The English Way in Galicia

Discover one of the most unique routes to Santiago de Compostela by traveling by land, and sea!

Ría de A Coruña from the lighthouses of Mera (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

The route known as the English Way was established during the Middle Ages. Pilgrims from all over Europe, especially the Atlantic side of the continent, made their journey by boat from whichever port best suited them based on where they lived and traveled directly to the Iberian Peninsula.

Tower of Hercules (2nd Century)Regional Government of Galicia

Some of the most popular places to land  were the ports in the northern coast of Galicia, particularly A Coruña. The voyagers would then follow the route to Santiago de Compostela by land. The pilgrims from England probably used this route the most, and so it is now named after them.

Ferrol estuary (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

From the late 20th century, the majority of pilgrims who chose this route only did the Way by land, departing from the cities of A Coruña or Ferrol. The two routes merge near what is now the hostel in Bruma, 25 miles (41 km) from Santiago de Compostela.

Port of A Coruña (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Starting from A Coruña

A Coruña has served as a large port for the St. James Way throughout history. Pilgrims watched out for the Tower of Hercules (Torre de Hércules), the Roman-built lighthouse that signaled the end of their dangerous journey across the sea.

Porta do Parrote, wall of A Coruña (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Pilgrims disembarked at a port called O Parrote in A Coruña. To access the mainland, they had to cross the gateways of the defensive walls of the city. Nowadays, the English Way starts from this gateway in A Coruña, which is named after the ancient port that no longer exists.

Church of Santiago in A Coruña (12th Century)Original Source: S.A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo

The Church of Santiago (Saint James), which used to be located beside the port, was undoubtedly the pilgrims' first stop where they would thank the apostle for their safe passage to the peninsula. This photo shows the apostles Santiago (Saint James) and San Juan (Saint John) flanking either side of the entrance.

Church of Santiago de A Coruña (12th Century)Regional Government of Galicia

This church was founded in the 13th century and is the city's main landmark associated with Saint James the Greater. The church still bears signs of the great influx of pilgrims who passed through on their way to Santiago de Compostela throughout the centuries.

Sculpture of Santiago el Mayor (12th Century)Original Source: S.A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo

Here, an image of Saint James the Greater from the 14th century is very similar to the one that pilgrims embrace in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Symbolically, this was a sign to pilgrims that they had arrived in the Land of Saint James the Greater.

Galleries on Avenida de la Marina in A Coruña (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

English pilgrims probably started their journey to Santiago de Compostela from the medieval Church of Saint George (San Jorge) as he has been the patron saint of England since the 14th century. The church no longer exists today. This picture shows the approximate location of the church in what is now Calle Riego de Agua.

Pilgrims also landed on the banks of the O Burgo river, particularly up to the 13th century, as the port in A Coruña was then built. This photo shows a view of the O Burgo river from the present English Way.

Church of Santiago do Burgo (12th Century)Regional Government of Galicia

There is another church dedicated to Saint James the Greater in O Burgo, which highlights how important the saint was to the city. The present-day English Way passes right by this Roman church.

A particular point of interest on the English Way from A Coruña is Sigrás, which used to be a stop-off on the route to Santiago de Compostela. Sigrás also has a church dedicated Saint James the Greater as well as a rectory, which used to be a pilgrim hospital during the Middle Ages.

Ferrol estuary (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Starting from Ferrol

Pilgrims also used to land along the river and port in Ferrol to do the Way during the Middle Ages. Pilgrims would have to travel 70 miles (113 km) from this large city before reaching the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Monastery of San Martiño do Couto (12th Century)Regional Government of Galicia

Shortly after leaving the urban hub of Ferrol, travelers reach the medieval monastery of San Martiño de Xubia, one of the largest monastic settlements along the English Way.

Pontedeume and estuary of Ares (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

The route goes on towards Betanzos via the medieval bridge in Pontedeume. There used to be a small pilgrim hospital here. Though it no longer exists, it is important to remember how important this infrastructure was in making pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela possible.

Like other routes to Santiago de Compostela, this route also has a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary called Nosa Señora do Camiño (Our Lady of the Way). Built in the 16th century, the shrine also had a pilgrim hospital and is located just before the city of Betanzos.

Hermanos García Naveira square in Betanzos (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

Betanzos is the main settlement on the English Way from Ferrol. The Churches of Santiago (Saint James), Santa María, and San Francisco are some of Galicia's prime historical. The Maritime Museum (Museo das Mariñas) houses works associated with Saint James the Greater. This photo shows the Irmáns García Naveira square.

Doorway of the church of Santiago de Betanzos (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

The entrance into the Church of Santiago in Betanzos has an original medieval lintel depicting the apostle Saint James the Greater after he had freed the Christians from having to pay the fabled tribute of 100 maidens to the Muslims.

Pilgrim's hostel in Bruma (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

From Bruma to Santiago

Just before the Hospital de Bruma, 25 miles (40 km) from Santiago de Compostela, the two routes of the English Way from A Coruña and Ferrol merge.

Hermitage of San Lorenzo in Bruma (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

It seems that this was a dangerous area to travel through in the Middle Ages, which is why a pilgrim hospital was founded there. The hospital's chapel still remains to this day.

Pilgrim's hostel of Poulo (2021)Regional Government of Galicia

The English Way now has a network of both private and public hostels where pilgrims can stay. They are a fine example of the tradition of hospitality that the Way is known for. This photo shows the Poulo hostel in Ordes, where Cosmo III de' Medici's entourage stayed during his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1669.

Bridge over the Tambre river in Sigüeiro (2012)Original Source: S.A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo

Various historical bridges are dotted along this route. One of the most famous is the medieval bridge that crosses the Tambre river in Sigüeiro. The bridge is only 10 miles (16 km) from Santiago de Compostela and vehicles can still drive over it.

Though the English Way goes through many highly populated areas, it still boasts magnificent landscapes. One of the best examples of this is in the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela. A long stretch of forests allow for complete solitude where pilgrims can feel inspired.

Church of San Martiño Pinario (1590)Regional Government of Galicia

This route leads into the city of Santiago de Compostela via the Porta da Pena, one of the ancient gateways in the medieval walls of the city. The entrance opens onto a street, which is also called Porta da Pena, and travelers can cross the San Martiño square and A Inmaculada square before finally reaching the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Pilgrims in Santiago de Compostela (2007)Original Source: Axencia Turismo de Galicia

Today, as in the past, the pilgrim's journey along the English Way ends at the cathedral. This journey over land and sea showcases the Way's universal nature.

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