The quite long and seemingly complicated process that modern day Spain has had to go through to get to where it is today has left it with a very affluent and varied heritage .
As you travel around the country you can see glimpses of a past affluent in the heritage of former conquerors be they the Moors, medieval Spaniards themselves or parts of the country that have Jewish and other international flavours.
There are numerous pilgrimage routes to be found throughout Spain as would be fit a country that has had such an influence brought upon it by organized faith .
The way of St. James otherwise known as the Camino de Santiago is possibly the most famous of all of these routes. Interest in the Way of St. James arose in the ninth century when the remains of St. James were allegedly discovered. As a result in the centuriess ensuing, pilgrims from around the world have flocked to this route to have the chance to walk along the route to pay tribute to the apostle St. James.
Interest in this particular route has been extremely popular over the years but also there have been times when it has not been so popular. Probably the one time in history that this route was least popular was during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was on the instructions of one of the Popes of the day that apparently prisoners were told that they could seek penance for former misdemeanours by walking the Way of St James.
From a position of declining and waning interest in the way of St. James in the late 20th century quite a significant revival has occurred in interest for this pilgrimage route and part of the reason for this revival may well be attributable to the fact that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation recognized Santiago de Compostela as a world heritage site and this has further added to the attraction of the way of St. James and Santiago as one of the world’s largest pilgrimages.
The combination of Santiago de Compostela and the Way of St. James has become so successful and quite frankly so massive that an entire tourism sub industry has grown up alongside it.
there are a number of starting off points for the Camino or Way of St. James, the most common of which are probably the English, the French or Spanish routes. Of these three the most frequented as far as pilgrims and travellers are concerned is probably the French and there are a number of routes which originate throughout France but all come to converge upon the town of Roncesvalles.
Nowadays unless you happen to be a completely devout, fervent and ardent pilgrim it is unlikely that you would travel the entire 760 common to route from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela. Those who do manage the entire route claim that the hardship and suffering that they go through stands him in good stead for being able to appreciate the whole experience once they get to Santiago.
An informal system of yellow arrows has grown up over the years and these are placed strategically at key points throughout the entire journey to make sure the pilgrims and travellers don’t get lost. Whether or not this is a reflection upon the state and condition that pilgrims were arriving at Santiago at the end of the journey but this system of yellow markers was credited to Father Elias Valdinha who wanted to make sure that pilgrims arrived at the end of the journey in reasonable condition.
A considerate man.