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History of Camino de Santiago

By July 31, 2018 No Comments
History of Camino de Santiago

The emblem of St James with a crowd of people on the main square

Every year, tens of thousands of people embark on a journey to Santiago de Compostila.   Originating as a Christian pilgrimage in the middle ages the Camino de Santiago has expanded to be an experience for people from all walks of  life with different intentions.  Throughout Europe the Camino is seen as a container for reflection, looking inwardly and generally seeking clarity and grounding in ones life.  

The origins of the Camino

The original path was based on the route traveled by St James after Jesus was killed.  He supposedly headed overland from Jerusalem as far west as he could.   When he ran out of land he remained in the area and spread the good word.  For hundreds of years pilgrims traveled through the same areas to ultimately arrive at the cathedral in Santiago (Santiago translates to “Saint James”).

In the 1980s, the Camino that we know now was created by Father Elias Valiña, the priest of the Galician village of O Cebreiro. He marked his journey with a symbol depicting a yellow scallop shell on a blue background for pilgrims to find their way more easily.

The Popular Ways

Milestone used for pilgrims to walk in the correct direction to Santiago de Compostela

Although there are many different routes you can follow, the most popular of them all is the Camino Frances. This route is followed by the most number of pilgrims and gets especially crowded in the summer.  It is a 780-kilometer (about 500 miles) walk from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago.

The second most popular route is the Portuguese way. This route starts in Lisbon, although some people will begin in Porto and then travel to Santiago. If you begin in Lisbon, you will travel a total of about 616 kilometers, but if you start in Porto, you will only be traveling 240 kilometers (150 miles).

Other popular ways include Camino Aragones, Camino Madrid, Camino de Finisterre & Muxia, and many others.  While there are different ways, their are also different modes.  While most walk, biking and even horseback are also options.

There is no one starting point for the Camino.  The journey itself is what provides meaning.

Pilgrimage of Purpose

People from all corners of the globe are drawn to the Camino for different reasons.  Being on a pilgrimage allows you to find some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Not only is it a daring adventure, but it gives you an opportunity to take a step back, let go of all troubles, and rediscover a sense of calm within you.  

A journey towards something new

The Camino de Santiago is a lovely container to establish a connection with parts of us that is not at the forefront in ordinary life.  The act of travelling itself can provide a renewed perspective in life.  The Camino is widely recognized as an invitation to that type of experience.

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