Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago

The pilgrim network is visited every year by people coming from different parts of the world. They all have the purpose and the conviction to reach the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The question that arises immediately is: “Why to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela?”

What will be the reason why so many people with different situations, ages and conditions go to Santiago de Compostela? Doubt is not resolved when one decides to make a pilgrimage. As all those who have made the Camino de Santiago can testify, a frequent question often asked by the group of pilgrim companions is: “And you, why are you making a pilgrimage to Santiago”

why do you do the pilgrimage to Santiago

In Santiago Ways, we have assisted pilgrims for many years  To the tomb of Santiago the Apostle. We have travelled countless times various pilgrim routes. With all that experience on the Camino de Santiago, what we can say is that the pilgrimage to Santiago has different components.

One is the tradition and the effort that has been made to recover it. Another is the personal motivation of each pilgrim. Now we will tell you why so many people make their pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.

What is a pilgrimage?

Pilgrimage is to start a journey to a sacred place or a devotion. It is usually a walking process, but it can also be done in other ways. The term comes from the Latin word “peregrinatio”, which means stay abroad.

The pilgrimage carries a series of sacrifices on the part of the people who complete it. These may be of various kinds and not all pilgrims submit to them to the same degree.

Some of these sacrifices are to prepare the pilgrimage, abandon the daily and pleasurable routines and then endure the fatigue that involves the effort of walking. Of course, pilgrimage also carries the expense associated with the journey. All these efforts give a sample of the effort that the person establishes with the goal that they want to achieve.

The pilgrimage is a displacement of universal people, that occurs all over the world. This phenomenon has important religious connotations. However, it is not associated with any specific religion, associating itself with the beliefs of each of them.

Pilgrimages to Mecca, Islam, or the source of the River Ganges are famous in Hinduism. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is part of Christianity. It is the third most important, after the pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to Rome.

A fact of interest is that, during the Middle Ages, in the west, the only people who received the name of pilgrims were those who were heading to Santiago de Compostela. Those who visited Rome were known as Romeros and those of Jerusalem as Palmeros.

Why pilgrimages are made to Santiago

Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is carried out, like many other pilgrimages, to pay homage to the remains of a martyr. In the case of the Camino de Santiago, the figure that is worshipped is Santiago the Elder.

Santiago the Apostle was also a pilgrim who travelled all over Spain and Portugal. His motivation was to preach the gospel. That is why he is considered the patron of all pilgrims. If you want to know more about him, you can read our article about the life of Santiago the Apostle.

The birth of the legend of Santiago

In 43 A.D. after his return to Jerusalem, Santiago the apostle was assassinated. His disciples hid his remains in a forest of Galicia to protect him from his enemies. They remained hidden there for centuries.

In 813, the remains of the saint were discovered. Almost two decades later, King Alfonso II confirms that this is the tomb of the Apostle. The legend of Santiago the Apostle was born.

Pilgrimage to the Apostle thomb

Almost immediately, King Alfonso II began his journey to visit the tomb of the Apostle. Thus he became the first pilgrim to go to Santiago de Compostela. After his visit to the sepulchre, he ordered the construction of a temple to guard the remains of the recent discovery.

The strong support, by the monarch, who received the discovery of the remains of Santiago the Apostle is understood in terms of Christianity. But also as a strategy to reign the country.

At that time the overwhelming triumph of the Muslims had confined their Christian reign to the North of the peninsula. The monarch needed an element that would serve to morally empower his people.

Hence the king not only transformed Santiago the Apostle into a legend but also demonstrate him as a symbol of the struggle against the Muslim world. Creating the figure of Santiago Matamoros.

His subjects quickly threw themselves to imitate the pilgrimage of their king. The discovery of the remains of Santiago the Apostle and the legend of Santiago Matamoros spread quickly throughout the Christian community.

Thus began the first pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. People coming from other parts of Europe begin to tour the heart of Galicia, to pay homage at the sepulchre of Santiago the Elder.

The consolidation of pilgrimage to Santiago

Subsequently, the advance of the reconquest and the recovery of the Arab lands allowed to open other routes further south, like the Camino Frances. The Kings Sancho III the Elder and Sancho Ramírez, of Navarre and Aragon, together with Alfonso VI of Castile, contributed strongly to consolidate the tradition of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

These monarchs put everything in their power to attract rich and powerful people from other countries to their lands. Gifts, marriage commitments and all kinds of favours bestowed on behalf of Santiago the Apostle were offered to illustrious people of the time for visiting the sepulchre of the saint.

Some illustrious pilgrims were the Bishop of Puy, the Marquis of Gothia, the Archbishop of Lyon. The Queen Isabel of Portugal also went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela on two occasions. Her pilgrimage to the tomb of Santiago the Apostle greatly contributed to consolidate the Camino Portugues.

The former made the belief in the miracles of Santiago the Elder spread quickly throughout the world. Pilgrims from all countries, regardless of their condition, walked to Santiago de Compostela to obtain the grace of the Apostle.

At that time, great wealth was moving, both in terms of commerce and culture, on the pilgrim’s network. These favoured pilgrims without great Christian devotion to visit the tomb of the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela. The Camino de Santiago became an ideal place to reach people from other places to trade and a route of exchange of cultural influences.

Why people still make pilgrimages to Santiago even now

Between the 19th and 20th centuries, pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela was abandoned and the routes of the Camino de Santiago fell into disuse. Two social phenomena explain this change.

One is the process of confiscation, in the 19th century. This provoked the disappearance of much of the infrastructure that welcomed the pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago. The other is the French Revolution, which opened up a spiritual crisis that provoked a strong secularization of European society.

Why are you pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela today, then? Well, just as the Camino de Santiago was consolidated during the Middle Ages by the push made by the monarchs of Navarre, Aragon and Castile, in the second half of the 20th century an important effort was made to recover it.

The recuperation of the Camino de Santiago

From 1965, part of the original itinerary was recovered, on which roads had been built in many sections. Starting from 1980, the pilgrim routes began to be enabled so that they could be travelled on foot. It also provided the Camino de Santiago with new infrastructure or the previous one was recovered.

This work was largely possible because of the work done by hundreds of volunteers and the appearance of the associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago. Thus, the organization of the Camino de Santiago passed from ecclesiastical institutions to secular entities.

The popularising of the Santiago de Compostela

At once, recognition began to arrive on the Camino de Santiago. Which contributed to popularising it again. The first was in 1987, as a European Cultural itinerary.

During the following years, there was a great deal of work to spread and adapt the Camino de Santiago even more. The goal was to be listed as a World Heritage site. The city of Santiago de Compostela had already obtained this cataloguing in 1985.

Finally, the Camino de Santiago was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in the Jacobean year of 1993. The promotion efforts made during that year achieved great success and 100,000 people decided to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Promotion jacobean pilgrimage

This milestone unveiled, in a definitive way, the Camino de Santiago. The accessibility of the pilgrim routes saw the interest in pilgrimage to Santiago increased quickly. Proof of this is that since that year, pilgrimages to Compostela have done nothing but increase in number.

What motivates people to make pilgrimage to Santiago

Undoubtedly, the effort made to recover the Camino de Santiago and make the routes accessible, coupled with the enormous work in communication and diffusion, explain, to a large extent, the influx of pilgrims to Santiago. However, beyond the availability of the routes, the people who pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela make an enormous effort to complete this feat.

When we ask the people who contact us, “You, why do you make a pilgrimage to Santiago? ” We are surprised by a fact. As has happened throughout history, since the birth of the legend of Santiago the Apostle, the reasons are varied. You could almost say that there are so many motivations to make a pilgrimage to Santiago, as there are pilgrims on the Camino.

Pilgrim’s Office statistics

When you arrive in Santiago de Compostela and you want to ask for the Compostela you must stop by the Pilgrim’s Office. There, they ask why you make a pilgrimage to Santiago. With this information, they produce statistics about the reasons why pilgrims arrive in Santiago.

According to their statistics, 48% of people who are pilgrims to Santiago do so for religious reasons and others. 43% for an exclusively religious motivation. The remaining 9% answer the question of why they made a pilgrimage to Santiago by pointing out that their motivation has nothing to do with religious issues.

However, this data is too simple to allow us to really understand why a person makes a pilgrimage to Santiago. More than half of the people who decide to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela hide other reasons, beyond the religious ones.

The cultural aspects of the Camino de Santiago are, without a doubt, an important trigger for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Also, the influences exerted by other pilgrims who have made the Camino de Santiago previously. These, as did the illustrious during the Middle Ages, encourage many people to make a pilgrimage.

Strictly personal reasons also explain the pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago. The need to move away from the frenetic pace of society and to find yourself leads many people to make a pilgrimage to Santiago.

The list is much wider and each motivation has its own set of nuances.

In this article about 5 reasons to do the Camino de Santiago  We delve into each one of them. We also give you some tips to live your motivation fully. Don’t forget to read it!

Testimonials: “Why are you making a pilgrimage to Santiago?

Even if with all that we have told you, you still do not understand why the people pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, watch this video of testimonials of pilgrims. They answer the question:  “Why are you pilgrims to Santiago? ” Listening to them talk will help you understand why pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is so massive in numbers!

In Santiago Ways, we are glad to have the opportunity to share with you this interesting reflection on why pilgrimage to Santiago. For years we have been on pilgrimage and discovering all the secrets of the Camino de Santiago; and we would love to share them with you.

If the article has been interesting to you, do not forget to share it on social networks. Thus, together we will make the Camino de Santiago, every day, a bigger meeting place. A path where each of us finds that search, no matter what.

Before we say goodbye, we would like to remind you that if you need a specialized agency that will advise or accompany you on your pilgrimage, in Santiago Ways we will be happy to help you. Call us and ask us why are you going on a pilgrimage to Santiago?

Buen Camino!

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