SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Santiago de Compostela is situated in the northwest of Spain and is famous as the destination of the thousand year old pilgrimage on the Way of St James.
The Camino de Santiago is generally considered a Catholic pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle St. James, buried at the great Cathedral of Compostela.
The legend of St. James in Spain tells of his years teaching the Gospel in Spain and his subsequent return to Palestine where he was martyred by Herod Agrippa in 44 C.E. His remains returned to Spain by boat, accompanied by two of his disciples. The party arrived to Galicia where the body of St. James was buried, lying undiscovered for some 800 years.
A certain Shepherd saw a bright light there in the night. Afterwards it was revealed to an Archbishop that St. James was buried there. This laid the Foundation of a Church, and they have built an Altar on the Spot where the Shepherd saw the Light. In the time of the Moors the People made a Vow, that if the Moors should be driven from this Country, they would give a certain portion of the Income of their Lands to St. James. The Moors were defeated and expelled and it was believed that Saint James was in the Battle and fought with a drawn Sword at the head of the Spanish Troops, on Horseback. The People, believing that they owed the Victory to the Saint, very cheerfully fulfilled their Vows by paying the Tribute.
Tens of thousands of Pilgrims, not only Catholics, visit the Sepulchre of St. James every year.
One of the roads to Santiago de Compostela
They come from France, Spain, Italy and other parts of Europe, many of them on foot. Some travel by bicycle and a few travel, as some of their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey.
Pilgrims on the Way of St. James walk for weeks or months to visit the city of Santiago de Compostela. They can follow many routes (any path to Santiago is a pilgrim's path) but the most popular route is the French Way or Camino Francés.
Most pilgrims have a document called the credencial. It is a pass which allows (sometimes free) overnight accommodation in refugios. Also known as the "Pilgrim's passport", the credencial is stamped with the official St. James stamp of each town or refugio at which the pilgrim has stayed. It serves as proof to the Pilgrim's office in Santiago that the journey is accomplished according to an official route. The stamped credencial is necessary if the pilgrim wants to obtain a Compostela, a certificate of completion of the pilgrimage. To earn the compostela one needs to walk a minimum of 100 km (cyclists must cycle at least 200 km).
A Pilgrim's Mass in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is held each day at noon for pilgrims. Pilgrims who received the Compostela the day before have their countries of origin and the starting point of their pilgrimage announced at the Mass. The musical and visual highlight of the mass is the synchronisation of the beautiful 'Hymn to Christ' with the spectacular swinging of the huge 'butafumeiro'. As the last chords die away, so the multitudes of pilgrims jostle happily as they crowd forward to reach the spiritual highlight of the mass, the rite of communion. Fittingly, there are priests administering the Sacrament of Penance, or confession, in many languages, permitting most pilgrims to complete the indulgence attached to the pilgrimage upon satisfying the other canonical conditions.