Camino de Santiago, The Way of St James

We decided to do some hiking on the Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain, and learned some interesting things about it in the process.

Map Of Our Walk

Map Of Our Walk

  • It’s ancient! Pilgrims have been making the trek from various parts of Europe to Santiago de Compostela for over 1200 years.
  • It’s famous – lot´s of movies have been made
    Statue of a pilgrim in the alter of the cathedral in Zaragonza. A statue of the Pope was on the opposite side.

    Statue of a pilgrim in the altar of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.  A statue of the Pope was on the opposite side.

    about it, including one with Martin Sheen and Emilio Esteves called The Way.

  • There is still a tradition in Flanders, Belgium, of pardoning and releasing one prisoner every year under the condition that the prisoner walks to Santiago wearing a heavy backpack, accompanied by a guard. Can you imagine that?
  • During the war of American Independence, John Adams was ordered by Congress to go to Paris to obtain funds for the cause. His ship started leaking and he disembarked with his two sons in Finisterre (NW Spain) in1779. From there he proceeded to follow the Way of St. James in the reverse direction of the pilgrims’ route, in order to get to Paris overland.
  • Pilgrimages were a suitable act of penance for those who were guilty of certain crimes.

Why do people walk hundreds of miles to Santiago de Compostela?

Saint James. He is the patron saint of Spain. There are lots of stories about him. In this statue he is slaying an Arab, helping the Christians regain control of Spain.

Saint James. He is the patron saint of Spain. There are lots of stories about him. In this statue he is slaying an Arab, helping the Christians regain control of Spain.

The short answer is that we don’t understand why, but here is the story. The Apostle St. James, who is now the patron saint of Spain, got into some trouble in the Holy Land and was beheaded in 44 AD. He had several disciples, and they decided to take his body with them in a boat, in order to get it out of the Holy Land. Somehow they made the trip through the Mediterranean sea, through the straights of Gibraltar, north past what is now Portugal, and landed in the NW corner of Spain, and somehow, the body was miraculously entombed. Flash forward about 800 years and legend says that a hermit found the body near or in Santiago and then it was relocated its “current” location in Santiago de Compostela.

Saint Jame´s Cript, in the Cathedral Santiage de Compostela

Saint James´ crypt, in the Cathedral or Santiago de Compostela

No one has proven that the tomb actually contains the body of St. James. While a very mysterious story, which defies credibility, we find it even more mysterious that thousands of people over thousands of years have made this pilgrimage! Perhaps they are seeking salvation, or forgiveness, or want to do it to show respect and thanks for something like a miracle in their lives. Or maybe it’s just a great hike!

The movie, The Way, does show how 4 modern people experience hiking the Camino de Santiago.

It is a great hike, and the hiking is comparatively easy.

Bronze scallop shell, embeded in a roadway, to show the way

Bronze scallop shell, embedded in a roadway, to show the way

As compared to other major hikes such as the Appalachian trail, the Camino requires almost no advanced planning, special equipment, carrying a heavy backpack, navigation skills, outdoor skills, climbing significant mountains or sleeping in a tent.

Navigation involves looking for yellow arrows painted on fences, gates, rocks, signposts, the road etc., and that’s all you need to do! You can count on those yellow arrows! These yellow arrows are often combined with a scallop logo. The scallop is the icon most identified with the Camino. Supposedly it

Yellow arrow marks Camino de Santiago

Painted yellow arrows are the most common marks showing the way of Camino de Santiago

symbolizes the convergence of all the trails in Santiago de Compostela – as the scallop shell has many lines that converge into the base of the shell. Also, a scallop shell may be used as a spoon/bowl for eating, and scallops are common near the destination – Santiago de Compostela.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Camino de Santiago, The Way of St James

  1. avalenti2014

    I think what you guys are doing is awesome. Thank you for allowing us to follow your travels. The camino de Santiago is something I have been interested in for some time. Hope you don’t mind if I ask you a few questions. How did you decide where you would begin and end your walk? How many miles (km) did you walk per day on average? Did you arrange all of the hotels in advance or play it by ear?
    Thanks,
    Anna

    Reply
    1. danmarshall22 Post author

      Hi Anna,
      Thanks for your interest and your positive comments. To be honest, sometimes we get distracted by all the incredible things to experience, and find it hard to find time to update the blog, but comments like yours keep us going.
      To answer your questions…
      How did you decide where you would begin and end your walk?
      We found a commercial company that organizes Camino walks through a google search. Their ad included the itinerary and the hotels they stay in. We decided that we could save lots of money by just making reservations at the hotels ourselves. In addition, when we got Hondarribia we went to a tourist information center that focuses on the Camino´s Northern Route. They gentleman there gave us a very useful book. You might also find this link useful. http://www.santiagoturismo.com/camino-de-santiago

      How many miles (km) did you walk per day on average?
      We did 7-10 miles a day. It is kind of nice to have a pace which permits stopping to body surf, get an extra cup of coffee, or complete a conversation when we´re lucky enough to get engaged in one.

      Did you arrange all of the hotels in advance or play it by ear? We arranged them in advance, which has pros and cons as you can imagine. It is nice to have a cell phone with a Spanish SIM chip in it, so you can call hotels from anywhere.

      Anna your blog has some interesting and wide ranging things in it, from black and white photography to a book review to overuse of medicines. Interesting stuff!

      Gratci (We´re currently in Italy)

      Dan and Char

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s