In the past pilgrims would undertake the long trek to Santiago de Compostela for religious reasons, but nowadays a lot of people go simply to reconnect with nature and to just get away from their daily existence. It’s also a challenge that will test you physically and mentally. This walk also gives you a chance to meet new people along the way. Not only those who are also undertaking the walk, but the locals in the various villages. This path is meant to be walked and one day I plan do it.
The Christian Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela started over a thousand years ago to pay homage to St. James whose body was brought there from Jerusalem by sea for burial after being beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in the year AD 44 for which he gained martyrdom.
In the 12th century St. James miraculously appeared on horseback with sword in hand to lead the Christian army against the Moorish invaders at the battle of Clavijo where it was said the James the Moor slayer as he was now called had been given to Spain by God for its patron and protection.
After the discovery of relics relating to St. James in the late 8th century a shrine was built that attracted thousands of Catholics from all over Europe to visit this holy place in order to ask St. James to forgive their sins.
Pilgrims often wear a scallop shell around their neck to show that they are on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It is also supposed to ward of robbers by showing that the person is in fact a pilgram.
Nobody is quite sure how the scallop shell became to be the symbol of the pilgrimage.
- One story says that when the disciples were returning James body to Santiago, a storm hit the ship and the body was lost overboard. After a time it washed up, undamaged and covered in scallops.
- Another says the an angel was guiding the ship. A wedding was in progress on the shore, and the groom, who was on horseback, saw the ship. His horse spooked plunging them both into the sea, They both emerged from the sea unscathed and covered in seashells..
Of course it could just be that scallop shells are handy for gathering water or for eating out of as a small but useful utensil.
Today while some practicing Catholics still make the pilgrimage many others look upon it as an adventure holiday backpacking and camping out or staying at hostels along the route.
The Camino de Santiago has many places where you can start the hike, with the most popular being the Camino Frances starting out in the town of St Jean de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees, and finishing some 780 kilometres later in Santiago de Compostella a journey which should take around a month. Many of the Pilgrims then carry on to the sea at Finisterre which in Roman times was thought to be the end of the world to collect their scallop shell.
Now you don’t just wake up one day and decide you are going to take a month of work, and walk for the next 30 days, some planning must be taken into consideration beforehand, things such as when to do the pilgrimage. Spring or Autumn are the best times to be hiking in Spain when it is not too hot, and with most of the walking being done during the morning you will have plenty of time to explore the villages in the afternoon.
All along the route there are plenty of places to stay, some are simple albergues that have dormitory style bunk beds where you can have a shower and sleep for a few euros a night. There are also small private hotels available but these of course will charge a little more. You will also find that all the bars and restaurants along the route offer what the call a Pilgrims meal which is basically the same as the Spanish menu del dia. You can easily make the pilgrimage on 30€ euro’s a day with some money left over to splurge once in a while.
All the information you need to know before you make this epic journey is available on the website www.caminodesantiago.me where there is a Pilgrims forum that allows you to interact with other people who you may meet along the way.
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