El Camino de Santiago


The Camino de Santiago ( Iago: James in Spanish), The Way of St.James or Camino Francés is an ancient pilgrimage route stretching 800 km across northern Spain, from the Pyrenees in the east to the city of Santiago de Compostela in the north-western province of Galicia. Other pilgrimage routes with their destination in Santiago start out from other points in the Iberian peninsula – the Camino Portugues, the Via de La Plata, the Camino del Norte and the Camino Inglés – but the Camino de Santiago has become the most popular pilgimage route, attracting thousands of people every year.

Legend has it that the body of the Apostle St.James was brought to Galicia – the small boat landing at the Roman port of Ira Flavia ( adjacent to modern day Padron) – after his martyrdom in Jerusalem, and that the discovery of his tomb in the 9th century led to the founding of the city of Santiago as a sacred site in the Christian world. In medieval times the Camino de Santiago grew to be equal in importance to the pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem, being a “route to salvation”… a way to earn indulgences and expiate sins.
For many of today’s pilgrims the religious motivation to undertake the pilgrimage to Santiago may not be so relevant, but it is nevertheless a spiritual journey in the broadest sense, a challenge to the physical and moral stamina of those who undertake it, a deeply rewarding experience of reflection and self-realisation. For the majority of pilgrims to Santiago their journey is a life-changing, life-affirming, and unforgettable, experience.
“El Camino comienza en casa”, say the Spanish – the path begins at your own doorstep. Most European pilgrimage routes converge at St.Jean de Port in France, at the foot of the Pyrenees, but the pilgrim’s camino begins as soon as he or she leaves home… if not before! While some pilgrims do the journey by bicycle and still others on horseback, the majority make their way by foot along the well-beaten pathways over mountain and moorland, hillside and valley, crossing many a Roman and Medieval bridge over rivers that have seen the passing of countless thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.

The Camino de Santiago is attracting more and more people from around the world. The numbers of pilgrims have increased dramatically from around 3,000 registered pilgrims in 1987 ( when the Council of Europe declared the Camino the first Path of European Culture) to 180,000 pilgrims in 2011. In 1993 the Way of St.James was granted the status of World heritage Site by UNESCO.
The publishing of the book “The Pilgrimage” by Paulo Coelho in 1987, and, in 2010 the release of the movie “The Way” starring Martin Sheen (whose family is Galician) further stimulated interest in this ancient pilgrimage route.