A Travelogue

Friday, December 07, 2007

Camino de Santiago, (the Way of St James)

There are three great pilgrimages in Europe ending in Jerusalem, Rome and the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain. Since the tenth century, pilgrims have made their way to Santiago via a network of trails known as the Camino de Santiago to revere the bones of the apostle St James, which are entombed in a silver casket in the cathedral.

The number of pilgrims peaked in the 11th and 12th centuries when an astonishing half a million people per year are thought to have made the pilgrimage. There was a steady decline in the ensuing centuries and, by the middle of the 20th century, only a few hardy souls made the trip. Since then there has been a renaissance and currently more than 70,000 Compostela, the certificate recognizing the completion of the Camino, are issued annually by the authorities in Santiago. In holy years, a year when St. James day (July 25) falls on a Sunday, this number more than doubles. The last holy year was in 2004 when more than 180,000 pilgrims reached Santiago.

There are a number of standard routes on the Camino. Some pilgrims walk the Via de la Plata from Seville in southern Spain (~1000 km), some walk the Camino Portugueses from Porto (~550 km) but the vast majority of pilgrims join the Camino France at some point between France and Santiago.

Photo 676: From a cairn at O Cebreiro.

This is the story of my Camino.

It started in St Jean-Pied-de-Port, on the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains, on August 25, 2007 and ended 26 days and 776 km later in Santiago. Like many pilgrims, I then continued on for a further three days and 90 km to Finisterre, The End of the World, on the Atlantic coast.

“The Camino is really easy apart from walking and carrying your backpack”

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