Why Santiago de Compostela is a place of pilgrimage

Published on in category Geography
Why Santiago de Compostela is a place of pilgrimage

Every year, 200,000 people from all over the world take the famous pilgrimage of St. James. It is a network of roads throughout Europe. However, most people go according to their time and physical abilities only one of the last sections and most often the path called Camino Frances, or the French path. But why do they go to Santiago at all?

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the Spanish autonomous region of Galicia located in northwestern Spain. Before its very existence, a Roman cemetery was located on its territory until the 4th century. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the territory alternately belonged to various tribes and kingdoms, and at the beginning of the 8th century it was occasionally plundered by the Arabs. Around 750, the territory was annexed to the Kingdom of Asturias.[1]

In the early 9th century, during the reign of Alfonso II of Asturias, Bishop Theodemir of Iria allegedly discovered the remains of the Apostle James the Elder, which is called Santiago el Mayor in Spanish. James was one of the twelve apostles, that is, the disciples of Jesus Christ. According to legend, after Jesus' crucifixion, James went west to preach the gospel and ended up in Spain. He did not meet with much success, but on the way back, the Virgin Mary appeared to him and told him that a church would grow in this place for his efforts. That place was supposed to be the current Santiago de Compostela. After returning to Palestine, James was executed. According to legend, his body eventually returned to Spain.[2]

However, Jacob's remains were probably brought to Spain by three monks much later to protect them from the Saracens. In Spain, they fell into oblivion for a while and were allegedly discovered only by Theodemir of Iria, during whose time a temple and a city were built around the tomb. During the Moorish invasion, the church was destroyed, and it was not until 1075 to 1150 that the present cathedral was built.[1]

The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route began to gain in popularity sometime from the 11th or 12th century. After Rome and Jerusalem, Santiago is the second most important shrine to Christianity. Many important personalities have already completed the pilgrimage. Today it is perceived as a popular tourist attraction and many people take the trip as an interesting holidays. At the end of it, it is possible to obtain a certificate of completion and attend a regular Mass for all pilgrims.