Go to Galicia – Follow the Way of St James

Spain is a country that as has been described on a great many occasions is actually more than just the sum of its constituent parts.As a country that still has great inter regional “differences of opinion” – euphemism here for cultural differences and in some cases acts of terrorism, Spain still has a tremendous amount to offer.

As you travel around the country you see glimpses over past rich 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 religious sites and pilgrimage routes within Spain as befits a country that is how such a profoundly religious background.

If we take one of these pilgrimage routes, the Camino de Santiago, the way of St. James.This first became a popular route for pilgrims in the ninth century when apparently the sepulchre of St James was discovered and as a result in the century’s 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.

El Camino de Santiago has out a chequered past with regards to popularity indeed at some points that has been barely interest at all. Folklore says that during this time prisoners used to walk along the route is the attempt to try and perform penance. It is arguable that political unrest in the 16th century, Black plague, Protestant Reformation may have had something to do this.

Interest in this particular pilgrimage route was revised in the 20th century when UNESCO made Santiago de Compostela a world heritage site – a site that now has since become the setting for one of the world’s biggest pilgrimages.

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.

The route is more than just one route and the three most popular would be the Camino Frances, the Camino del Norte and the Camino Ingles. 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!

A considerate man.