A Brief History of The Way
While a Catholic ritual in origin, the value of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela has spread to people of all spiritual persuasions because it embodies the eternal common ideals of Faith, Hope, and Charity that are at the heart of all authentic human struggles for self perfection. Each year people come from all around the world to walk the many paths that lead to the one final destination.
The Way of St James or El Camino de Santiago de Compostela has existed as a pilgrimage route for over a thousand years. Enduring the many hardships encountered while walking the pilgrims’ route to Northern Spain where the remains of St James are interred was felt to be an act of physical and spiritual cleansing that helped bring a person closer to Salvation.
St James the Elder was one of Jesus’ earliest apostles and the first Christian martyr. Some years after Jesus’ Crucifixion, St James traveled to Spain as a missionary where he preached the Gospel. In AD 40, he experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary during which he was directed to build a church in her honor and after which he was to return to the Holy Land and continue his mission.
This was a period of growing Christian persecution in Judea and subsequently James was martyred “by the sword” of King Herod Agrippa in AD 44. His body was returned to Spain by his disciples and left to rest in obscurity for 800 years until it was discovered and identified as being the tomb of James the Elder. A church was built at the site and it became a place of veneration and pilgrimage bringing the devout from all around Europe and beyond. The cathedral as seen today was started in 1075 AD and consecrated in 1211. This beautiful Romanesque structure has served as the primary endpoint of the traditional Way of St. James from then until now.
Below are few helpful sites where you can get some additional information.
This is a great site for Americans who plan to walk the Camino.
An excellent Wiki site if you want a more detailed history.
The Way is a very interesting movie starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son Emilio Estevez about a man and the unfortunate circumstances that lead him to walking the Camino with a small group of quirky fellow seekers. Really enjoyable!
A short, light, article on an Irish couple’s Walk on the Portuguese Way.
Of course any relevant search on Google will return many, many more hits.