The origin of the Camino de Santiago

A food 1,500 kilometers. yellow arrows. The scallop or shell. 10 routes of landscapes and legends. Walks, meetings in hostels, self-improvement, culture, sports, history, incredible landscapes, physical adventure, spiritual experience… Santiago’s road is back after the pandemic. No restrictions. As usual. The Galician capital forms a triangle of Christian pilgrimage together with Rome Y Jerusalem. In the case of the Holy City and, according to Christian traditions, Jesus was crucified there, in the Mount Sepulcherwhere his grave is located and he was resurrected. Constantine the Great raised the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the year 326 and became an ancestral and spiritual home for millions of people in the world.

The case of the Roman capital and Santiago de Compostela they are different: saints and relics are venerated. The first hosts the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and the pilgrimage starts in 1300 with the declaration of the Roman holy year. For its part, we have to attribute to the Pelayo monk the discovery of the tomb containing the body of the Apostle Saint James the Greater during the reign of Alfonso II of Asturiasknown as ‘the Chaste’, who decides to build a church in that same place. The discovery, dated between the years 820 and 830 in a forest called Libredón, is one of the great historical events of the Middle Ages in Europe. Since then, a wave of catholic pilgrimages that aim to achieve Santiago’s cathedral Where is the crypt located?

The shell is the quintessential symbol of the Camino.

Every year the tradition brings together some 200,000 pilgrims, which already has more than ten centuries of history. Asturian monarchs, French and German abbots and monks were the first to arrive in Santiago at the end of the 9th century. The year of Compostela is established in 1122, once the tide of pilgrims consolidates. The cathedral is finished being built almost 100 years later, in 1211. Kings, writers and illustrious characters join the incessant and extraordinary pilgrimage: William X Duke of Aquitaine, Louis VII of France, San Francisco de Asis… The golden age of pilgrimages is situated in these centuries and fully reaches Europe: France, Italy, the center and east of the continent, England, Germany or Iceland. And, of course, Hispania. They came on foot, on horseback, by boat…

The foundation of hospitals dedicated to meeting the spiritual, material and health needs of the growing number of pilgrims heading to Santiago marked a new milestone. The kings were in charge of building these hospital centers, thus uniting the Crown with the Christian virtue of charity and serving God. In the Middle Ages, the pilgrim was not one more. He was an envoy from Heaven: he had to be considered and treated as if he were the very Jesus Christ.

During the war and the black plague

The Hundred Years War (1337-1453) and the Black Death (1348) They played a trick on him. The Camino de Santiago, converted into an indispensable vehicle of European culture, was not immune to the tensions and vicissitudes of the Old Continent. The crisis is accentuated in the Modern Age (16th-18th centuries) for many reasons. The protestant reformation and the wars of religion in the German territories and in France many pilgrims will remain on the Camino. The inquisition, on the rise, is another important stumbling block from the 16th century. Shadows of suspicion above all affect foreign citizens and even Jacobean pilgrims, some of them accused of espionage. The pilgrim flame resurfaces much later, from the second discovery of the body of Santiago, in 1879, with the papal declaration of the discovery of the apostolic remains and with the celebration of an extraordinary holy year in 1885.

The rally consolidates during the twentieth century and achieves the final push in the 80’s with the remembered speech of the Pope Juan Pablo II in the main altar of the cathedral of Santiago. Currently, the pilgrimage to Santiago is a massive and transversal phenomenon that combines tourism and the discovery of culture, history and shared experiences, with an itinerary loaded with symbolism and spirituality. Of all the routes, we highlight three: the French Waythe english way and the north road.

The pandemic has extended the Xacobeo Year from 2021 to 2022. pixabay



Iconic and pioneer

If you had to choose an itinerary, this would be the first. Definitely. It was described in the first Jacobean fundamental book, ‘Codex Calixtinus’ (1135). In its V volume, the ‘Pilgrim’s Guide’, details all the information available and to be available at the time about the sanctuaries and towns visited, the route, the anecdotes, local customs… The name has no greater mystery: it is due to that the guide was attributed to the clergyman of French origin Aymeric Picaudalthough there are those who question the authorship and say that this authentic medieval treatise was written by Hugh the Winepotmonk of Vézelay, located in the Burgundy, eastern France. If this theory is true, the name would remain intact and would not undergo any variation.

Today, like yesterday, the French Way is the favorite of pilgrims from the Christian world. Its sections from Gallic lands add up to a total of four main roads already described in the Codex Calixtinus. Three of these routes (Paris-Tours, Vezelay-Limoges Y Le Puy-Conques) enter the Iberian Peninsula by Orreaga-Roncesvalles, a place full of meaning and a meeting point for many at the beginning of their journey to Santiago. It is a unique enclave for pilgrims. The fourth (Arles-Toulouse) is diverted to Port of Somport and continue until Pony, Aragon. The Orreaga-Roncesvalles itinerary, which crosses the city of Pamplona-Iruñeajoins with the Aragonese in the historic rural municipality of more than 900 years of Gares-Puente la Reina.


By land and sea

The name in this case is not accidental either. In the Middle Agespeople who came by boat from the Scandinavian countries and northern Europe, especially from the United Kingdom, contributed to the establishment of the denomination of the English Way. Hundreds of Scots, Irish and English sailed from their ports and walked like an army of pious ants the journey by sea to the Galician coasts. Ferrol, A Coruna, nursery Y Ribadeo they were the destination ports of these Anglo-Saxon travellers.

The English Way was set, therefore, from the most common coastal towns. The itinerary departs from A Coruña (73 kilometres) either from Ferrollonger (112.5 kilometers)and in both cases joins in Haze, to make the last section of about 40 kilometers to Compostela. In this village belonging to the A Coruña municipality of messiah we will find the last public hostel before reaching our destination and… a vending machine. Little more. Around 1175 a hospital for pilgrims was built next to a chapel, of which no trace remains. In 1520 the King Charles V of Habsburg spent the night in this place. The breaking of king henry viii (1509-1547) with the Catholic Church marked the end of the English pilgrimage for centuries, today revitalized.


illustrious devotees

For many, this is the most attractive route due to the undeniable aesthetic value of the northern coast. In 2015, the Camino del Norte was recognized by the UNESCOwith him primitive pathWhat World Heritage. The Terras de Miño and Eo are other jewels of nature that the pilgrim will find along the route, both cataloged as Biosphere reserves. The Northern Way starts in Galicia in Ribadeo, Lugoand the route to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela consists of 189 kilometers.

It is related to great personalities in history. Among many others, the Northern Way was completed by the Italian saint Francis of Assisithe armenian bishop Martyr of Azerbaijan; Jacob Sobieski, father of King John III of Poland; and, at the end of the 18th century, we have the written testimony of the French Jean-Pierre Racq. Devotees from the entire upper peninsular strip have traveled the route from end to end. It should be remembered that many of the pilgrims arrived attracted by the relics of the sanctuary of San Salvador de Oviedo. It was a must stop with Santiago as the final destination.

tips for beginners

A series of considerations must be taken into account to make the Jacobean route a memory that lasts a lifetime and not a martyrdom. The most experienced pilgrims often say that the two key factors are weight and shoes. The paths are no longer what they used to be and are perfectly signposted and marked, but we must ensure a light trip that does not break our back in the first walks. 10 kilos at most.

As much as we have trained in the weeks before the game, the feet are going to suffer. We are not used to walking 25 kilometers every day with a beating sun in summer or fighting furious rains in autumn. If we choose wrong Mountain bootsIt will ruin our trip. So clear. You have to seek that are light and have not been previously worn. Chafing and blisters are enemies that we must avoid at all costs. For moments of rest, sandals or flip-flops will suffice.

The important thing is not to reach the goal, but to enjoy the way. pixabay

Obviously, you have to stretch before and after runs. And take it seriously. Knees, tendons and feet tend to have a hard time and we must strengthen our weak points. Just in case, take pain relievers, anti-inflammatories Y bandages. The Camino is full of anecdotes and good moments. At the same time, it is a slightly sacrificed experience that will require adequate physical and mental preparation. One is not going to suffer, but it is not a walk either. It’s something else. And it’s worth it.

The origin of the Camino de Santiago