The History of El Camino de Santiago

camino map

The different routes of el Camino de Santiago.

The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is said to be the location of the remains of Saint James, one of Jesus’s apostles. People started making pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela over 1,000 years ago. Back in those days, they would just walk from their house, where ever that might be. Nowadays, we take planes, trains, and buses to our starting point.

The Camino hit it’s peak in the Middle Ages. During that time it became an organized event. Towns developed to host pilgrims, gaining commercially from the popularity of the trail. Guidebooks were even made to assist pilgrims on their journey. The popularity of the Camino tapered off in the 16th Century when Spain engaged in wars with England and France. While a small stream of pilgrims kept the Camino alive over the centuries, the trail did not return to popularity until more modern times.

(Check out American Pilgrims for more information on the history of el Camino de Santiago.)

Nowadays, there are multiple routes pilgrims can take to complete el Camino. The trail passes by multiple towns every day, so pilgrims can stay at an albergue (it’s a hostel) every night and eat dinner at a bar every evening. Roughly 100,000 people do the trail every year.

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