Following the Way of St James

By: Scott James

Spain deserves respect, a respect that has been earned through the history and evolution that the country has gone through and for being a country that is much more than just the sum of the collective parts.

The legacy left behind by previous invaders and conquerors such as the Moors, medieval Spaniards themselves or Jewish and other international communities is affluent and varied.

There are numerous pilgrimage routes to be found throughout Spain as would be fit a country that has had such an influence brought upon it by organized religion .

If we take one of these pilgrimage routes, the Camino de Santiago, the way of St. James. It was in the ninth century that the Way of St. James became popular allegedly as a result of the remains of St. James being found. Because of this in the following centuries, pilgrims from throughout the world have travelled this route to have the experience of paying tribute to St. James.

As with most holy historic sites it hasn't always been so fantastically popular. It was probably during the 16th and 17th century that interest in this particular route was at its least popular. It was on the instructions of one of the Popes of the day that apparently prisoners were told that they could seek penance for former misdemeanours by walking the Way of St James.

Interest in this particular pilgrimage route was revised in the 20th century on the Way of St. James when the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation made Santiago de Compostela a world legacy site - a site that now has since become the setting for one of the world's biggest pilgrimages.

The whole concept of the Way of St. James and the experience of Santiago de Compostela has moved on from being a mere pilgrimage site to now being a major tourist phenomena. This does not mean that the holy aspect of the pilgrimage has diminished in seriousness rather the fact that tourism has now become more of an attraction.

Many people have asked what are the most common starting off points for the Way of St James and it has to be said that probably the English, the French and the Spanish routes are the most common. It has to be said that the most popular pilgrimage routes originate in France, leading from the north of France right down to Spain.

Nowadays unless you happen to be a completely devout, fervent and ardent pilgrim it is unlikely that you would travel the entire 760 common to route from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela. Those who do manage the entire route claim that the hardship and suffering that they go through stands him in good stead for being able to appreciate the whole experience once they get to Santiago.

An informal system of yellow arrows has grown up over the years and these are placed strategically at key points throughout the entire journey to make sure the pilgrims and travellers don't get lost. Whether or not it is self interest but the system was accredited to Father Elias Valdinha who wanted to make sure that when pilgrims arrived to the end of the journey they were in reasonable shape.

A considerate man.

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