The Way of St. James or St. James’s Way (commonly
known by its name in Spanish: El Camino de Santiago) is the name of the
pilgrimage routes to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (northwestern Spain), where
tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried.
Legend holds that St. James’s remains were carried by
boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on the site of what
is now the city of Santiago de Compostela.
The Way can take one of any number of pilgrimage
routes to Santiago de Compostela.
The route was declared the first European Cultural
Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987; it was also named one of
UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
THE SCALLOP SYMBOL
The scallop shell, often found on the shores in
Galicia, is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Over the centuries the
scallop shell has taken on mythical, metaphorical and practical meanings, even
if its relevance may actually derive from the desire of pilgrims to take home a
Today, tens of thousands of pilgrims set out each year
from popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de
Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of
their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey (for example, the
British author and humourist Tim Moore).
In addition to those undertaking a religious
pilgrimage, the majority are hikers who walk the route for non-religious
reasons: travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a
foreign land. Also, many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to
remove themselves from the bustle of modern life. It serves as a retreat for
many modern “pilgrims”.
Along the way you will find wonderful landscapes,
friendly and welcoming locals, delicious local food and wine…and many other
pilgrims who will be happy to share the experience, travel tips and maybe even
walking together for a few hours.
In Spain, France, and Portugal, pilgrim’s hostels with
beds in dormitories dot the common routes, providing overnight accommodation
for pilgrims who hold a “credencial”. In Spain this type of
accommodation is called a “refugio” or “albergue”, both of which are similar to
youth hostels or hostelries in the French system of “gîtes d’étape”.
Staying at pilgrims’ hostels usually costs between 6
and 15 euros per night per bed.
Pilgrims are usually limited to one night’s
accommodation and are expected to leave by eight in the morning to continue
Most pilgrims carry a document called the
“credencial”, purchased for a few euros from a Spanish tourist agency, a church
on the route, or from their church back home.
The credential is a pass which gives access to
inexpensive, sometimes free, overnight accommodation in refugios along the
trail. Also known as the “pilgrim’s passport”, the credential is
stamped with the official St. James stamp of each town or refugio at which the
pilgrim has stayed. It provides pilgrims with a record of where they ate or
slept, but also serves as proof to the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago that the
journey was accomplished according to an official route.
The stamped credential is also necessary if the
pilgrim wants to obtain a compostela, a certificate of completion of the
The compostela is a certificate of accomplishment
given to pilgrims on completing the Way.
To earn the compostela one needs to walk a minimum of
100 km or cycle at least 200 km. Pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela
who have walked at least the last 100 km, or cycled 200 km to get there (as
indicated on their credencial) are eligible for the Compostela from the
Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago.
Regardless of your reasons (religious, spiritual,
exercise, self-searching or just for fun) we can assure you that you will not
regret the experience and you will want to go back again! J
And if you feel
lazy to walk, you can book your plane ticket with Sky-tours.com to visit the always
charming and beautiful Santiago de Compostela!