The way of St. James is a Christian pilgrimage route to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Spain). The pilgrims come not only from Spain and other European countries, but also from different parts of the world . During the Middle Ages the way was highly travelled. Today tens of thousands of travellers or Christian pilgrims make their way to Santiago. The Way of St. James has been named one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. In Santiago de Compostela there is a Catholic Cathedral where the remains of the apostle St. James are venerated.
There are a lot of ways that the pilgrims take to go to Santiago de Compostela but one of them, the "French way", is considered the main one. Regarding the means of transport pilgrims use, we could say that most of them go on foot, secondly by bicycle and thirdly on horseback.
At the different stops in the villages of The Way of St. James you can find two types of pilgrim's hostels:
- PUBLIC: There is only one public hostel in each village. In them, the pilgrims that travel on foot and alone or in small groups are given precedence over big organized groups.
- PRIVATE: They are run by religious or non religious associations, usually providing good service at reasonable prices.
The Pilgrim Credential is a small paper notepad that you can obtain in some hostels or churches. The pilgrims must have this paper notepad stamped at the different stops along the way in order for them to earn the right to use the public hostels. This notepad is usually free but some pilgrims donate a small amount of money when they get it. However, you can use a piece of paper, which is also valid, instead of the notepad if you do not have one.
The Compostelana is a certificate given to the pilgrims by the religious authorities when
they finish the journey. In order to get it you need to have travelled at least 100 km on foot or 200km by bicycle or on a horse. The pilgrims should show the Pilgrims Credential to prove that they have really travelled those kilometres.
In the Middle Ages the “Compostelana” was a way to get an indulgence. It allowed pilgrims to reduce by half the time the soul should be in purgatory. But if it is obtained in a holy year, the pilgrim can get a plenary indulgence. It is a tradition to hug the statue of St. James present in Santiago cathedral.
Traditionally, after arriving at the city of Santiago de Compostela, some pilgrims keep walking towards Fisterra, This name comes from Latin “finis terrae” that means the end of the world. The believers do there a soul purification ceremony by having a bath on Langosteira Beach, burning their clothes and watching the sunset.