You may have heard of Saint James’s Way or the Way of Saint James. What is it exactly and why do people do it? Is it only for religious people?
On today’s podcast, we talk about The Way and explain what it is and why you might want to do it.
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Saint James’(s) Way – El Camino de Santiago
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The Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago) is a network of pilgrimage routes that lead to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great are believed to be buried. Saint James is said to be one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.
The routes date back to mediaeval times and originate from various locations in Europe.
The Way of St. James is one of the most important Christian pilgrimages in Europe.
The routes pass through some of the most popular places in Spain, such as Pamplona.
The pilgrimage ends in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in the north of Spain.
The length of the routes varies depending on the starting point, but most pilgrims walk between 100 and 800 kilometers. The most popular route is the Camino Francés. Other routes include the Camino del Norte, Camino Portugués, and more, each offering a unique experience.
The best time to walk El Camino de Santiago is between May and September when the weather is mild and dry. It gets really busy around Easter time.
During the last two weeks in July, Santiago de Compostela celebrates its biggest festival of the year: St James Festival or the Apostle Festival (Festas do Apóstolo)
Why do people do it?
Physical and Spiritual Journey: Pilgrims walk, cycle, or even ride on horseback along the Camino, covering varying distances, depending on their starting point and chosen route. It is a physical challenge as well as a spiritual journey. Apart from tiredness, the main physical problem you might encounter is blisters on your feet from so much walking!
The Camino traverses diverse landscapes, from lush forests and rolling hills to picturesque villages and historic towns. Pilgrims encounter rich cultural experiences, local cuisine, and the opportunity to learn about the history of the regions they pass through.
Pilgrims receive a “credential” which is stamped at various stops along the way to prove they’ve completed the journey and to gain entry to hostels and other facilities.
Spiritual Reflection: Many pilgrims walk the Camino for personal and spiritual reasons, seeking self-discovery and reflection while on the trail.
The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino and is used to mark the route and as a sign of pilgrimage. It is often worn by pilgrims on their backpacks or clothing.
In recent years, the Camino has experienced a resurgence in popularity, drawing people of all ages and backgrounds, not just for religious reasons, but also for the adventure, self-discovery, and the sense of community it offers.
The Old Town of Santiago de Compostela is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, further emphasizing the historical and cultural significance of the pilgrimage.
Pilgrims traditionally finish their journey by attending the Pilgrim’s Mass at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral and paying homage to Saint James.
Routes and information
The Way with Martin Sheen
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