What is The Saint James Way?

Camino-de-Santiago-940x329

(aka El Camino de Santiago de Compostela)

St. James was one of the original apostles to Jesus.  Although some dispute it, there is tradition that asserts that James preached the Gospel in Spain before he returned to Judea, where he was martyred – the first apostle to be martyred.  That tradition has his body being miraculously translated to Iria Flavia in the northwest of Spain, and later to Compostela.    Thus, The Way of St. James became one of the most important Christian pilgrimages (along with those to Rome and Jerusalem) during the Middle Ages.

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 Spain.

Camino routes

The network is similar to a river system – small brooks join together to make streams, and the streams join together to make rivers, most of which join together to make the Camino Francés.  During the middle ages, people walked out of their front doors and started off to Santiago, which was how the network grew up.  Nowadays, air travel has given many the opportunity to fly to their starting point, and often to do different sections in successive years.  Some people set out on the Camino for spiritual reasons; many others find spiritual reasons along the Way as they meet other pilgrims, attend pilgrim Masses in churches and monasteries and cathedrals, and see the large infrastructure of buildings provided for pilgrims over many centuries.

Yearly, hundreds of thousands of people of various backgrounds walk the Camino de Santiago either on their own or in organized groups.  (The estimate for 2016 was 278,000!)  People who want to have peace of mind may benefit from an organized tour or a self-guided tour, while many (I would suggest most) plan the camino on their own.  The later describes us.

The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back to the beginning of the 9th century (year 814) moment of the discovery of the tomb of the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula.  Since this discovery, Santiago de Compostela became a peregrination point of the entire European continent.

The Way was defined then by the network of Roman routes that joined the various points of the Peninsula.  The impressive human flow that went towards Galicia (northwest Spain) made quickly appear lots of hospitals, churches, monasteries, abbeys and towns along the routes.  During the 14th century, the pilgrimage began to decay, primarily due to wars, epidemics and natural catastrophes.

The recovery of the route begins at the end of the 19th century, but it is during the last quarter of the 20th century when the authentic contemporary resurgence of the peregrination takes place.  There is no doubt that the social, tourist, cultural or sport components have had a great importance in the “jacobea” revitalization but we cannot forget that the route gained its prestige thanks to its spiritual value.

The following three websites provided the above information, but for more about the Way of St. James check out these sites:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago

http://santiago-compostela.net/

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08279b.htm

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