camino de santiago

  • The first port of call for most pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela is the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago. After a visit to the Cathedral and the celebratory hugs with friends, a trip to the pilgrim office Santiago is in order.  It's here that pilgrims receive their official Compostela or certification that they have completed a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  These pilgrims then join the ranks of the millions who, for more than 1000 years, have  have been officially recognised for undertaking their journeys to Santiago.


    History of the Compostela

    Badges in the shape of scallop shells formed the first accreditation of pilgrims arriving in Santiago.  However, these were easily forged and were soon being sold at the entrances to the city.  To curb this trade, the Pope threatened to excommunicated the forgers.  The prelates of Compostela then developed and began issuing a more secure form of accreditation.  This consisted of a “cartas probatoria” or evidentiary letter.  These were being issued by the 13th century and were the direct forerunners of the modern Compostela.

    Though hugely popular during the middle ages, pilgrimage to Santiago began to decline from the 16th century onward.  However, the Camino experienced a revival in the late 20th century which forced the Cathedral to re-evaluate once again the security of Compostela.  This was undertaken to ensure that, in the fast-moving modern world, those receiving the Compostela  had indeed completed a pilgrimage.  The new rules regarding the Compostela defined what manner of transport and distances constitute a pilgrimage.


    How to Qualify for a Compostela from the pilgrim office Santiago 

    Pilgrim Certicate

    To qualify for a Compostela, a pilgrim must show proof of fulfilling the following criteria.
    * The pilgrimage must be undertaken for religious or spiritual reasons or in “an attitude of search”.


    * A pilgrim must walk or travel by horseback a minimum of 100 km or by bicycle a minimum of 200 km and finish at the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.


    * A pilgrim must collect “sellos" or stamps on a “Credencial del Peregrinos” which is issued by the Cathedral de Santiago or a body authorised by the Cathedral. These stamps should be preferably collected by organisations associated with the Way of St. James such as churches, cathedrals, convents, monasteries, or hostels.  However, they may be also collected from town halls, cafes, bars, etc. The stamps must be collected twice per day if the pilgrim is travelling only the last 100 km by foot or horseback or the last 200 km by bicycle.  If travelling for longer distances, one stamp per day is adequate.

    The Camino can be undertaken in stages of any length in order to earn a Compostela.  It is not uncommon for pilgrims to walk consecutive stages over many years in order to reach Santiago.  This is perfectly acceptable as long as the stages are completed in proper chronological and geographical order.  The pilgrim must also get a stamp with the date at completion point of each stage and again at the same point when they resume their pilgrimage.

    The Compostela is issued in Latin.  The recipient’s name is also written in Latin if a Latin form of their name exists.  The English translation of the Compostela is shown below.


    the Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Altar of St. James, to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognises before all who observe this document that:  .....{Name}.... has devotedly visited this most sacred temple with Christian sentiment (pletatis causa).

    In witness thereof I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church.

    Issued in Santiago de Compostela on ....{Day}.... of ....{Month}.... year of our Lord ....{Year}....

    Deputy Canon for Pilgrims


    Certificates of Distance

    For those qualifying for a Compostela, the Pilgrim Office Santiago will also issue a Certificate of Distance which details the starting place and date of a person's pilgrimage as well as the completion date and the route they travelled.  These documents cost €3 and can be obtained in conjunction with the Compostela which is free.

     

    Certificado

    For those not undertaking the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons, the Pilgrim Office Santiago will issue a Certificado.  The Certificado is a document which acknowledges completion of the Camino and has the same distance requirements as the Compostela.



    Where is the Pilgrim Office Santiago?

    The Pilgrim Office Santiago has recently moved to its new location at Rua Carretas, no. 33.  This is an approximately 3 minute walk from the Cathedral.  The telephone number for the office is +34 981 568 846. Click here to see map.

     

    Pilgrim PassportHow are Compostelas, Certificados, and Certificates of Distance Issued?

    When arriving at the Pilgrim's Office, an official will thoroughly check your credencial with its dates and stamps to determine that your pilgrimage was undertaken in accordance with the rules of the Cathedral.  You will be asked to fill out a form stating your name, where you are from, where you started your pilgrimage, and your reason for undertaking a pilgrimage.  When the official is happy with your paperwork, he or she will issue with your Compostela, Certificado, and/or Certificate of Distance.

    The numbers of all pilgrims arriving at the Pilgrim Office Santiago during the previous 24 hours will be read out during the Pilgrim's Mass at 12:00 and 19:30 in the Cathedral.  The priest will also give the nationalities and starting points for these pilgrims. Here is a list of mass times along the final 100kms.

     

    How to Avoid a Long Waits

    Over 250,000 pilgrims arrive in Santiago each year seeking certificates or Compostelas.  This makes the Pilgrim Office Santiago is a very busy place, especially during peak seasons.

    The Pilgrim’s Office is open every day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m at Easter and from the 1st of April until to the 31st of October.   From the 1st of November until the 31st of March (except over Easter) the office is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  On these days your Compostela can be received from the Cathedral.

    The busiest times of the year in the office are July and August.  Peak times during the day are generally from 11 to 2.  The office is quieter in the early morning and evening and during off-peak seasons.

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