What is the Camino de Santiago? posted: 2016-10-10 08:30:00
Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James is an ancient pilgrimage with it's roots in the 9th century, when a shepherd named Pelayo found remains of a body at a place in a field that he was led to by the stars of the milky way. The local bishop declared the remains those of The Apostole St. James The Great and with this the Camino de Santiago was born.
The bishop ordered a church to be built on the site to house the remains of St. James or Sant Iago and as word spread pilgrims started walking from all across Europe and even further afield to visit the sacred burial site of one of Jesus's apostles. Over the years that small church grew in to the epic Catedral de Santiago de Compostela that it is today.
The Camino de Santiago or Way of Saint James was originally travelled by King Alphonse II in the 9th century. He travelled there to confirm that the remains discovered were those of the Apostle Saint James. He left from Oviedo and travelled to Santiago de Compostela along the route that is now known as the Camino Primitivo or the Original Way. After King Alphonse II's trip, many pilgrims began walking the Camino to the resting place of Saint James, taking different routes from their homes to reach Santiago de Compostela.
Camino de Santiago is not just one route. As you can imagine thousands of people walking from their homes throughout the middle ages paved many roads all across Europe, however they all come together like branches of a tree and all arrive in what has now become a city called, Santiago de Compostela. All except for the Finisterre Way which starts in Santiago and goes out to the 'end of the world' Cape Finisterre.
The most popular routes today along Camino de Santiago today are the:
- 1. Camino Frances
- 2. Camino del Norte
- 3. Camino Portugues
- 4. Le Puy Route
- 5. Finisterre
- 6. Via de la Plata
- 7. Camino Primitivo
- 8. Camino Ingles
The words Camino de Santiago literally mean the way of St. James when translated from Spanish to English.
Nowadays the Way is walked by thousands of pilgrims every year and is growing in popularity. Each pilgrim usually walks between 15-35kms per day, depending on their speed and level of fitness. Walking though isn't the only way to get to Santiago. Many people also cycle along the various routes to Santiago and the advantage of cycling is that you can cover alot more ground in a lot less time. King Alphonse II traveled on horseback to visit the remains of Saint James and many pilgirms today also do this journey on horseback. Traveling by horse like cycling allows you to cover alot more ground and also gives you an elevated perspective from which to view the Camino.
On the Camino there are many amenities dotted along the Way so pilgrims have plenty of facilities to offer home comforts as well as places to stop for coffee, chats and a bite to eat. Some of the routes are more popular than others so they may have more places to stop off to eat or stay over night. The French Way for example is so popular that you'll never really walk more than 3kms before seeing a restaurant, coffee shop or hotel to stop for a rest. Other routes you may have to walk further before your next stop.
The Camino de Santiago is walked each year by people of all ages and fitness levels so you don't have to be an expert trekker in order to take such a holiday. The terrain is very manageable and some even walk it in regular sports shoes. Some days are more hilly thatn others yet you will never be climbing up mountains so a decent 20km day is very doable for a person of average fitness.
Most pilgrims choose to walk the famous last 100kms in to Santiago. Anyone who completes the last 100kms of the Camino de Santiago is entitled to get their pilgrim certificate or Compostela as proof and souvenir of your experience along the famous Camino de Santiago. In order to get the Compostela you simply need to each day get a stamp in your pilgrim passport. These stamps can be gotten at hotels, restaurants, cafes and churches along the route. Some are very pretty and they make a beautiful record of where you stopped on your walk.
Although the Camino de Santiago has been traditionally a religious pilgrimage there are many people who choose it as a walking holiday for many other reasons. Some walk the Way for fitness or as a goal to achieve along their journey to better physical health. Others walk not only for the physical benefits but for the mental benefits of unlpluging from their daily lives. Allowing time simply for peace or self-development, or for some it is a chance to clear their head or to feel a connection with nature. Although walking for your own personal betterment is why many do the pilgirmage others take a more philanthropic approach and use it as an opportunity to fund-raise for charity groups. The one thing we will promise you is that whatever your reason, everyone gains and grows from walking the Camino de Santiago.
Why not check out our video clip of the Camino - Easily Explained here
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