El Camino de Santiago History
The Way of St. James or St. James' Way (Spanish name: El Camino de Santiago), is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where legend has it that the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great, are buried.
The Way of St James pilgrimage has existed for over a thousand years. It was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times. It was considered one of three pilgrimages on which a plenary indulgence could be earned (the others are the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem).
Legend has is that St. James' remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. There are some, however, who claim that the remains at Santiago belong to Priscillian, the fourth-century Galician leader of an ascetic Christian sect, Priscillianism, who was one of the first Christian heretics to be executed.
There is no single route on the Way of St. James. In fact, there are a number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. However, some of these routes are perhaps better known than others. Santiago is considered to be an important pilgrimage destination because of its association with James the Great. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled, but the Black Plague, the Protestant Reformation and political unrest in 16th-century Europe resulted in a usage decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims arrived in Santiago annually. However, since then, the route has attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from around the globe. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987; it was also named one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 1993.