If you have started doing the Camino or preparing for it, you have surely come across these words: "Ultreia" and "Suseia". Or maybe written as "Ultreya" and "Suseya". You may even have booked accommodation with this name. But what does this pilgrim expression mean?
This Latin expression, used since the Middle Ages by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, has been perhaps the most popular of all the "pilgrim vocabulary". Today, however, it has been largely replaced by another formula that you will hear more often: ¡Buen Camino!
This expression of encouragement has its origins in the Codex Calixtinus and was spoken by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. This illuminated manuscript from the mid-12th century contains sermons, hymns, miracles, accounts of the translation of the Apostle, liturgical texts, musical pieces and a guide for pilgrims (Book V) who wished to follow the French Way. It is the first travel book that we have preserved, describing the people, places to stay, fountains, etc.
This word of Latin origin is composed of ultra - beyond - and eia - interaction used to indicate movement -. It is therefore a term of encouragement used to stimulate those who were walking towards the tomb of the apostle St. James, and had hundreds of kilometres behind them. An incitement to continue to the end. Therefore, the translation would be: "Go further, hurry up, move further!", or "Come on, keep going to the end, you can do it!"
The original form of this expression is Ultreia, although we are sure that you will also have seen it written Ultreya and less commonly Ultrella, according to the standardised systems of the Spanish language. This term appears in the musical section of appendix II in the Song of the Flemish pilgrims ("Dum pater families"). It goes like this: Oh Lord Santiago / Good Lord Santiago / Eultreya / Euseya / Protect us, God!
In addition to this song, it is also found in the Book of Liturgies in which the mass of Pope Callixtus on the day of the celebration of the Apostle St. James, 25 July, is recorded, and it goes like this: His sepulchre / Visiting the sick with health are found / All peoples, tongues, tribes flock to him crying out: sus ella, ultreya. Finally we have again a reference in the hymn to the Supreme King: Therefore to the King of kings / praises we must say / to deserve happy / forever with Him to live. / Let it be done, amen, hallelujah, / - let us say, then, in par, / E ultreya esus eya, / we will sing without ceasing.
This was the reply used by the pilgrims. In such a way that an automatic conversation was established between them when they crossed each other on one of the different routes that lead to Santiago.
etymological origin? This Latin term literally means "higher, above". Some experts indicate that this answer contained connotations of seeing oneself again in the cathedral of Santiago or, if that was not possible, finding oneself higher, in heaven. There are even hypotheses that say it was a pilgrim synonym for Hallelujah.
Nowadays, however, we have replaced this traditional greeting, which has fallen into disuse, with "¡Buen Camino! Although the expression is now used in both directions, i.e. both the one saying it and the one replying, it still retains that spirit of encouragement typical of the expression of yesteryear. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that it has lost part of the religious character that the medieval expression contained, since today many pilgrims make the Camino for reasons other than spirituality.
In any case, in honour of tradition, if you travel with us inside your credential you will find a blotting paper to prevent the ink of the stamps from smearing the opposite pages with this expression you now know.