Camino Info

Camino Information

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self guided caminoPilgrimaging is a common rite in most religions. Santiago is one of the three important pilgrimage cities of Christianity, alongside Jerusalem and Rome. When European Christians saw that their faith was threatened by the advance of Islam, they asserted it by pilgrimaging to the recently discovered Sepulchre of the Apostle Saint James, in the 9th century. This is how, step by step, routes that led to Santiago were created, thus establishing a type of union between the different European countries and regions. The 12th and 13th centuries were the golden age of pilgrimages to Santiago. Later, during the Renaissance and Reformation, the Saint James phenomenon suffered attacks, but it managed to survive, albeit with a lower influx of pilgrims. The Bull by Pope León XIII “Deus Omnipotens”, which verified the authenticity of the apostle’s relics, represented a renewed impetus for the Saint James pilgrimage, which grew during the 20th century until the present, when pilgrimaging is strong and on the rise.

The pilgrimage to Santiago takes us to the Tomb of an Apostle, one of the twelve who were part of Christ’s intimate circle and who was responsible for the evangelization of Hispania, that is to say, he transmitted the original faith received from Jesus.
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img 5467skyline camino de santiagoThe tomb of St. James the Greater was discovered around the year 820. This event was immediately followed by the creation of the sacred place to venerate his remains. Today, twelve centuries later, pilgrimage represents a unique experience in our globalized world. The pilgrimage phenomenon soon became a significant spiritual and cultural focal point for Europe, turning Santiago into a major pilgrimage site, along with Rome and Jerusalem. The Way of St. James has acted as a true ‘pathway of knowledge’. Pilgrimage is time set apart from normal daily life in which people travel to a holy place. Santiago stands alongside Rome and Jerusalem as the third greatest Christian pilgrimage destination in the world. Pilgrims on the way to Santiago have the opportunity for personal reflection and prayer as well as enjoying the fellowship of other pilgrims from many different countries. The pilgrimage is an opportunity for spiritual renewal and growth in personal faith.
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img 5467señal camino santiago fisterraOne of the most international symbols of the Way of St. James is the yellow arrow, painted by hand on road surfaces, houses, walls and trees. Its origins are quite recent: it was created in 1984 on the initiative of O Cebreiro priest Elías Valiña, who put up these markers along the entire French Way, from France to Santiago. Milestones are bollards either in stone or concrete, engraved with the number of kilometers to Santiago de Compostela and often a place name. In Spanish, they are called “mojones”.

They vary hugely in style – some are antique, decorated with decades of graffiti but most bear the number of kilometers to Santiago. In Galicia, they have all been recently renewed.
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The Pilgrim’s Credencial or accreditation is the document given to pilgrims in the Middle Ages as a safeguard. Today there is an official Credencial model distributed and accepted by the Office of Pilgrimages of the Diocese of Santiago. You can get it by requesting it in person at the Pilgrim’s Reception Office or other institutions authorised by the Cathedral of Santiago for their distribution, such as parish churches, Associations of Friends of the Way of St. James, pilgrim hostels, confraternities, etc. In Spain and abroad, some associations related to the pilgrimage have been authorised to distribute their own Credenciales with a reference to the goal of the pilgrimage at the Cathedral of Santiago. In any case, official Credenciales are available both in Spain and abroad; to receive information about Credencial distribution sites in your country, region or city, please see the links at the end of this section.

There is also a digital credential, developed as an app, that pilgrims can download and carry on their mobile phone or other electronic device.

It is available for Android and for iOS.

The reception and stamping of credentials points can digitize their stamp for the app with the Stamp Generator of the Pilgrim’s Office.

Cover of the Pilgrim's Credential.

The official Credencial and others recognised by the Cathedral of Santiago are printed on cardboard and consist of sixteen concertina-folded pages. The first pages are illustrated in the photo accompanying the text. The first page is like a cover letter and should be completed at the place of issue with the Pilgrim’s data. There is also a space at the top for the seal of the place that issues the Credencial; at the bottom of the same page, the date and the Cathedral’s stamp will be placed after completing the pilgrimage.

Pilgrim’s Credencial inside pages.

The second page of the Credencial is dedicated to clarifying instructions, which reads Necessary considerations
  • This Credencial is only for pilgrims on foot, bicycle or horseback, who wish to make the pilgrimage with a Christian sentiment, even if it is only with an attitude of search. The Credencial has the purpose of identifying the pilgrim; which is why the institution that issues it must be a parish church, confraternity, dioceses, Association of Friends of the Way of St. James, or any Christian institution related to the pilgrimage. The Credencial does not generate any rights to the pilgrim. It has two practical purposes: 1) access to hostels offered by the Christian hospitality of the Way, 2) serve as certification in applying for the “Compostela” at the Cathedral of Santiago, which certifies you have made the pilgrimage.
  • The “Compostela” is only granted to those who make the pilgrimage with Christian sentiment: devotionis affectu, voti vel pietatis causa (motivated by devotion, vote or mercy). And it is only granted to those who make the pilgrimage to reach the Tomb of the Apostle, doing in full at least the last 100 kilometres on foot or horseback, or the last 200 km by bike or 100 nautical miles and last km on foot.
  • The last 100 km must be done by any of the routes recognized as official by the S. A. M. I. Cathedral of Santiago.
  • Therefore, the pilgrim’s Credencial can only be issued by the Church through its institutions (Bishopric, Parish, Confraternity, etc. or, in any case, through institutions that are authorised by the Church). This is the only way the “Compostela” can be awarded at the S.A.M.I. Cathedral of Santiago (Conference on the Holy Year: November 1993).
  • Hostels that receive no subsidies must be maintained, within austerity, with contributions from pilgrims (cleaning, looking after facilities, facilitating rest, financial aid…).
  • Groups organised with support car or by bicycle are requested to seek alternative shelter to the pilgrim hostels.
  • The bearer of this Credencial accepts these conditions.
The remaining pages of the Credencial contain boxes for the stamps along the pilgrimage route. The stamps are normally collected at the places where the pilgrims sleep, such as hostels, but they can also be obtained in parish churches, monasteries, cathedrals, hotels, town halls and other places.
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Accreditation of the number of km covered

In addition to the Compostela, the Pilgrim’s Reception Office offers pilgrims the Certificate of Distance, a document issued by the Chapter of the Cathedral of Santiago certifying the number of kilometres they have travelled, whatever the starting point of their pilgrimage. This new document reflects the desire that many pilgrims have expressed for several years to have an official record of more details of their pilgrimage. It indicates the day and the starting point of the pilgrimage, the kilometres covered, as well as the day of arrival and the route of the pilgrimage. It can also be requested by those who have made the pilgrimage before.

This certificate of distance costs 3 €, it is slightly larger than the Compostela and is printed on parchment paper. It is decorated with a phrase in Latin and a thumbnail, both from the Codex Calixtinus.

Both the pilgrim’s reception service and the issuing of the Compostela are completely free, so the sale of these certificates helps to continue providing this service to the pilgrimage from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Request your certificate of distance at

Certificate of distance
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Since the pilgrimage to the tomb of Santiago, which came about spontaneously before the ninth and tenth centuries, was institutionalised and took on certain social and religious considerations, it was necessary to accredit its completion. To do this, badges were first used that could only be acquired in Santiago, in the shape of the scallop shell. It is obvious to see how easy it was to falsify this rudimentary certification. The counterfeiting soon took on and they were sold at the entrance to the city, forcing the prelates of Compostela and the Pope himself to decree excommunication penalties against the counterfeiters. More effective, as they were more difficult to counterfeit, were the so-called cartas probatorias (evidentiary letters), which were already issued in the 13th century. These letters led directly to the Compostela.

In the 16th century the Catholic Monarchs constituted the Foundation of the Royal Hospital and to house it they commissioned the building now occupied by the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, converted in 1954 into a luxury hotel. On presenting the Compostela, pilgrims acquired the right to stay free of charge for three days. The pilgrims’ health needs turned the institution, after the necessary extensions, into the most important hospital in Galicia and later into the headquarters of the famous Compostela medical school. In 1954 it became a Parador de Turismo hotel, although, as a tradition of hospitality, the hotel continues to offer free meals to the first pilgrims each day who come to the Hostal; they must always present the “Compostela” or a photocopy of it.

The appearance of motor vehicles and, in this century, the popularisation of tourism, represented somewhat of a crisis for pilgrimage: it was feared that the effort and sacrifice in the expiation of sins embraced in the pilgrimage on foot would be exchanged by a pleasant and enjoyable activity for the holidays. Such was the case that authorities in other sanctuaries began to issue visiting certificates imitating the “Compostela”. The Chapter of the Metropolitan Church of Santiago continued to issue the certificate and in modern times the award of the “Compostela” is limited to those who come to the tomb of the Apostle for religious and/or spiritual reasons, and following the routes of the Way of St. James on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. They are required to have travelled at least the last 100 kilometres on foot or horseback or the last 200 by bicycle, which is demonstrated by the “Credencial del Peregrino” duly stamped along the route travelled. Therefore other forms of travel to access the Compostela are excluded, except in the case of the disabled.

To get the “Compostela” you must:

  • Make the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, or at least an attitude of search.
  • Do the last 100 km on foot or horseback, or the last 200 km by bicycle. It is understood that the pilgrimage starts at one point and from there you come to visit the Tomb of St. James.
  • You must collect the stamps on the “Credencial del Peregrino” from the places you pass through to certify that you have been there. Stamps from churches, hostels, monasteries, cathedrals and all places related to the Way are preferred, but if not they can also be stamped in other institutions: town halls, cafés, etc. You have to stamp the Credencial twice a day at least on the last 100 km (for pilgrims on foot or on horseback) or on the last 200 km (for cyclists pilgrims).

You can do the Way in stages, provided they are in chronological and geographical order. However, if you only do the minimum required distance (last 100 or 200 km), you must always get your Credencial stamped at the start and end of each stage, including the corresponding date, to show that the pilgrim has resumed the Way in the same place where they last stopped (i.e. you should always get the stamp at the starting point even though you have already stamped the card in the same place at the end of the previous stage).

Children and pilgrimage. Children who make the pilgrimage with their parents or in groups, and have received the sacrament of Communion, or have the ability to understand the meaning of the spiritual or religious nature of the Way, can receive the “Compostela”. If they are not mature enough due to their young age, they are given a special certificate with their names. In the case of infants or very young children, their names are included on the parent or accompanying adult’s “Compostela”. If you are in any doubt, please contact us at the Pilgrim’s Reception Office so we can look at each individual case.

The English translation of the text is as follows:

The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Altar of St. James, to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognises before all who observe this document that: …………… has devotedly visited this most sacred temple having done the last hundred kilometers on foot or on horseback or the last two hundred by bicycle with Christian sentiment (pietatis causa).

In witness whereof I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church.

Issued in Santiago de Compostela on ……… of …………… year of our Lord ……….

The Dean of the Cathedral of Santiago.

Handing out the Compostela to a pilgrim
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The Pilgrim’s Office receives and welcomes pilgrims arriving in Santiago who have walked, cycled or who have ridden on horseback to the Tomb of the Apostle Saint James the Elder. Here the “pilgrim credentials” are stamped with the end of The Way stamp, that of the Cathedral of Santiago, and here is where the traditional pilgrimage certificate known as the “Compostela” is issued.

Pilgrim’s Office: Rúa Carretas, 33 – CP 15705. Santiago de Compostela

Telephone: 0034 981 568 846

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fountain alameda park camino de santiago Bernard the Elder, Admirable Master, and Roberto, began the construction of the Romanesque Cathedral in 1075, during the reign of Alfonso VI, when Diego Peláez was bishop. After that initial stage, a number of historical changes suspended or, at least, slowed down the works until they were newly launched during in times of Archbishop Gelmírez, in 1100. The works were commissioned to Master Esteban (also known as “Maestro de Platerías”); little by little the construction of the Cathedral progressed throughout the 12th century. In 1168 Master Mateo was commissioned to complete it, including the western closure and the building of the Choir in the main nave. In 1211 the Basilica was consecrated before Alfonso IX.

Although the fundamental medieval structure has been preserved, over the centuries the Cathedral has changed its physiognomy as a result of the building of the Cloister and its annex areas, during the Renaissance, and especially during the Baroque period, when works such as the main chapel, the organs, the closing of the chevet or the Obradoiro facade were carried out, among other important developments. During the Neoclassic period the new Azabachería facade was executed and over the past one hundred years different actions have continued to be carried out.


07:30 am. Main Altar. PILGRIM’S MASS

9:30 am. Main Altar. PILGRIM’S MASS.

11 am. Chapel of La Corticela.

12:00 noon. Main Altar. PILGRIM’S MASS.

7:30 pm. Main Altar. PILGRIM’S MASS.

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The Botafumeiro (“censer” in Galician) is one of the most famous and popular symbols of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is a large thurible that hangs by means of a system of pulleys from the main dome of the Cathedral and swings toward the side naves. It takes eight men to move it, who are known as “tiraboleiros”. It weighs 53 kg and measures 1.50 metres; it hangs from a height of 20 metres and can pick up great speed.

The Botafumeiro is used for liturgical reasons, in the same way as a priest would use a censer at the altar. It operates during the Cathedral’s main solemnities during the entrance procession or at the end of the Eucharist. The purpose of this great censer is to symbolise the true attitude of the believer. In the same way that the smoke from the incense rises to the top of the temple’s naves, so must the prayers of the pilgrims rise to reach the heart of God. And in the same manner that the aroma of the incense perfumes the entire basilica, so must Christians, with their virtues and the testimony of their lives, impregnate with the good scent of Christ, the society that they live in.

The first documented reference to the Botafumeiro is an annotation in a page from the Codex Calixtinus, where it is referred to as “Turibulum Magnum”. Throughout history there have been several thuribles; today there are two; one made from brass dating from 1851 by José Losada, which substituted the one stolen during the French occupation and which is the one that is used normally. The second Botafumeiro is a replica in silver of the previous one and was given to the Apostle by the Provisional Second-Lieutenants in 1971. It is only placed in the cathedral’s transept when it is in use, and it is kept in the Chapter Library.
The Botafumeiro operates during the following Solemnities:
  • The Epiphany: 6 January
  • Resurrection Sunday
  • The Apparition of the Apostle-Clavijo: 23 May
  • Pentecost
  • The Martyrdom of Saint James: 25 July
  • The Assumption of Mary: 15 August
  • All Saints: 1 November
  • Christ the King
  • The Immaculate Conception: 8 December
  • Christmas: 25 December
  • Transfer of the remains of the Apostle: 30 December
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Basic requirements for going on the Way of Saint James

Previous training and personalised planning of the stages are fundamental parts of the preparation.

It is advisable to be previously prepared through gymnasium exercises In order to go on the Saint James Way, it is advisable to be previously prepared through gymnasium exercises which help to tone and give elasticity to the muscles, in particular the legs, back and neck. Training must begin some months before beginning the pilgrimage, for example by taking walks with a gradual increase in time and difficulty.
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