|SAINT JAMES WAY
The pilgrimage to Santiago soon became the most outstanding and most profoundly experienced religious phenomenon of the Middle Ages, a fact that was recently recognised by the European Parliament, wich designated the Way the First European Cultural Itinerary, and by UNESCO, which declared it a World Heritage route.
The expansion of the Reconquest soon enabled the kings Sancho the Great of Navarre and Alfonso VI of Leon to plan an itinerary through their recently liberated territory; the new route linked the capitals of the kingdoms of Navarre, Castile and Leon on the way to Santiago. It is known as French Way.
In order to take care of the travellers, there arose monasteries, churches, hospitals, shelters, bridges and roads, many of which attracted the surrounding rural populations and became new cities.
In favour was the need for repopulating the territories recently reclaimed from Islam. This led the Christian kings to offer charters of freedoms and privileges to those who settled along the route.
It is therefore not surprising to read about multitudes of up to 250 thousend pilgrims being mobilised each year during the 12th and 13th centuries. Most ofthem were moved by unbreakable faith and the search for salvation by means of penitence, some others in order to serve a sentence and a few in order to earn money by making the pilgrimage on be half of some ruler.
Spring and autumn are usualy the best times of year for undertaking the Way of St. james. You can thereby avoid the rigourd of the winter and summer and the overcrowded hostels during summer months.
The 1993 Holy Year brought more than a 100.000 pilgrims to Compostela on foot, by bike or on horseback; this figure rose to 150.000 in the following Holy Year of 1999 ,to 180.000 in 2004 and 272.000 in 2010. The next Holy year will be in 2021.
You need a booklet issued by the diocese of origin's Pilgrimages Delegation, by the parish or by the local Association of Friends of the Way of St. James, which is stamped for pilgrims by the hostels along the route to certify the stages they have completed on foot, on horseback or cycling.