only from Germany but from other countries as well are invited to give papers on all aspects of St. James studies. The 3-4-day conferences are held at different locations in Germany and neighboring countries and draw between 100 and 150 participants. They also present members with an opportunity to meet and exchange experiences. In the last few years, a pilgrimage to the conference venue has become tradition. Our research committee consists of esteemed scholars working on both a national and international level. Dr. Robert Plötz and Prof. Dr. Klaus Herbers, for example, are members of the International Committee of Experts on the Camino de Santiago appointed by the state government of Galicia (Xunta de Galicia). They are the editors of the series "Jakobus-Studien," of which 20 volumes have appeared to date, in which the papers given at our annual conferences are published.
INFORMATION AND ADVICE Our office is contacted over 11,000 times annually (by letter, fax, telephone, visits) and issues around 7,000 "credenciales" each year. We also provide information and advice via our Internet-Homepage: www.deutsche-jakobus-gesellschaft.de The magazine for our members, "STERNENWEG" ("Pathway of Stars"), comprising between 48-64 pages, is published twice a year. It contains articles on the history, geography, iconography, and spirituality of pilgrimage, as well as practical information about conferences, exhibitions, St. James literature, projects, etc. A spiritual guidebook, "Schritte werden Weg," was also published, as well as a special commemorative issue "Von Aachen nach Santiago de Compostela - 25 Jahre Deutsche St. Jakobus-Gesellschaft" in 2012.
EUROPEAN COOPERATION Our society maintains good contacts with St. James' Associations in all Europe. In the years 1993, 1999, 2004, and 2010 we invited local Spanish officials and volunteers working along the Camino to the Charlemagne Festival in Aachen, to demonstrate our thanks and appreciation for their commitment to the pilgrimage and pilgrims. This included excursions to Cologne, Trier, Maastricht, and Roermond, which provided them with an opportunity to experience first hand the culture and history of the Rhineland, as well as the European dimensions of the St. James pilgrimage beyond the Pyrenees. In Germany, our society is a member of the Association of German St. James Societies ("Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Jakobus-Vereinigungen"(AGdJV)); once a year, our society organizes a Pilgrim Forum together with the Catholic-Social Institute ("Katholisch-Soziales Institut" (KSI)).
Since 1996, guests from England and other European countries participate in our annual group pilgrimage in April/May along the pilgrim´s route from Nuremberg to Constance. Pilgrims today still sing the historical traditional songs, but also new songs (for example from Taizé). Our society also supports, through donations and the personal contributions of our members, the construction and/or expansion of pilgrims' hostels. One main project, begun in 1993, is to train, support, and advise members working as volunteer hostel hosts ("hospitaleros") in the pilgrim hostels on the Camino in France and Spain. Here we have established a close partnership with the Federation of Spanish St. James Associations ("Federacion Asociaciones del Camino in España").
In the Holy Year 2010 our society participated in the "EUROPA COMPOSTELA 2010", organized by the "FFACC: Fédération Française des Associations des Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. The German St. James Society coordinated the activities in Germany. On seven German routes pilgrims walked roughly 5,000 kilometers in 222 legs.
CONSERVATION AND CULTIVATION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE On the basis of historical roadways studies, we have been able to reconstruct and mark a number of historical routes of St. James pilgrims in various parts of Germany, in cooperation with regional officials and hiking associations: The first route marked was Nuremberg - Ulm - Bad Waldsee - Constance, which we then connected to the Swabian route to Einsiedeln, Switzerland. This route also features in our annual spring group pilgrimage to launch a new season. In Northern Germany our society re-established and marked over 1,800 kilometers, connecting Scandinavia and the Baltic States with the Middle-European routes of St. James pilgrims. In Middle Germany the "Ecumenical Pilgrims' Route" is the connection between east and west. Since 1999, we have, in collaboration with the regional "Rhineland Association" ("Landschaftsverband Rheinland" (LVR)) and the "Westphalia-Lippe Association" ("Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe" (LWL)) successively re-established a network of historical routes running through the Rhineland and Westphalia, documented in a series of guidebooks (currently 11 volumes) published in cooperation with the J. P. Bachem publishing company.
In all, our society is responsible for more than 4,500 kilometers of routes of St. James pilgrims in Germany.
English translation by Cornelia Oefelein