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About the Spanish Camino de Santiago

and the Pilgrims who walk it

 

Link to lots of Camino de Santiago / Camino Francés Photo and History Pages

 

Spanish Roads to Santiago de Compostela

French Medieval Pilgrims' Roads

Books about Spain and the Camino

 

 

 

The Camino near the Templar church and sepulchres at Villasirga, to the East of Leon.  In the middle ages, just as many people would have been walking east as west, which would have made the whole social dynamic radically different, particularly at the overnight stops.

 

 

The Camino de Santiago in Spain is the Pilgrims' Road from Roncesvalles (where Roland famously commanded and died with the rearguard of Charlemagne's army in 778) to Santiago de Compostela (where in the 830s a wandering hermit named Pelagius discovered a tomb which was taken to be that of the Apostle James the Greater).  The road is around 800 Kms long and typically takes a month to six weeks to walk.  The road is also called the Camino Francés if you are headed towards France (which no-one except Dom P does these days, though in the middle ages arriving at Santiago only completed the first half of the journey, and there was a completely different social interaction dynamic along the road).  In the east the lower of the two roads shown in red is the Camino Aragonés (from the feeder roads of southern France and Provence).  This crosses the Pyrenees by the Somport Pass, descends to Jaca, then heads west to join the main drag at Puenta La Reina.

 

In 1987 the Pilgrims' Route to Santiago de Compostela was declared "The First European Cultural Itinerary" by the then European Council, a predecessor of the EU.  Since then lots of lolly has flowed into route infrastructure, including roadside signs / maps and sculptures ..... but walking remains just as hard as it ever was.  Often the Camino paths parallel the auto road structure, though sometimes they branch off on a cross country course undisturbed by cars!  There is often more than one road choice and the special Camino signposting is mostly efficient if uninspiring.  There are lots of books and maps on the Camino.  Two of the better illustrated are shown below (good for auto-pilgrims, too heavy for walkers).  The main and most broad ranging Camino website is The Camino, whilst The Confraternity of Saint James website and The Camino Santiago Pilgrimage are amongst others with information including books, maps, route information, tips and tour company offerings.

 

 

This link will take you to an 8 day walk through the beautiful "final 110kms" of the Camino - with maps, hotels and luggage transfers all taken care of

 

 

This link will take you to a small family company who organize Camino walks

 

 

MORE CAMINO BOOKS

 

The Roads to Santiago - Derry Brabbs

Buy from Amazon USA

 Buy from Amazon UK

 

 

To qualify for the Compostela, the traditional Latin certificate of pilgrimage, the cathedral authorities in Santiago require that pilgrims must 1) carry the credencial or pilgrim passport (which entitles you to a place in the Spanish refugios) and produce it, stamped and dated at each stage of the journey; 2) have walked or ridden on horseback the last 100 km to Santiago (for example the monastery of Santo Domingo de Samos is about 120 Kms from Santiago), or cycled the last 200 km, and 3) declare a spiritual or religious motivation. There is a certificado, also in Latin, for those making the journey for other reasons, or not meeting the Cathedral's criteria.

 

Saint James' Day is on the 25 July each year.  When the 25 July falls on a Sunday, the Santiago Cathedral authorities declare a Holy or Jubilee Year ( * in the table below).   The most recent Jubilee Years were 1999, 2000 and 2004 and the next ones are in 2010, 2021 and 2027.  How come 2000 you say - 25 July was a Tuesday - but it was a Jubilee of the Universal Church and Santiago joined in ( ** below).

 

In a Jubilee Year you can get a plenary indulgence (which is basically a super fast no questions asked ticket past the purgatory queue) by going to the Cathedral and the Tomb of James, making a confession, attending Mass, praying for the intentions of the Holy Father, and undertaking some charitable work (or more easily handing over money for this purpose).  No walking is required - you can just jet in and out if you want.  And as of June 2006 you don't even have to wait till 2010 ... just go on Easter Sunday, the 21 April, 23 May, 25 July, or 30 December any year.

 

 

This little sign is right back at the western end of the pilgrimage road from le Puy en Velay - much more spiritually encouraging than the vast fluoro Euro signs in Spain.

 

 

The Camino Website

 

The Confraternity of Saint James' web site

 

The Camino Santiago Pilgrimage

 

Tips tricks and thoughts from an Irish Camino enthusiast

 

and a well reviewed book

 

 

 

lots more books

 

 

The Santiago cathedral authorities keep detailed records of recipients of the Compostela, and then produce a whole range of stats about them.  Over the past twenty years the number of Compostelas issued has risen steadily from 2,500 to 145,877 in 2009.  In the 2004 Holy Year, numbers more than doubled.  As at July 2011 there are no stats for the 2010 Holy Year.  We won't be updating this table, but if you want to the Confraternity of Saint James' web site is a good place to start.

 

 

Year

1986 1996 1999* 2000** 2001 2002 2003 2004*

Compostelas

Issued

2,491 23,218 154,613 55,004 61,418 68,952 74,614 179,944
                 

Year

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010* 2011 2012*

Compostelas

Issued

93,942 100,377 114,026 125,141 145,877 Holy Year   Holy Year

* Santiago Holy or Jubilee Year       ** Rome Jubilee Year       Table compiled in 2010

 

In 2005, 56% of the Compostela recipients were Spanish, 40% were women, and nearly half arrived in July and August.  There are lots of other stats here .  In May 2006, when the Auto Peregrino Dom Paradox and his faithful Peugeot were headed counter-flow eastwards on the Camino Francés, 100,000 Compostelas were issued, and it's not hard to see why even then parts of the road seemed a bit crowded.  Santiago Holy Years in the rest of the 2000s are - 2012, 2027, 2032, 2038, 2049, 2055, 2060, 2066, 2077, 2083, 2088 and 2094.

 

 

Poppies beside the Camino in Belorado - East of Burgos

 

 

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