The Shell Symbol

Give me my scallop shell of quiet;
My staff of faith to walk upon;
My scrip of joy, immortal diet;
My bottle of salvation;
My gown of glory (hope’s true gage)
And then I’ll take my pilgrimage.

– Sir Walter Raleigh

The scallop shell is a well-known symbol of The Way. The symbolism behind this depends on who you ask but we’ve read that it dates back to medieval times.

This shell is commonly found along the Spanish coast and it is said that the lines in the shell represent the many ways in which you can reach the final destination.

Today many pilgrims wear the shells on their packs. It is also used to mark the trails of the camino and most alburges hang a shell outside their door, making it easy for pilgrims to identify places to stay.

Some interesting facts about the scallop shell’s
history on El Camino:

  • It was once used as great scoop for drinking water or even as a bow
  • The Village to Village Guide on Hiking The Camino De Santiago states that original pilgrim’s travel guide from the medieval times describes the shell as “representing the finger of an open hand, symbolizing the good deeds expected of pilgrims.”
  • Pilgrims who died on the path where once buried with their shell.