What is a Pilgrim Passport and How to Get Your Compostela? Posted -26 Aug 2016
The Compostela or Compostelana is a certificate of accomplishment in Latin that the Santiago Cathedral Chapter gives to pilgrims for completing their Camino. Camino, like many words when translated from Spanish has a number of meanings in English. The main meaning is track, path or road. It also can mean a literal way, route or journey. The figurative meaning is path or course.
El Camino, Camino de Santiago and The Way all refer to a specific path that is the Way to the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela. This pilgrimage walk has been walked for centuries by millions of pilgrims and over this time various routes to Santiago have developed.
To earn the Compostela, one needs to walk the last 100km of Camino de Santiago (cyclists must cycle at least the last 200 km to Santiago).
For walkers, it is most practical to start in the small city of Sarria, as it has good bus and rail connections. Pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela who have walked the required distance (as indicated on their credential), are eligible for the Compostela from the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago. Note that within Galicia two stamps per day are necessary. In Santiago de Compostela, the Compostela is awarded in the Oficina do Peregrino which is now located at 33 Rua das Carretas (since 2016). The office is located about 3 minutes walk from the cathedral in Santiago’s old city quarter.
In medieval Catholicism, the Compostela counted as an act of indulgence. Pilgrims were entitled to a partial indulgence, or if the Compostela was obtained in a Holy Year, a plenary indulgence.
The Credential or pilgrim passport is examined carefully for stamps and dates. If a key stamp is missing, or if the pilgrim does not claim a religious purpose for their pilgrimage, the Compostela may be refused. The Pilgrim Office of Santiago awards more than 100,000 Compostelas per year to pilgrims from over 100 countries.
Full Text of the Certificate (In Latin):
"CAPITULUM hujus Almae Apostolicae et Metropolitanae Ecclesiae Compostellanae sigilli Altaris Beati Jacobi Apostoli custos, ut omnibus Fidelibus et Perigrinis ex toto terrarum Orbe, devotionis affectu vel voti cosa, ad limina Apostoli Nostri Hispaniarum Patroni ac Tutelaris SANCTI JACOBI convenientibus, authenticas visitationis litteras expediat, omnibus et singulis praesentes inspecturis, notum facit : (Latin version of name of recipient) Hoc sacratissimum Templum pietatis causa devote visitasse. In quorum fidem praesentes litteras, sigillo ejusdem Sanctae Ecclesiae munitas, ei confero. Datum Compostellae die (day) mensis (month) anno Dni (year) Canonicus Deputatus pro Peregrinis."
Full Text of the Certificate (English Translation):
"The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic Metropolitan Cathedral of St. James, custodian of the seal of St. James' Altar, to all faithful and pilgrims who come from everywhere over the world as an act of devotion, under vow or promise to the Apostle's Tomb, our Patron and Protector of Spain, witnesses in the sight of all who read this document, that: Mr. _______________ has visited devoutly this Sacred Church in a religious sense (pietatis causa).
Witness whereof I hand this document over to him, authenticated by the seal of this Sacred Church.
Given in St. James de Compostela on the (day)____(month)_____A.D______.
On foot one must have covered about 100 km; on horseback, by bicycle, or by sea one must cover at least 200 km. In all cases, the pilgrim must demonstrate his or her journey with the stamps of the town councils or local parishes along the route, if they have arrived in Santiago by land; or in the maritime hostels to be found at different points along the Galician coast.
There are two conditions for obtaining the maritime Compostela: cover at least forty nautical miles by sailing or motor-boat, from the port of departure to Pontecesures port in the Ría of Arousa-Ulla, justifying it with the stamped credentials; and secondly, make the journey on foot from Pontecesures to the Cathedral of Santiago.
The age of this document goes back to the 14th century. The one granted to the French pilgrim Yves Le Breton, on the 1st May 1321, is still kept in the “Pas de Calais Archives.” Also, in “Zoendic bonc de Gantes”, the Flemish pilgrim Guillermo van de Putte was granted La Compostela on the 13th September 1354; and the Arxiu Museum in Barcelona keeps the one given to Bartolomeu Montels de Cordedeu, dated 24th August 1535. It was typically only afforded by the aristocrats because they had the money to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago.
Pilgrim's Welcoming Card
In those cases where the conditions for obtaining La Compostela are not fulfilled, the Cathedral Chapter usually grants this Welcoming Card as a gesture of warmth and hospitality.
Follow the Camino organises walking and cycling holidays in Europe for adventure seekers from all over the world. Since 2006, we’ve offered a great range of manageable walks and cycles for all age groups, in particular on the famous Camino de Santiago. We were the first ever tour operator to operate the Camino de Santiago by creating manageable sections along the main routes to Santiago de Compostela. We are often copied but never equalled!
To find out which route might be best for you, contact our Camino Planners through the form on the top-right-hand side of the page to get your free customised Camino itinerary.