Since the very beginning of the phenomenon of the veneration of Saint James, the movement of pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago brought about the need for specific intervention. For the purpose of protecting pilgrims, lists of countless civil and ecclesiastic regulations were approved in the Middle Ages that gave rise to what is known as the “Rights of Pilgrims”. Given that many pilgrims came from distant lands, the pilgrimage brought about a sort of protective international law, which endured until the 19th century. Initially, pilgrims enjoyed the same rights as merchants. Their freedom to travel through the different kingdoms in Spain was recognised by privileges and exemptions from the payment of tolls, and pilgrims were afforded protection by virtue of the duties of hospitality and charity.
In the twentieth century, a new focus emerged for interventions by the different governments in order to protect the great monumental, historical and artistic heritage of the Camino de Santiago. Protection by public authorities was initially focused on its extraordinary monumental legacy, but it was later extended given the urgency of the work needed for the preservation and demarcation of the actual Camino de Santiago in order to prevent its gradual disappearance. Decree 2224/1962 of 5 September gave conservation status to all the known places, buildings and sites of the Camino de Santiago and to all of those that would subsequently be identified by the National Board created to this effect and later regulated by Decree 1941/1965 of 11 June.
In the last twenty-five years of the 20th century, the considerable increase in the number of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago and growing interest in its recovery as a cultural event led to the creation of the Consejo Jacobeo.
The collaboration between the different governments with competences affecting the Camino de Santiago initially materialised through different agreements and arrangements in order to implement initiatives to foster cooperation and coordination between the different institutions involved. The origin of the Consejo Jacobeo lies in the Cooperation Agreement for the Recovery and Revitalisation of the Camino de Santiago, signed in 1987, which already foresaw the creation of a coordinating council made up of a representative of each national government ministry and the autonomous regions that were signatories to the agreement.
Finally, Royal Decree 1530/1991 of 18 October set up the Consejo Jacobeo in order to facilitate collaboration and ensure the adequate execution of programmes to commemorate the Jacobean Year of 1993. Since its creation, the Consejo Jacobeo has fostered coordinated action by its member governments with regard to the Camino de Santiago.
Its most recent restructuring took place in 2009 to strengthen its functions as an entity for cooperation with reference to the management of the Camino de Santiago that had been placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. At that time it was limited to the Camino Francés (French Way), and since expanded to the Caminos del Norte Peninsular (Routes of Northern Spain), which include the Camino Primitivo (Original Way), Camino de la Costa (Coastal Route), Camino Lebaniego (Lebaniego Way) and Camino Interior Vasco-Riojano (Basque Country-Rioja Inland Route), added to the World Heritage site in July 2015.