Travelling along the Way of St. James

Few Countries offer more choice to the visitor than Spain, an enigmatic country, a hybrid of many regions.As a country that still has great inter regional “differences of opinion” – euphemism here for cultural differences and in some cases acts of terrorism, Spain still has a tremendous amount to offer.

As you travel around the country you see glimpses over past rich in the heritage of former conquerors be they the Moors, medieval Spaniards themselves or parts of the country that have Jewish and other international flavours. There are numerous religious sites and pilgrimage routes within Spain as befits a country that is how such a profoundly religious background.

One of the more popular route initially for pilgrims and now tourists is the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James. El Camino de Santiago has had its origin in this in the ninth century and that was one off the three pilgrimages on which all sins could be forgiven for those who would complete the journey.

The “Way of St James hasn’t always been so popular and indeed during the 16th and 17th century interest in this route to the waned. Folklore says that during this time prisoners used to walk along the route is the attempt to try and perform penance. It is arguable that political unrest in the 16th century, Black plague, Protestant Reformation may have had something to do this.

Interest in this particular pilgrimage route was revised in the 20th century when UNESCO made Santiago de Compostela a world heritage site – a site that now has since become the setting for one of the world’s biggest pilgrimages. In addition to people undertaking the religious pilgrimage of which there are a great many or so as many if not all who travel along the route to appreciate the route for nonreligious reasons.

There are numerous starting off points for the way of St. James, the English route the French route and numerous Spanish routes. It has to be said that the most popular pilgrimage routes originate in France, leading from the north or France right down to Spain. All of the French routes come together and meet in the town of Roncesvalles in Navarre.

To be totally honest nowadays all but the most ardent and fervent pilgrims start out along the Way of St James from Roncesvalles and proceed along the 760 kilometre route to Santiago de Compostela. As they pass through historic towns and villages along the route such as Navarre, Burgos and Logrono, many pilgrims claim that having gone through this experience en route they feel suitably spiritually prepared for when they arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

As has been said that the main route is probably the French route. The route does go some way to ensure that the pilgrims do not get lost along the way and the most common sign of route markers are the small yellow arrows that are found all along the way. It is said that these were by and large painted in the 1970′S by Father Elias Valdinha who as well as wanting to improve the way also wanted to avoid more confusion that was necessary and also to ensure that all pilgrims arrived at their destination in good order as well as humour!

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