Camino de Santiago Spain

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The Camino de Santiago (Santiago Way) is Spain's most famous walking route and is arguably the best known walk in the entire world. It has attracted pilgrims for more than a thousand years and has been designated by the Council of Europe as Europe's leading cultural itinerary. Some do it on bicycles, some on horseback - but purists will want to follow in the footsteps of the pilgrims who have been making the journey on foot since the 9th century.

Hollywood movie stars including Anthony Quinn and Shirley Maclaine have done it. Kings and queens including Felipe II (husband of Mary Tudor) have done it. Penniless tramps have done it and so have legendary heroes like Rodrigo Diaz El Vivar (better known as El Cid).

The Camino de Santiago - the road to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia - is one of the most important pilgrimages in the Christian world as it leads to the resting place of Saint James (Santiago in Spanish). He was one of Jesus' 12 original apostles, a fisherman from Galilee who came to this north east corner of Spain to spread the Christian faith. When the apostle returned to Palestine in 44 AD, he was murdered by the Romans and his body was brought back to Spain by his disciples for a secret burial in a forest. The martyr's remains lay undiscovered for 800 years until a hermit called Pelayo stumbled across the tomb after seeing a bright star above it. A magnificent cathedral was built on the site and from that day forward pilgrims from all over the world have been making the journey to the saint's shrine (his relics are kept within a silver casket along with the remains of the two disciples who smuggled his body out of Palestine). In the 12th century Pope Calixto II declared that any pilgrims who visited the shrine in a Holy Year - when the saint's day, July 25th, falls on a Sunday - would be cleansed of their sins. That's why to this day Holy Years are still the most popular time to walk the Santiago Way (and accommodation both along the route and in the city itself is at a premium).


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There are many different routes to Santiago de Compostela but to gain the much coveted "pilgrims' passport" you must journey at least 100 kilometres along the Santiago Way, undertake the pilgrimage for spiritual or religious reasons and gather stamps and signatures from the various accredited hospices, refuges, churches and village representatives along the way. For more details on gaining your official pilgrim's credentials, accommodation suggestions and route maps visit this web site which is chockfull of practical information:

www.caminosantiago.com

One of the most popular routes is the so-called "French route" - a 730-kilometre journey entering Spain via Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees before journeying to Galicia in the north west corner of Spain via Aragon, Navarra, La Rioja and Castile and Leon. But there are many other designated routes including the 350-kilometre walk from Leon and a challenging trek from Le Puy in France which will take you about two months.

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