Thursday, June 19, 2014

About the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James or Jakobsweg, is one of the most popular religious pilgrimages of Western European Catholics since the Middle Ages.  It has, of late, been rediscovered, and now, thousands of people from around the world come to walk its paths for different reasons, not always religious or spiritual.  In 2013 alone, there were 215,880 pilgrims who received the Compostela certificate in Santiago, meaning that they had completed at least the last 100 kms of the pilgrimage if arriving on foot, or at least 200 kms if arriving on a bike.  Other statistics can be found here.

El Camino is actually a set of different hiking routes that start in Spain, France or Portugal but which all ultimately converge and end in the Shrine of Saint James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where the remains of Saint James is said to be located.

About Saint James

Saint James is the patron saint of Spain.  He was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, and is said to be the first one to be martyred.  He is the brother of Saint John the Apostle and son of Zebedee and Salome.  Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to James while he was preaching the Gospel along the Ebro River in Spain.  Soon after that, Saint James went back to Jerusalem, where he was said to have been beheaded in 44 AD by King Herod.  One story says that after Saint James' martyrdom, his disciples brought his body by sea to Iberia, landing at Padrón on the Galician coast, then later taking his relics to Santiago de Compostela for burial.  Another story says that after Saint James' death, his body was carried by angels and  taken into a boat, which sailed crewless, and ending up in Iria Flavia in Iberia.  Here, a rock was said to have encircled his remains, after which they were then taken to Compostela.  Another legend says that Saint James appeared miraculously to lead the Christian army to victory in a battle against Muslims in 834 AD.  This was said to have earned him the name of Matamoros or "Moor-slayer".   The traditional battlecry of Spanish armies is Santiago y cierra España, which translates to "Saint James and strike for Spain."

The emblem of Saint James is the scallop shell, thus you see pilgrims generally wearing a shell on their hats, clothes or belongings.


UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Route of Santiago de Compostela was declared as the first European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1987 and is listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites due to its major role in promoting cultural exchanges within Europe during the Middle Ages.  Then and until now, it has borne witness to the power of the Christian faith.  In addition, there are about 1,800 buildings of cultural and historic interest along the route.

More on the Camino de Santiago

A great forum for finding out lots of things about the Camino de Santiago, getting updated information and asking fellow pilgrims for advice is the Camino de Santiago Forum and corresponding main site Camino de Santiago Website

Wiki References:  Way of St. James

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