Wednesday, July 25, 2007

El Camino de Santiago

The Way of St James has been one of the most important Christian pilgrimages since medieval times and it has existed for over 1000 years. It was considered one of three pilgrimages on which all sins could be forgiven - the others being the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

There is not a single route - the Way can be one of any number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. However a few of the routes are considered main ones. Santiago is such an important pilgrimage destination as it is considered the burial site of the apostle James the Great. Legend states that St. James' remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. In the middle ages the route was highly travelled. However reformation and unrest in 16th century Europe resulted in its decline. In the early 1980's only a few pilgrims a year arrived in Santiago. However, since the late 1980s the way has attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from all around the globe. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987 and inscribed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 1993.

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