Paul Robbert Rijkens
The Compostela Conspiracy concerns the search for the men who fabricated and exploited the myth of St. James and created a vast industry. This is an investigative novel that starts by asking the simple but pertinent question: since there are no sources whatsoever testifying that the saint, or his remains were in Spain, then who invented all this, and why?I became interested in this issue after having read a tiny sentence in the official history book of St. James, which casually states that the Cathedral of Compostela lost the relics of St. James for nearly three hundred years, from 1588 to 1879. Lose the most important relics in Christendom? I surmised that they didn’t lose them, because they never had them in the first place. That also would despatch the implausible tale of how the saint’s remains had travelled by stone vessel, steered only by the wind, in eight days, from Jerusalem to Galicia in Spain, in 44 A.D. Still, St. James’ legends gave rise to the largest pilgrimage in European history. A riddle indeed. Challenged by a publisher, I decided to investigate this story not as most historians have, namely to accept the Church’s version, but instead, to follow a journalistic approach; to search for those who benefitted - who had ulterior motives. Banking on my business experience, and art historical knowledge, I hoped to solve this riddle whilst walking part of the route, the so-called ‘camino’, between Burgos and Santiago de Compostela. In so doing I also aimed to find out why people should want to do this arduous journey today, as ca. 300,000 annually do. It resulted in this travel account and investigative analysis, and a very defensible solution to the riddle of St. James. The Church employed fear to persuade Christians to seek penance and forgiveness at an empty shrine in Spain. This exploit I have called a conspiracy. A serious accusation, but in my view, also a defensible claim.Once underway something strange happened. An English former banker was shot in front of my eyes. Whilst this incident is fictional, it strangely fits in my fact-based investigation of what happened between the 9th to 16th centuries when literally millions upon millions of pilgrims took a year off to visit Compostela. The pilgrimage led to a colossal industry, and the strange shooting incident pointed me to some of its present-day benefactors.