To those of you who have decided to start the French Way on bike, or even to those who have already finished it and are considering repeating the experience with Tournride, you might be interested in a word that you will probably heard, or you may have already heard, during the Way: ultreia.
Ultreia, a pilgrim’s greeting
Ultreia -or ultreya- was the word that medieval pilgrims used to greet and encourage each other, specially those pilgrims of Germanic origin, and crusaders. This full of power expression has the meaning of “forward” or “further”. It is said that when a pilgrim greeted another by saying “Ultreia!” (Let’s go forward!), the answer was “Et suseia!” (And let’s go upward!). As time went by, it fell into disuse, but when the Way of Saint James was renewed over the past few years, the word was retrieved to transmit hope and encourage any pilgrim, of any origin, no matter if they did the Way on foot, on horseback or by bike.
This word is recorded for the first time in the Codex Calixtinus. Through this 12th century manuscript safeguarded in Santiago de Compostela’s Cathedral, the word ultreia has reached our days. The word appears among others in the Appendix II, in the chorus of the hymn “Dum pater familias”, knows as well as “Canto de Ultreia”, “Canción de los peregrinos flamencos” or “Himno de los peregrinos”. This is the oldest pilgrim’s song and, therefore, the song of the Way par excellence. Pilgrims from all around the world sang it when they finally reached the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, after a long, long journey.
The chorus is as follows:
E ultreia, e suseia,
Deus adiuva nos.
¡Oh, my lord Santiago!
¡Oh, great Santiago!
¡And may God protect us!
Hymn of Ultreia, breaking down language barriers
This Latin hymn -Latin was still the lingua franca in 12th century Europe- combines words originated in several languages, which is a reflection of the very nature of the Way: the overcoming of the limits of space, culture and language. The Way of Saint James was already in medieval times a place of joining and meeting of different cultures and languages, and, fortunately, it has remained as such over the centuries.
Ultreia is a greeting that you don’t normally hear anymore, since the most common one is “Buen Camino!”, but there are pilgrims out there that still sing the “Canto de Ultreia“. So, if one day you happen to hear this word while you bike the Way, it never hurts to know its meaning.
If you are already prepared to start biking the Way with Tournride, I can only say: Ultreia, suseia, Santiago! Let’s go, pilgrims, Santiago is further on!
And any doubt you may have before starting the Way by bike, don’t hesitate to contact us.