What is a pilgrim passport and how to get your Compostela?

What is a pilgrim passport and how to get your Compostela? image

The Compostela or Compostelana is a certificate of accomplishment in Latin which Santiago Cathedral Chapter gives to pilgrims for completing the Way. 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 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.

The full text of the certificate is in Latin and reads:

" 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"

On foot (having covered about 100 km), on horseback, by bicycie (at least 200 km) or by sea. 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 salling 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 Septem ber, 1354; and the Arxiu Museum in Barcelona keeps the one given to Bartolomeu Montels de Cordedeu, dated 24th August, 1535.

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.

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