In recent decades, Galicia has become a reference point for onomastic studies in Europe, both in toponymy and anthroponymy. Toponymic studies have a long tradition in Galicia (since the pioneering work of Martín Sarmiento, in the 18th century) and were boosted by the work of the Comisión de Toponimia of the Xunta de Galicia, which undertook the task of reviewing the Nomenclátor de Galicia.
Following this line, we believe that the time has come to hold an international conference in which Galicia will showcase this research work, focusing on a crucial aspect of our culture and European culture: the Way of St. James.
The pilgrimage way (or rather, the ways) that lead to Santiago are an inexhaustible source of toponymy in many countries and many languages. The places that mark the start and end of the different stretches that can be travelled on a day’s journey have well-known geographical names. However, many places and spots (roads, springs, mills, farmhouses…) located between such points have little visibility and are not well known by wayfarers nor by toponymists. In many cases, they are only preserved in local memory and risk disappearing from memory because as the rural territory suffers from increasing depopulation, there is no need for their transmission.
The institutions involved, the Real Academia Galega (RAG), the University of Santiago de Compostela, and the Asociación Galega de Onomástica (AGOn) are providers of pioneering tools in the field of onomastics: the RAG promoted Galicia Nomeada, the extinct Proxecto Toponimia de Galicia, the portal Toponimia de Galicia, the Cartografía dos Apelidos Galegos (together with the Instituto da Lingua Galega, which also supports a section of Onomastics issuing from its participation in the international project PatRom to study Romance names since the 1990s) and, together with AGOn, the collection Terra Nomeada, which studies the toponymy of Galician municipalities. AGOn has also promoted two international conferences on Galician onomastics, in Santiago (2002) and Pontevedra (2006). This conference will be the third in line. The Instituto da Lingua Galega, belonging to the University of Santiago de Compostela, hosts the researchers who elaborated the Nomenclátor de Galicia and many members of the Comisión de Toponimia of the Xunta de Galicia; it is also the headquarters of a research project on the toponymy of the whole Iberian Peninsula that brings together the leading specialists in the field.
All this experience enables these institutions to become the backbone and promoters of new toponymic studies in Europe, through this meeting dedicated to scientific studies on the toponymy of the Pilgrims’ Ways to Santiago de Compostela. Thus, researchers from different Galician, Spanish, and European universities; as well as other institutions, such as the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), the Euskaltzaindia, the Institut d’Estudis Catalans, the Academia Valenciana de la Llengua, the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (Madrid), and the Dirección Xeral de Política Lingüística and the Instituto de Estudos de Territorio da Xunta da Galicia answered the call, both as participants in the scientific committee and as presenters of their work. The aim is mainly philosophical, but not only. Our aim is for Europeanism and multidisciplinarity to be the main themes of this conference: geography, history, and cartography will be other different aspects addressed there.