Thursday, August 16, 2012


Among the most important pilgrimages worldwide and along the history, the Way to Saint James runs through continents bringing pilgrims from all over the world to the site were Saint James Apostle lies buried.

Being almost the only possibility for pilgrimages in the times of the Crusaders in Jerusalem, and wars against the Papacy in Italy, Saint James of Compostela became a secure Pilgrimage were Catholics could cross the Door of the Forgiveness to be free from their mortal sins. Starting in the 9 century, but 11th century, the Way became central in the development of routes, commerce and religious artistic styles in Europe.
As Goethe said: “Europe was born from Pilgrimage”.

From Holy Land to England, from North Africa to Russia, literally millions of Catholics have used their feet, bicycle or horse to get the blessings and honor of entering the Cathedral of Saint James.

Numbers show off: more than 270,000 pilgrims in the year 2010, a “Xacobeo” Holy year in Santiago stated by John Paul II,  and 179 thousands in 2011, from which more than 80% walk on their feet to arrive to the Apostle Cathedral. The distance walked daily averages 23 km/day (15 miles), and it reaches 40 km if on bicycle (25 miles/day).

John Paul II in His Pilgrimage in the Way of Saint James, wearing the pilgrimage symbols
Nevertheless the arrival to Santiago de Compostela, as traditionally said, is not the Way. The Way is a unique transforming experience that happens as pilgrims walk, share, breath, pray and make their own Way to Saint James. The importance of “making the Way” is above the end of it, as is reflected in the saying “Buen camino” (“good Way”) that can still be heard along its main stops in France and mainly in Spain.
Benedict XV in His Pilgrimage, at Santiago de Compostela.
There is many paths to Saint James Cathedral, but the most important one is the Royal Way of Saint James, running through the cities of Palencia, Burgos and Leon, and then already into the Galicia territory, the region in which the city of Santiago is the capital city.

The original and oldest one is of course the North Way, which starts in the city of Oviedo (due to its religious importance) and finishes in Santiago. This first Way was enlarged to the border with France, following parallel to the coast line: Vasque Country and Cantabria are part of it. This way was rerouted later to the Royal of French one to allow more pilgrims, as this North Way was very hard and tricky to walk in the middle ages.
Saint James as Pilgrim

The support of the Pilgrims was crucial for the spanish Christians, who were fighting against the Muslims sovereigns in the so-called Reconquest wars in Spain for 800 years. Saint James the Apostle, who was at those time considered to be leading the struggle of the Spaniards as “Santiago Matamoros” (Saint James the Moors killer) was a call for the pilgrimages to join the christian troops. Of course Saint James was also known and depicted as a pilgrim, as well as Apostle.

To know more:

Pilgrim Associations in United States of America


Mapa de los caminos de Santiago en Europa
Santiago Peregrino

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