The Camino de Santiago – an Experience not to be missed

Modern Spain is very much an amalgam of the unification of a whole series of autonomous regions whose legacy is quite wealthy and varied.

The legacy left behind by previous invaders and conquerors such as the Moors, medieval Spaniards themselves or Jewish and other international communities is wealthy and varied.

Organized religion has played such a dominant part in the history and culture of Spain down through the centuries and as a result there are numerous pilgrimage routes to be found throughout the country.

Let us take a look at possibly the most famous of all of these pilgrimage routes, 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. The alleged last resting place of St. James the Apostle has been such an attraction that in the centuries following its discovery pilgrims from around the world have walked this particular pilgrimage route.

As is the way with a lot of religious and remarkable sites interest has been sporadic sometimes good sometimes not so good. During the 16th and 17th centuries interest in this remarkable route waned. It has been said that apparently in the past prisoners used to walk along the route as an attempt to try and do some penance in getting atonement for former misdemeanours.

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. It has to be said that the most popular pilgrimage routes originate in France, leading from the north of France right down to Spain.

The journey to Santiago from Roncesvalles is some 760 km and so this particular journey is probably only for the very serious and ardent pilgrims. As they pass through remarkable 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.

To ensure all of pilgrims who are on the route don’t stray from the straight and narrow of the Way of St James an informal system all markers and signposts at strategic points along the way has been developed. These primary consist of yellow arrows placed strategically at various points and are widely credited to be the brainchild of Father Elias Valdinha. Of course his motive may well have been to ensure that pilgrims when they arrived at Santiago arrived in the best possible condition. No matter what, it is a good system and it works.

A considerate man.