1568 Lyon Benoist Rigaud

De Bourze ville a la dame Guytlande,
L’on mettra sus par la trahison faicte,
Le grand prelat de Leon par Formande,
Faux pelletins & ravisseura defraicte.

At Bourze/Bourg/Burgos place of the lady Guytlande,
The people will be put on high for the treason enacted:
The great prelate of Léon through Formande,
Gets rid of the wrongful mob and its rapacious pillagers.

Line 1, OF ‘Bourze’ or ‘De Bourze’ (it resembles the familiar noun ‘bourse’ with its moneybags) is a tricky name to place. OF ‘ville’ is an agglomeration from a range of farm buildings to a town or even the freedom of a city. Possibly this is Bourg between Blaye and Castillon in the old Bordeaux region or else the Cathedral City of Burgos.

Line 3, I guess that OF ‘Formande’ is Pamplona, the sophisticated capital city of Navarre, under some French name based upon Fermin, a Roman who became the patron saint of that city and co-patron of the Kingdom of Navarre. It comes before Léon on the road to Santiago.

Line 4, OF ‘pelletins’ relates to ‘peloton’, a ball or a platoon. It is used mainly to describe crowding groups of people united in a pursuit; squads, mobs, hunts. OF ‘ravisseur’ is one who takes from a person or their property with violence. OF ‘defaicte’ is ‘défaire’ so not only ‘undo’ but also destroy, deprive, separate, be rid of.

Bourze may be Burgos and this story might have been acquired from Basque locals whilst those little known place names could have been overheard during a Camino pilgrimage by Nostredame in his travelling years. Nostredame manages to convey in one brief quatrain the calling-in of assistance to Léon from Pamplona by a highly respected leader in the face of a mob of looting wrong-doers who suffer execution at Bourze/Burgos as a result. There is no doubting the rights and wrongs here. The lady Guytlande may have been a dignitary from Burgos. Or simply one of the many ladies along the sparsely populated route who have willingly provided meals to groups of travellers, so friendly and club-like is the relationship between the travellers (who may start out as strangers to each other but rarely stay that way) and the helpful locals on the Camino pilgrim trail. A virtual community.

They say the Spanish once referred to the El Camino de Santiago, the Roman and medieval road system that is also named the Way of St.James, as the Milky Way because there were as many pilgrims as stars. It was also called the Camino Francés as so many French pilgrims took to in it during the Middle Ages, possibly including Michel de Nostredame. According to a Twelfth Century Pilgrim’s Guide there were four main starting points including Le Puys in the Massif Central. This particular route includes the beautiful Auvergne and Lozère landscapes. On average it covered 1,000 miles. The pilgrims’ schedules (it took months to complete) were often designed to reach Santiago in Galicia, an old Celtic region, in time for the feast day of Saint James in high summer. (It had previously been a pagan pilgrimage route through to Finisterre, the seaboard edge of the Western world, which accounts for the Camino’s scallop shell symbol.)

The cathedrals of Santiago, Leon and Burgos (constructed between the Thirteenth and Sixteenth Centuries) were built by architect-craftsmen who crossed the daunting Pyrenees to help supervise-build the infrastructure of the pilgrim route, which became a major Medeval medium for the spread of high culture and art. Many towns and villages en route flourished with the pilgrimage trade. They are built in a mixture of Arab, Goth and Roman styles. Likewise French monks had opened monasteries and traveller’s could time their daily walks between refuges. A restored Fifteenth Century house at Rabanal is still maintained by the British Confraternity of Saint James. Some hikers report ‘a sense of other-worldliness’ as their trip progresses.

A traveller’s tale?

                                                            Nigel Raymond Offord© 2011