Camino de Santiago – A Modern Day Pilgrimage

There are very few countries that offer the variety of attractions and culture that Spain has to offer. For a Country made up out of 12 different regions you get as you would expect a wide variety of cultures.

A country that has had such a chequered past in its history from international invasions from northern Africa to internal power struggles within the regions has benefited from such a rich legacy.

As you can imagine with a country that has had such a strongly and profoundly religious background there are numerous pilgrimage sites and routes crossing the country and the ease on now well worth exploring in as tourism destinations in their own right.

If we take one of these pilgrimage routes, the Camino de Santiago, the way of St. James. From origins within the ninth century way legend holds that St. James’s remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now known as Santiago De Compostela.

Depending upon who you believe the Way of St James has not always been so popular and apparently interest in this route declined during the 16th and 17th centuries. Folklore says that during this time prisoners used to walk along the route is the attempt to try and perform penance. Whether that has something to do with the lack of interest in the route is open to question actually might be more of an “old wives tale”

The route was declared the first European cultural route by the Council of Europe in October 1987 and in 1993 was named one off UNESCO’s World heritage sites.

In addition to people undertaking the religious pilgrimage of which there are a great many or so as many if not all who travel along the route to appreciate the route for nonreligious reasons.

There are in fact several routes of which the English route, numerous Spanish routes and the French route of the most popular. It has to be said that the most popular pilgrimage routes originate in France, leading from the north or France right down to Spain. All of the French routes come together and meet in the town of Roncesvalles in Navarre.

To be totally honest nowadays all but the most ardent and fervent pilgrims start out along the Way of St James from Roncesvalles and proceed along the 760 kilometre route to Santiago de Compostela. As they pass through historic towns and villages along the route such as Navarre, Burgos and Logrono, many pilgrims claim that having gone through this experience en route they feel suitably spiritually prepared for when they arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

The French route is the more popular of the three routes.

A fairly functional but recognizable system of yellow arrows is used to ensure that all war is and pilgrims along the way to not get confused and deviate from the actual route itself. It is said that these were by and large painted in the 1970’S by Father Elias Valdinha who as well as wanting to improve the way also wanted to avoid more confusion that was necessary and also to ensure that all pilgrims arrived at their destination in good order as well as humour!

An intelligent and far seeing man.