Caminos de Santiago: A Network of Routes

Why are there so many Caminos de Santiago with the single designation of the Camino de Santiago?

By Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Crossroad (2015)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

There are countless cultural and pilgrimage routes crossing Europe. These include the Camino de Santiago the Nordic variant Saint Olav's Way, the Via Francigena leading to Rome, and the Fatima Caminos in Portugal... The image shows two arrows crossing over each other. The yellow one is for the Central Portugués Camino and the other, blue arrow is the way to the Sanctuary of Fatima.

Cathedral of Santiago of Compostela (1075)Regional Government of Galicia

The Caminos de Santiago are a specific set of pilgrimage routes that cross Europe and lead to the tomb of Saint James the Great, located in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, in the north west of Spain. Find out below about the great historical voyages and the principal landmarks that have helped to create this network of routes.

Church of San Pedro in Caracena (2014)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The Camino de Santiago Throughout History

Although there were multiple Caminos de Santiago over time this has been whittled down to certain set routes. These were the ones that, favored by kings and monastic orders, were marked out by monasteries and hospitals that helped and protected the pilgrims.

Roman roads (1st century)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Roman Roads

The Roman roads are the basis for every great communication route in Europe, including the Caminos de Santiago that were ultimately formed to connect places of worship, culture, and work in the Middle Ages.

Geographer Idrisi Map (12th century) by IdrisiSpanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Historic Routes

The historic routes were created before the publication of the Codex Calixtinus. The geographer Al-Idrisi was already aware of the importance of the route and recorded it in 1154 in the Tabula Rogeriana book of maps. It describes an overland and maritime route to and from Santiago de Compostela: from Bordeaux to Santiago by land, from Bayonne to Santiago by sea; from Coimbra to Santiago by land, and a fourth route from Coimbra by river and sea.

Alfonso II the Chaste and the Primitive Way (9th century) by Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (FEAACS)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The First Route

The Original Way (Camino Primitivo) is the earliest recorded historical route. Around 850, Alfonso II the Chaste, king of Asturias went to Santiago de Compostela to visit the tomb of Saint James the Apostle, which at that time had just been discovered.

Godescalc way (950) by Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (FEAACS)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Godescalc's Route

In 950, the bishop of Le Puy went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela accompanied by a large entourage. He took what would later be called the Vía Podiensis (Way of Le Puy) through France and the French Way through Spain.

Diego Gelmirez's Travels (1100 - 1005) by Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (FEAACS)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Diego Gelmírez's Travels

The great promoter of the Camino de Santiago, Bishop Diego Gelmírez, traveled to Cluny and Rome around 1100 on what would later be known as the Camino Francés and the Vía Lemovicensis (Way of Vézelay), returning by sea to the coast of Catalonia and the Camino Francés. He later traveled to Braga and Porto by the Camino Portugués.

Cover of book V of the Codex Calixtinus (2017) by Various authorsSpanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The First Guidebook

At the start of the 12th century, the office of the Cathedral of Santiago produced a set of five books that were later combined to become what would be known as the Codex Calixtinus. Book five describes, for the first time, the four major routes through France and the Camino Francés in Spain.

Unesco World heritage routes (2021) by Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (FEAACS)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

World Heritage Routes

In 1989, UNESCO declared the Camino Francés of the Camino de Santiago and the Caminos de Santiago in France World Heritage Sites. Later, in 2015, some of the Caminos del Norte routes were also added. These are considered the historic routes recorded in medieval texts.

Pilgrim to Puente Fitero (2008)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Travelers Tales

Since the birth of printing, numerous pilgrims have left behind a record of their journey. The first accounts quickly appeared. They demonstrated the enormous variety of journeys as some were traveling for pious reasons and others for political or commercial ones. Some of the first can be seen below.

Nicolas Bergsson's travel (12th century) by Juan Caamaño AramburuSpanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The Maritime Route from Iceland and Norway

The first existing account is of a maritime route followed by Icelanders. The Benedictine monk Níkulás Bergsson took this route on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land between the years 1151 and 1154. He left a written account, Leiðarvísir (itinerary), on his return to Iceland when he had taken on the role of abbot of the recently founded Munkaþverár monastery in the north of the island.

Nompar, lord of Caumont (15th century) by Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (FEAACS)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The Route from Aquitaine

Nompar II, Lord of Caumont, left his birth town for Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre, Noia and Padrón on July 8 and returned on September 3, 1414. His journey roughly followed the Camino Francés. The manuscript of his account is in the British Museum in London.

Marguery Kempe itinerary (15th century) by Juan Caamaño AramburuSpanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The First Female Pilgrim's Account

In May 1417, Margery Kempe left her house in King's Lynn on the east coast of England, alone and on foot. She headed to Bristol, some 180 miles (300 km) away, with the intention of taking a boat to Galicia to visit the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. At the end of June, the boat set sail and arrived at A Coruña in seven days. She wrote her account in the book called The Book.

Herman Küning's Itinerary (1495) by Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (FEAACS)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The Routes that Unite Europe

The monk Hermann Künig von Vach began his itinerary in Switzerland, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Einsiedeln, following the route taken by pilgrims from Eastern Europe. He recorded his route in 1495 in Die walfart und Straß zu sant Jacob (The Pilgrimage and Path to Saint James), which he wrote in verse.

Second Voyage of Domenico Laffi (1670) by Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (FEAACS)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The Italians' Way (Camino de los Italianos)

Domenico Laffi traveled to Santiago de Compostela on four occasions between 1666 and 1691. He would become a point of reference for Italian pilgrims. On his second trip he took the Via Francigena followed by the Via Tolosana, or Way of Arles, then the route to Roncesvalles and the French Way. He returned via Astorga, Madrid, Zaragoza, Barcelona, and Narbonne. He recorded this in Viaggio in Ponente a San Giacomo di Galitia e Finisterre per Francia e Spagna (A Journey to the West) in 1673.

The Camino de Santiago in Europe (2021) by National Geographic Institute (IGN) / National Geographic Information Center (CNIG) -Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (FEAACS)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

In 1989, the Camino de Santiago was declared the First Cultural Route of Europe, covering all the ways to Santiago de Compostela that had historic traces of pilgrimage, places offering hospitality, and that are currently used by pilgrims. There are over 280 ways to Santiago across Europe.

Seal of credentials in Melide (2012)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

The Credential: The Modern Proof of the Journey

Today's pilgrims also leave a record of their journey: some leave books of their tales, others diaries, and most of them use their credential with a stamp for each long day completed.

View of Múxia (2015)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way

Santiago de Compostela: The End of the Road?

Since the Middle ages, many pilgrims have continued their journey after reaching Santiago de Compostela along the Finisterre Way to see the sunset, and to Muxía to see the 1,000-year-old stones dancing beside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Boat.

Credits: Story

Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago  
www.caminosantiago.org
Pilar de Luis Domínguez
http://www.demadridalcamino.org
Jorge Martínez-Cava

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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