The Way to Santiago has been, and continues to be, without doubt, the oldest, most covered and most celebrated route of the old continent. Santiago has also shared with them the appeal of walkers and wanderers of all the times but has also created a route, a Way. Santiago and Galicia can be reached in many ways. But the best way of getting there is along the WAY TO SANTIAGO.
The first pilgrims, in the XI century, only came from the interior of the kingdoms of Galicia and Asturias. However, with surprising speed, Compostela began to attract travellers and pilgrims from other Christian kingdoms, including those from beyond our own frontiers. The first, whose name we know, Godescalco, Bishop of Le Puy, was French, and arrived in Compostela in 951.
There are many reasons and motives given by historians for the fever felt by the Franks to cross the Pyrenees. For some, it was for political motives. The Papacy and Cluny were decided, for reasons of their own safety, in supporting the kingdoms in the north of Spain, thus making a Muslim invasion a more remote possibility. Others came out of curiosity and the lust for adventure. On many occasions the reasons were based on commercial interests or for making cultural exchanges. And sometimes, also, the zeal for robbing and taking advantage of the helpless pilgrims. There is no doubt, nonetheless, that in nearly all cases the underlying reason was religious. In the Middle Ages the pilgrimage was a symbol of the life of Christ, an unsafe path towards the eternal home.
One of the most famous and well-known medieval pilgrims in Compostela was the Frenchman Aymery Picaud, a monk from the French town of Poitou. His fame comes from having written a chronicle of his journey, around 1130, in precise details, with an endless list of advice and recommendations for other walkers. This chronicle, entitled “Guide for the Pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela”, is included within one beautiful document: The Codex Calixtinus. This Guide to the Pilgrim is an obligatory reference book whenever talking of the old French Way.
Good footwear, short clothing and shoulder cape, a stick for support and defence, a gourd for water and wine, a small pouch and a wide-brimmed hat. All these features made up the typical appearance of the pilgrim from the Middle Ages. The “vieira” or scallop shell that was already a feature of the walkers in pagan mythology was the most important souvenir that the pilgrims brought with them from Galicia, this mollusc being abundant along the coastline. The hat, pouch and gourd would later be added to the image, becoming an emblem and safeguard of the pilgrim.
The pilgrim or modern non-motorised traveller who takes the Way does not usually wear the classical attire. Nonetheless, there is something special which distinguishes them from the everyday walker, when descending the Poio Pass via Triacastela, or crossing the Arzúa and Melide mountains. Once it was for the fulfilment of a vow, or to free oneself of a penitence, to fulfil the desire of a deceased relative, or even by judicial order as a punishment. Today it is more common to take the Way in order to relive our past, discover our culture and history, admire the harmony of Romanesque art and architecture, or simply to have the pleasure of taking in the landscapes offered by the Terras de Santiago
The modern traveller who goes along the roads of northern Spain from the Pyrenees to Galicia often comes across the sign which indicates the way to Santiago, accompanied by the number of kilometres separating them from Santiago de Compostela. The signs are there for those travelling by car and are placed on the roads closest to the early way. The successive modernisation of the road network, from the old royal ways to the national roads and modern motorways have erased many stretches of the way tramped on by the pilgrims over centuries. On some occasions, however, the present roads do not exactly follow the medieval Way. It is then when those participating in “slow tourism”, be it on foot, horseback or bicycle, can retrace the tracks of the ancient way. This original route still preserves, in many stretches, the cobbled paving, the landmarks of the Way, the old inns, the hermitages-refuges, the fountains, the crosses, the old bridges, etc...
Stores all necessary information to organize your trip: museums, monuments, attractions, lodgings, restaurants...
Once you do, you see the map of your route, save information in PDF or export your GPS locations
Already enjoying Galicia, here you see the map of your route, save information in PDF or export your GPS locations
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