THE WAY OF SAINT JAMES
The Way of St. James or El Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried. 206 Tours has been arranging this particular type of waling pilgrimage for the past three years and we are all very eagerly working each and every day to improve what has been in practice for over thousand years. It was one of the three most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, the other two are of course Rome and Jerusalem. It is a pilgrimage route where a plenary indulgence could be earned. It is believed that the St. James's remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where he was buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. The Way can take one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela.
EL CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
The Way of St. James, often known by its Spanish name, el Camino de Santiago, is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of the apostle are buried. Whenever St James' day (July 25th) falls on a Sunday, the cathedral declares a Jubilee Year. The next Holy Year will be in 2021. El Camino has existed for over a thousand years and was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times. There is not a single route; the Way can take one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. However a few of the routes are considered main ones. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly traveled. However, the Black Plague, the Protestant Reformation, and political unrest in 16th-century Europe resulted in its decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims arrived in Santiago annually. However, since then, the route has attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from around the globe. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987; it was also named one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 1993.
Today, thousands of pilgrims make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of their medieval counterparts did- on horseback or by donkey. Many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the bustle of modern life. The scallop shell, typically found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of El Camino. Originally, the scallop shell served practical purposes for pilgrims gathering water to drink or for eating from as a makeshift bowl. Also, because the scallop shell is native to the shores of Galicia, the shell functioned as proof of completion. Besides being a practical tool, the scallop shell also serves as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell that come together at a single point represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination- the tomb of Saint James. The scallop shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim. As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up on the shores of Galicia, God's hand also guide the pilgrims to Santiago. Most pilgrims have a document called the Credential or "Pilgrim's passport" that is stamped with the official St. James stamp at each town in which the pilgrim stays. It provides walking pilgrims with a record of where they stayed, but also serves as proof to the Pilgrim's office in Santiago that the journey is accomplished according to an official route. The stamped credential is necessary if the pilgrim wants to obtain a Compostela, a certificate of completion. Upon arrival at the Cathedral in Santiago, pilgrims take their credential to the nearby Pilgrim Office and a Compostela certificate (written in Latin) is issued.
A Pilgrim's Mass in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is held each day at noon. 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 synchronization of the beautiful 'Hymn to Christ' with the spectacular swinging of the huge 'Botafumeiro'. The 'Botafumeiro' is the famous thurible found inside the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Incense is burned in this swinging metal container. As the last chords die away, so the multitudes of pilgrims happily come forward to reach the spiritual highlight of the Mass- the rite of communion. The Botafumerio only swing on special occasions or important Catholic feasts Fittingly, there are priests administering the Sacrament of Penance, or confession, in many languages to complete the plenary indulgence. Along the routes to Santiago have walked people of all stamps and conditions: honest pilgrims, convicts, minstrels, beggars, adventurers, tramps, fugitives from justice, bandits. The religious people made the pilgrimage urged by their unrestrained need to visit the tomb of the Apostle and to begin a personal relationship with him. Other pilgrims made the journey in order to fulfill a promise made to the Apostle after they overcame a difficult situation. Among these were those who had been seriously ill, and others that came in search of a miraculous recovery. There were also convicts who made the pilgrimage as a punishment, imposed either by the ecclesiastical authorities or civil judges. But not all pilgrims made the journey for pious reasons, some "pilgrims" sought gain. There were penitents who were fulfilling an assignment, those who wanted to see the world, those who were obliged by testamentary clauses to visit Santiago in order to receive an inheritance.
The first known pilgrim was Gotescalco, Bishop of Puy, who made the pilgrimage in 950 accompanied by his retinue; later the route was to be followed by the Marquis of Gothia, who was murdered on the way; a century later, the Apostle’s tomb was visited by the Archbishop of Lyon. And along these distinguished pilgrims, a growing number of believers of all conditions traveled by the same route. The Way to Santiago has indissolubly connected the culture, the knowledge and the information. Everything that was said, preached, told, sung, sculpted or painting along the Route was known to more people and places. On account of its influence on literature and art, Compostela, along with Rome or Jerusalem, became a place of worship for Christian society, especially between the 11 and 14 C.
Pilgrim's Mass is held in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela 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 synchronization of the beautiful "Hymn to Santiago" with the spectacular swinging of the huge Botafumeiro, the famous thurible kept in the cathedral. Incense is burned in this swinging metal container, or "incensory". As the last chords die away, the multitude of pilgrims jostle happily as they crowd forward to reach the spiritual highlight of the Mass, the rite of communion. Priests administer 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.
ABOUT SAINT JAMES (SANTIAGO)
The Apostle Saint James (Santiago) the Greater, as he was called by Christian tradition, was one of the sons of Zebedeo and Salome; his brother was John the evangelist, also Apostle. He was invited by Jesus "beside his brother and immediately after Peter and Andrew- to become fisherman of men". He was one of the apostles that had a close and intimate relationship with the son of God. He accompanied him when he began the propagation of the word of God; he was present in the Mount of Olives when he predicted the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, the complete ruin of the city and the catastrophes that will precede the end of times; and witnessed the last apparition of Jesus in Galilee after his resurrection. Santiago died young, around age 42, beheaded by order of the King of the Jews, Herodes Agripa I, when, in a frustrated attempt to win the confidence of Rome, intensified the persecution of the first communities of Christians.
According to tradition, after the death of Jesus, the apostles divided among them the places where they should predicate, and to James fell Spain and the occidental regions. Legend tells two versions about the presence of the Martyr in the Iberian Peninsula; the first says that he went through Asturias, Galice, Castile and Aragon, spreading the word of God unsuccessfully. During this mission the Virgin appeared before him by the Ebro River, above a column, and ordered him to build a church there. The second version assures that after his martyrdom, his disciples carried his body by boat from Jerusalem to Iria Flavia, in Finisterre. At this point, historic facts and legend merge to obtain a colorful story. Once beheaded, his body was thrown out of the city to feed dogs and beasts, but, when night fell, his disciples took it and carried it to the Port of Jope. Providentially, an empty fully rigged boat appeared. On the seventh day of navigation they arrived at the mouth of the Ulloa River, in Galice. As they put the body of their master on a heavy rock, the rock melted like wax and turned into a sarcophagus.
In the beginning of the 9C the sepulcher of Santiago el Mayor (James the Greater), evangelist in Spain, was discovered. Pelayo, a hermit who lived in the former diocese of Iria Flavia, had a "divine revelation" in the deep of the forest. He sees "altar lights" and hears "angels singing". The parishioners of San Félix de Solobio, at the foot of the forest, announced the event. The bishop Teodomiro went in the forest, found the mausoleum and identified it as the Apostle Santiago’s tomb. At a time when Europe needed to be united, the Route to Santiago was the first element that made it possible. The find of the sepulcher of the first Apostle Martyr became an unquestionable symbol, compatible with the diverse conceptions of the Christian peoples. Conscious of the importance of having the relics of Santiago el Mayor, the Spanish Monarchies contributed significantly to the success of the holy route. In those times the Peninsula had a growing need for money and soldiers to fight against the Moorish. The kings of Aragon, Navarre and Castile made a great effort to attract to their possessions powerful rich people, and to that end, employed all possible means: interchange of presents, arranged marriages and the announcements of the favors dispensed by the Apostle. As the faith in the miracles performed by Santiago extended people began to make pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in order to obtain his grace.