St James’ Scallop

This carved marble scallop marks Plymouth's status as one of only two ports licensed by the Crown for the embarkation of pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostella in northern Spain.

Photograph of a gaint scallop sculpture painted gold.Category: Permanent
Date: 1999
Location: View on our Public Art Map [desktop and tablet; requires Google sign-in]
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Plymouth City Council



Project Description

The scallop became a symbol of travel when pilgrims made the long, arduous journey across land and seas for months, even years at a time. They would often bring back souvenirs to mark they had been on such a voyage.

The scallop is native to Galicia near to Santiago and it was here that the bones of St James the Great were discovered in the 9th Century. From then until the 16th Century hundreds of thousands of Christians made the journey to worship at the site. Many wore a scallop shell to indicate their destination and so it became a general symbol of pilgrimage.

The giant scallop sculpture on the Barbican looks out to sea, at a point where many people have set sail on different journeys over the years.

Scallop in situ