‘El Camino de Santiago’



The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

The Way of St. James was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, together with Rome and Jerusalem, and a pilgrimage route on which a plenary indulgence could be earned.

In Catholic theology, an indulgence technically is a remission of the temporal punishment inflicted by the Church for a previously forgiven sin.

The pilgrimage to Santiago has never ceased from the time of the discovery of St. James’s remains, though there have been years of fewer pilgrims, particularly during European wars.

Santiago de Compostela is the destination for all the Camino routes; you can walk, cycle, or even ride these walking paths. Most pilgrims walk and plan and organize everything themselves. These routes are also fairly flat.

Throughout the journey, pilgrims often stay in hostels for around $5 a night. They also have to be fairly motivated to walk the Camino de Santiago from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain – as it is 800km.  Usually 800km with your rucksack on your back with everything you need for a month.  Sleeping in hostels with strangers, communal showers, and no privacy.

To many this does not sound like a holiday or a good use of their precious time, however more than 100,000 people walk one of these routes each year – and the numbers are growing.  Pilgrims come from all over the world and put themselves through physical hardship subjecting their body to walking between 25 and 30 km a day – day after day.  It really is quite a feat it will take roughly 20-30 days to complete depending on how much you walk each day.

The reason for undertaking the pilgrimage for many was that they have reached a point in their life where they need time to think and get away from their life as it is.

And on the Camino you do.  The pace of life is slower, you are not subjected to advertising, and social media and the internet seems like another world.  Imagine for a month not being in a taxi, a car, bus or any other mode of transport – only walking.  You don’t have TV, ubiquitous email and cell calls.

People do still walk the Camino de Santiago for religious reasons.  There are “holy years” on the Camino where the feast day of St James falls on a Sunday.  During a holy year a special door in the Cathedral in Santiago is opened and all pilgrims can have an Indulgence for the forgiveness of sins. The next holy year is not until 2021, during the previous ones the amount of pilgrims on the route increases dramatically.

In the Pilgrim’s office in Santiago you can request a Compostela if you meet certain requirements.  A Compostela is a Latin document that states that the person has walked at least the last 100km or cycled at least the last 200km for religious or spiritual reason to Santiago.  There is also another certificate for those that do not fall into these categories that states the achievement of finishing the walk – most people religious or not ask for the Compostela – it appears personal spirituality is alive and well along the Camino

There seems to be little that compares with walking for a month.  People come out the other end often wanting to make changes to their own life, and having a sense of being refreshed – being washed clean of the daily cynicism that can surround us by hearing too much news.

When pilgrims finally reach the lighthouse, Finisterre, they can, for a final Camino experience, remove and burn your walking clothes, take a plunge into the sea, and when you come out get dressed in something new. Then say goodbye to the Camino, or perhaps not. The true Camino, according to its modern-day lore, begins only when you reach the end.


In the theatre play that the Spanish students watched on 10th February (‘Camino de Santiago’), Miranda and her father had to raise enough money to go on this pilgrimage, by performing street magic shows.


By Fatima Al-Habib, Raina Stotts and Alyssa Van Den Broeck


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