What is the Camino de Santiago? 27 frequently asked questions
What is the Camino de Santiago, how does it work, where does it start and where does it begin? These are some of the most frequently asked questions for people who are starting out on this adventure. Here we answer these and some more.
Before you start
The Way of St. James is a pilgrimage route that, since the 10th century, has connected the whole of Europe with the city of Santiago de Compostela. According to Christian tradition, the remains of the apostle St. James the Greater, one of the twelve disciples of Christ, are found there.
In its modern version since the 20th century, the Camino de Santiago is not only a religious route, but also one of the richest and most spectacular cultural itineraries in the world. And thousands of people walk it every year, with religious or spiritual, cultural, sporting, etc. motivations.
There is room for everyone on the Camino de Santiago. And, at the same time, there is a Camino for everyone.
For the Catholic Church, the end of the Way is in Santiago de Compostela, in the Cathedral where the remains of the apostle St. James the Greater are kept. However, in recent times a pre-Christian tradition has been revived that considers Finisterre (in Galician, Fisterra) as the ending point, as it is traditionally considered the End of the World.
In general terms, the Jacobean routes are very safe, both for walkers and cyclists. The signposting on the main paths is abundant and is revised from time to time to avoid problems, and alternative itineraries have been marked on the sections that are dangerous for cyclists. Even so, it is sometimes necessary to walk on the shoulder of the road and caution should be exercised.
The Compostela is the document that accredits the pilgrimage along the Pilgrims' Ways to Santiago de Compostela. It is a religious certificate issued by the chapter of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela after verifying by means of the stamps on the credential that the Pilgrim's Way has been completed correctly. In addition, in the application you must mark "religious or spiritual reasons". Here you can consult more information about the documents of the Way.
During the Camino
The Camino de Santiago is generally well signposted. You will see indicators with the scallop shell, yellow arrows, Santiago crosses, etc. These signs appear at every junction or fork in the road, and there are many of them.
on the Camino
We include a baggage transfer service in our programmes, with a limit of 1 piece of luggage up to 20 kg. There is the option to increase the number of items, but this is not usually necessary. In addition, we will provide you with tags so that you can leave your backpack with the accommodation staff, properly identified, for them to collect it. It is important to do this before 8am, so that our team can take it to the next accommodation before you arrive.
In addition, if you plan to travel with more luggage than the Camino, we can also transport the luggage you are not going to use to your last accommodation, so that you can continue your journey.
If you have arrived in Santiago and your credential is correctly covered (here you can see the requirements), you can pick up your Compostela at the Pilgrim's Office, in Rúa das Carretas, a few metres from the Obradoiro square.
Here are the contact details:
Rúa Carretas, nº33.
15705 Santiago de Compostela
Tlf.: +34 981 568 846
The Botafumeiro is probably the main symbol of Santiago Cathedral. It is a giant censer that hangs from the dome of the Cathedral's transept. It weighs 53 kilograms and is 1.5 metres high.
The Botafumeiro (the name can be translated as "smoke expeller") has no liturgical function, but its use to purify the atmosphere inside the temple is very old and today it is possible to see it in operation if individuals or groups of pilgrims have requested it (at a cost).
The Pilgrim's Mass is a religious celebration that takes place in the Cathedral of Santiago, at the main altar. These masses are usually held at 12h00 and 19h30.
As a sign of welcome, pilgrims who have obtained their Compostela on the previous day are greeted at the beginning. Their nationality or origin and the Camino they have followed are also indicated.
It is customary among pilgrims for religious reasons to dedicate a time of prayer to thank the apostle for the experiences they have had on the Camino.
Yes, the Cathedral can be visited freely without a guide or by prior reservation with a guide. The guides must be Official Guides and must be duly accredited by the Archbishopric.
Booking access with a guide allows you to visit, in addition to the temple, the impressive cathedral museum, the stony choir of Master Matthew, the treasury, the library, the cloister and the Galician Royal Pantheon.
It is also possible to visit the Portico of Glory, the archive or the Gelmirez Palace (consult).
Since the Middle Ages, the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago has been associated with the granting of plenary indulgences and forgiveness of sins. Pilgrims who visited the basilica of the apostle, prayed and received the sacraments of confession and communion obtained the Jubilee.
Since the 15th century, the granting of plenary indulgences has been limited to Holy Years, whenever 25 July (St. James' Day) falls on a Sunday. This occurs every six, five, six and eleven years. The year 2021 is a Holy Year. Exceptionally (in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic), 2022 will also be a Holy Year. The next natural Holy Year will be in 2027.
These indulgences can also be obtained in any year on 25 July, 21 April (day of the dedication of the Cathedral) and 30 December (date of the Translation of the Apostle).
The Holy Door is an access to the cathedral that opens onto the Praza da Quintana and is always sealed, except in Holy Years. The door is opened on the last day of the previous year and remains open for 12 months.