Mystical Spain - Galicia

by : Stephen Morgan



The unification of the various autonomous regions of Spain and the resultant product which of course as we all know as a constitutional democracy has inherited a wealthy and varied inheritance.

Travelling throughout the country it is possible to see a wealthy variety of influences and international flavours that have been left as an inheritance and heritage from former invaders and conquerors.

As befits a country that historically has been profoundly sacred there are numerous pilgrimage routes crossing the country and these are all wonderfully wealthy pieces of history that are well worth exploring.

The way of St. James otherwise known as the Camino de Santiago is possibly the most famous of all of these routes. 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. The alleged last resting place of St. James the Apostle has been such an attraction that in the centuries following its discovery pilgrims from around the world have walked this particular pilgrimage route.

Interest in this particular route has been extremely popular over the years but also there have been times when it has not been so popular. Probably the one time in history that this route was least popular was during the 16th and 17th centuries. Apparently was on the orders of one of the Popes of the day that prisoners serving time for petty misdemeanours could actually serve penance by taking part on a pilgrimage on the Way of St. James.

what possibly turned the fortunes of this particular pilgrimage route around was the fact that in the 20th century UNESCO after extensive lobbying finally recognized Santiago de Compostela as a World heritage site of some importance and the knock on benefit of this was increased visitor traffic and more pilgrims.

Nowadays the whole experience of travelling along the Way of St. James toward Santiago is more than just a mere sacred pilgrimage though the importance of this has not declined but rather the entire event has become a major tourist 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. That having been said to be honest the most popular of all originates from the north of France right down through northern Spain to Santiago.

If most authorities are to be blunt and extremely honest they would have to admit that only the most ardent of pilgrims would start out alone the Camino from Roncesvalles and then journey along the 760 km route to Santiago. The experience and hardship of a 760 km pilgrimage is such that many pilgrims claim that having gone through this hardship on the way they therefore feel more spiritually prepared for the arrival at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela at the end of the pilgrimage.

There are numerous markers long the way to help ensure that pilgrims do not deviate more than is necessary from the original route and the most common of these signs and markers are the ubiquitous yellow arrows that are found painted on trees and rocks along the way. Apparently the rise and usage of this informal traffic micro system was accredited to a certain Father Elias Valdinha who wanted to ensure that when pilgrims and travellers arrive in Santiago they arrived in the best possible shape.