Background on the Camino de Santiago or “Way of St. James”

The Camino de Santiago is a Catholic pilgrimage that dates as far back as the 9th century C.E. While it would wax and wain over the next twelve centuries, the Camino has once again surged in popularity with over a quarter of a million pilgrims traveling annually to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. But why here?

According to legend, Saint James (The Greater), the brother of John the Apostle and disciple of Jesus, took his ministry to the Iberian peninsula following Jesus’ crucifixion. Although James was martyred in 40 C.E., his remains were taken back to northwestern Spain where they were lost for the next 700-800 years. As per tradition, the remains or “relics” were rediscovered sometime during the reign of King Alfonso II, where upon a shrine to Saint James was erected in hopes of attracting the faithful (and their purses).

Still, it wasn’t until the 12th century that the pilgrimage to Santiago became popular. Mostly due to the dangers of an Islamic-occupied Holy Land, many of the faithful sought other destinations for religious travel. As such, tens of thousands began their journeys from wherever they lived and traveled to the northwestern corner of Spain. Reasons ranged from pure holy veneration to specific forgiveness wrongdoing – both temporal and divine. Even now, many believe that a successful pilgrimage will result in forgiveness of sins or at least reduced time in purgatory. Likewise, some European jurisdictions still prescribe proof of pilgrimage as a substitution for legal punishment in some cases.

For many today, the Camino de Santiago is less of a penance or search for holy relics, but more of an inner reflective journey which serves to enlighten hundreds of thousands every year. Many life decisions are considered, many souls are searched. While I will not promise to involve you, dear reader, in either, I do hope that you will find interest in the pictures and musings Frank and I post. So, come along for a grand adventure and remember to let us know what you think. Buen Camino!

-Phillip “Mikey” Mikell

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