El Camino de Santiago de Compostela … a pilgrimage for body and spirit
During medieval times, Santiago De Compostela was the destination of one of the three main pilgrimages of the Christian world, along with Rome and Jerusalem. In the last few years this charming Spanish town, the capital of Galicia, has regained its old notoriety thanks also to the influence of social media.
The name Santiago comes from the Spanish “Sant-Yago” and from the Latin “Sancti Jacobi” and it identified Saint James, the Apostle chosen by Jesus at the beginning of his mission.
St. James, together with his younger brother John, was the first disciple to follow Jesus. The scriptures tell us that the two were with their father Zebedee, fishing on Lake Tiberias, not far from home when Jesus called them.
St. James, who according to tradition had a very fiery character and therefore had no qualms about exposing the injustices and tyrannies of the powerful of his time, became the first apostle to become a martyr when he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in the first century AD.
Legend has it that His remains were secretly taken to a remote location in Galicia (present-day Spain). In the year 830 a mystic by the name Pelagio had a vision in a dream that revealed to him the location of the remains of the Apostle. The bishop Teodomiro came to the site and found the tomb of the saint. He subsequently declared that locality a sacred place and named it “campus stellae” meaning, “the field of the star”, from which derives the current name Compostela.
Soon after, the locality became the scenario of fierce battles against Muslim invaders who were ultimately defeated in the year 840, thanks to the intervention of the saint. Tradition has it that, in the final battle, the Saint miraculously appeared at the head of the Christian army and the Moors were defeated once and for all. This miracle gained St. James the nickname of “Matamoros”, or “Moors’ slayer” and the area took the name of Santiago. In 1075 a magnificent cathedral dedicated to San James was built in the present day location at Santiago de Compostela.
Every year, thousands of pilgrims travel (primarily on foot) along one of the many long routes from Portugal, Spain, and France that lead to the tomb of the Apostle James. There are many different routes (known as “Caminos”); the longest of which is about 800 km and can be completed in a month depending on the fitness level of the pilgrim. There are other less arduous caminos that can be completed in less time and with more ease. For example, the route that starts from Paredes de Coura, not far from Fatima in Portugal, can easily be approached in less than ten days walking an average of 20 kilometers a day.
This pilgrimage is a unique occasion for travellers everywhere; and not only for Christians. Spiritually it is an unforgettable experience which gives everyone a chance for a deep, inner, and personal introspection. At the very least, this journey presents itself as a unique opportunity to recharge not only the spirit but also the body.
If you are interested in experiencing this unforgettable journey, please go to www.tourcentral.ca or call us at (905) 264-5992.