Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James

The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St James, was one of the most important Christian Pilgrimages during the Middle Ages.

St James, translated as Santiago, travelled to Galicia which the Romans called Finis Terrae meaning the end of the world. Here, James preached and converted the people to Christianity. It’s hard to imagine it could be called the end of the earth now! New Zealand perhaps better deserves the title.

After James returned to Palestine, history tells us he was taken prisoner and tortured to death. The King would not bury him, and his body was stolen by his disciples and put on board a small boat. The currents washed the boat to the Spanish coast and he was secretly buried in a wood near the province’s capital, Iria Flavia. Many centuries later a hermit listened to music in the same wood, saw a great light and the place was soon called Campus Stellae, the field of the star. This is the origin of the word Compostela.

By the 16th Century, enthusiasm for the route had decreased: the Black death, Protestant reforms and political unrest led to the decline in the numbers of pilgrims walking the route. Passion for the pilgrimage increased when the route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in 1987 and since the 1980’s the route has attracted a growing number of International Pilgrims.

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