Spain is a paradox. It is country that is at the same time both extremely complicated and simplistic. It is extremely complicated in that it is made up of quite a complex and political structure of regions and almost nation states and simplistic in the uncomplicated and straight forward way that the Spaniards themselves choose to live their daily lives.
Examples of the wide variety of historical influences that go to make up the Spain of today can be found everywhere you look.
As befits a country that historically has been profoundly religious there are numerous pilgrimage routes crossing the country and these are all wonderfully affluent pieces of history that are well worth exploring.
if we take a look at one of the pilgrimage routes and the one in particular that we want to take a look at is the one that’s in the northwest of Spain and is known as the way of St. James or the Camino de Santiago. Dating from the ninth century when it is alleged that the remains of St. James were buried in what is now known to be modern day Galicia in the ensuing centuries it has turned out to be one of the biggest pilgrimage sites in all of Christendom.
As is the way with a lot of religious and historic sites interest has been sporadic sometimes good sometimes not so good. It was probably during the 16th and 17th century that interest in this particular route was at its least popular. Allegedly and that has to be stressed here, that apparently one of the Popes of the day (could be one of many) is supposed to have claimed that prisoners would be able to serve part of a sentence for misdemeanours and serve penance if they were to take part on a pilgrimage along the way of St. James.
what possibly turned the fortunes of this particular pilgrimage route around was the fact that in the 20th century the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation after extensive lobbying finally recognized Santiago de Compostela as a World traditions site of some importance and the knock on benefit of this was increased visitor traffic and more pilgrims.
The whole concept of the Way of St. James and the experience of Santiago de Compostela has moved on from being a mere pilgrimage site to now being a major visitor phenomena. This does not mean that the religious aspect of the pilgrimage has diminished in seriousness rather the fact that tourism has now become more of an attraction.
The English route, the French route and the Spanish routes probably are the most common starting off points for the Journey along the Way of St James. That having been said to be honest the most popular of all originates from the north of France right down through northern Spain to Santiago.
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.
It is essential on a pilgrimage of the length of the Way of St. James that pilgrims and travellers don’t get lost on the way. A system of many yellow arrows is found at key points along the route to make sure that people don’t deviate from the route. Whether or not it is self interest but the system was accredited to Father Elias Valdinha who wanted to make sure that when pilgrims arrived to the end of the journey they were in reasonable shape.