Christian legend has it that when the Apostles divided the known world into missionary zones, the Iberian peninsula fell to James. He spent a number of years preaching there before returning to Jerusalem where in the year 44 AD he was beheaded by the king.
Popular belief is that his followers carried his body to the coast and put it on a stone boat which was guided by angels and carried by the wind to land near Finisterre, at Padron, in northern Spain.
The local queen buried the body in a marble tomb with two of his disciples. And there he lay, forgotten until the 9th century when a hermit living in Galicia had a vision that he saw a star or field of stars which led him to the place of burial.
A small village named Campus de la Stella (Field of Stars) and a monetary were established on the site. The news of the discovery spread like wildfire and the pilgrimages began from all over Europe. The objective was to leave your doorstep and possessions behind and walk to Santiago de Compostela to obtain absolution for your sins.
Many pilgrims died on this journey in the Middle Ages either through starvation, being murdered or simply from exhaustion. The pilgrimage rivalled more well known pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem in terms of numbers. It peaked in the Middle Ages and almost ceased to exist in the last few centuries. Over the past number of years the number of pilgrims has really grown again to the point where in excess of 200,000 pilgrims walk yearly to earn their Compostela. To receive this document you must demonstrate through the collection of sellos (stamps) that you have walked at least the last 100 kilometres to Santiago de Compostela.
The most popular pilgrimage route is the Way of St. James or French route which starts in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, crosses the Pyrenees into Spain and finishes in Santiago de Compostela.
|Various Camino Routes|
I will start in Rorschach Switzerland and walk the Via Jacobi (Rorschach to Geneva), Via Gebennensis (Geneva to Le Puy en Velay), Via Podiensis (Le Puy en Velay to St. Jean Pied de Port), French (St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela) and Finisterre (Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre) routes on my journey...at least that's the plan!