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The Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James)

Santiago de Compostela, Door of Glory ©Archivo Xacobeo, Xunta de Galicia

The pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, which began in the 11th century with the discovery of the tomb of the apostle Saint James the Greater, for centuries marked out the itinerary of the routes that converged in Santiago de Compostela, their final destination.

No other pilgrimage was able to mark out its route as distinctly as that leading to Santiago de Compostela. From the narrative attributed to Aymeric Picaud in the 12th century, included in Book 5 of the Codex Calixtinus – a description in great of detail of his journey along the Camino Francés, accounts of this pilgrimage have left records of the historical routes taken to reach Santiago de Compostela.

The historical routes of the Camino de Santiago were once one of the most influential and recognised means of communication in Europe. They formed a network of Trans-European axes for the dissemination of our common culture which were able to transform the patterns of social and economic life of large regions of northern Spain and led to the appearance of towns and cities with a significant establishment of trades, population and economic activity. They became a constant means for the transmission of culture and traditions, and brought about the introduction of new styles from other countries that were reflected in the numerous churches, cathedrals and civil buildings that became landmarks along the Camino de Santiago.

In addition to its spiritual value, the Camino de Santiago is, from the perspective of its tangible and intangible heritage, one of Spain’s most important cultural assets. Moreover, the Camino Francés (French Way) and the Caminos del Norte Peninsular (Routes of Northern Spain) have also been on the list of World Heritage sites since 1993 and July 2015, respectively. The Caminos del Norte Peninsular, inscribed on the list of World Heritage sites at the World Heritage Committee meeting held in Bonn between 28 June and 8 July 2015, complete the phenomenon of the veneration of Saint James represented by the Camino Francés as a reference to its origins. The four routes that comprise it, the Camino Primitivo (Original Way), Camino de la Costa (Coastal Route), Camino Interior Vasco-Riojano (Basque Country-Rioja Inland Route) and Camino Lebaniego (Lebaniego Way), are the most outstanding of those that existed in the north of Spain at the beginnings of the history of the Camino de Santiago.

The historical pilgrimage routes of the Camino de Santiago described on these pages were given conservation status in 1962 and have received much international recognition, among which are their declaration as the first European Cultural Route in 1987 by the Council of Europe, which also raised the Camino de Santiago to the category of Major Cultural Route of the Council of Europe.

The Camino de Santiago received the 2004 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord for being ‘a place of pilgrimage and meeting between persons and peoples which over the centuries has become a symbol of fraternity and a reflection of an awareness of Europe’. This comes as no surprise because the Camino de Santiago, as a cultural, artistic and historical route, and as a trail for sport and tourism, has been the ‘great cultural avenue of Europe for all time’.Salto de línea


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