The Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, (generally known as the Camino, The Way, or the Way of St. James) is a series of ancient pilgrimage routes that stretch across Europe and end at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region of Spain. It is believed that the relics of James, the apostle of Jesus (St. James who was beheaded in Jerusalem by Herod) are buried there. Historically, Pilgrims traveled from their own doorsteps, along the way in search of forgiveness, penance and protection.

Pope Callitinus II wrote the official guidebook of the Camino, the Codex Calixtinus, in 1140:

“The pilgrim route is a very good thing, but it is narrow. For the road which leads us to life is narrow; on the other hand, the road which leads to death is broad and spacious. The pilgrim route is for those who are good: it is the lack of vices, the thwarting of the body, the increase of virtues, pardon for sins, sorrow for the penitent, the road of the righteous, love of the saints, faith in the resurrection and the reward of the blessed, a separation from hell, the protection of the heavens. It takes us away from luscious foods, it makes gluttonous fatness vanish, it restrains voluptuousness, constrains the appetites of the flesh which attack the fortress of the soul, cleanses the spirit, leads us to contemplation, humbles the haughty, raises up the lowly, loves poverty. It hates the reproach of those fueled by greed. It loves, on the other hand, the person who gives to the poor. It rewards those who live simply and do good works; And, on the other hand, it does not pluck those who are stingy and wicked from the claws of sin.”
The Routes of the Camino de Santiago across Europe

Pilgrims have been traveling the routes of the Camino since the 9th century. Communities and villages along the route had services for traveling pilgrims, such as pilgrim hostels (known as hospitals), churches and food vendors. The journey was grueling, and for many pilgrims it was the first time ever leaving their homes for a significant length of time. Pilgrims were exposed to the elements and to bandits and thieves along the routes. It’s hard to imagine what the route would be like for poor pilgrims. But for certain, the force that drove them to continue, and the hope and trust they must have had in the journey, is far greater than what any modern day pilgrims can fathom. After all, modern day pilgrims are better prepared with high tech gear, funds that allow flexibility with regards to food, accommodation and travel.

Times have changed, but the road is the same, and ultimately the reason for traveling the Camino remains a personal one. Whether it be for recreation, religion, health, spirituality or vacation, the reason one makes the effort lies deep within their souls.

Routes of the Camino de Santiago through France, Spain and Portugal

Ally and I are traveling from Paris to our starting point in St. Jean Pied de Port, France at the end of April 2018. We have our credencials from the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. The credential is a pilgrim passport that pilgrims get stamped in albergues (hostels) and cafes along the way.

Upon reaching Santiago, pilgrims can turn in their stamped passports for a Compostela, a certificate verifying that they have completed the Camino.

Credencial or Pilgrim passport

As we travel on foot across Spain in April and May, we will try to keep the blog updated. For me, this is a spiritual journey, and an opportunity to heal some brokenness. And the best part is that I have a family that is supportive, and I will be traveling with my daughter. I pray that both she and I can find what we are looking for and come home refreshed and renewed.

Buen Camino!

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