de Santiago de Compostela
- Since the pilgrimage to St. James’ Tomb, which spontaneously arose in the
9th and 10th centuries, was institutionalised under specific religious-social
circumstances, it has been necessary to certify its completion. For this purpose
pilgrims first made use of badges that could only be acquired in St. James, such
as the scallop shell. Due to the number of fakes St. James’ prelates and even
the Pope had to impose excommunication penalties against the falsifiers.
- From the 13th century onwards the so-called evidential letters have
been used due to their well-proved efficiency. These are the direct roots of the
Compostela. In the 16th century the Catholic Monarchs constituted the Foundation
of the Royal Hospital and ordered to erect the building nowadays occupied by the
Hostal de los Reyes Católicos. In 1954 it was turned into a state-run parador.
Pilgrims were allowed to stay free for three days by presenting the
“Compostela”. Pilgrims’ sanitary needs – with the necessary enlargements –
converted the institution into the most important hospital in Galicia and later
into the central office of the famous medical school of St. James.
- The appearance of motor vehicles and the popularisation of tourism
in the 20th century brought about a crisis in terms of pilgrimage. The effort
and sacrifice as a sin expiation involved in the traditional pilgrimage changed
into a pleasant holiday activity. Civil authorities in other sanctuaries began
to draw up visit certificates imitating the “Compostela” – e.g. in the Holy Land
the Israeli Ministry of Tourism draws up a certificate of that kind.
-Thank heaven the Chapter of the Metropolitan Church of St. James
continued drawing up the “Compostela” and claiming – almost unsuccessfully – the
fulfilment of the foundational engagement from the Hostal de los Reyes
Católicos. In recent times, the “Compostela” would be limited to those pilgrims
who walk or go on horseback for at least the last 100 km or cycle for the last
200 km up to the Apostle’s Tomb in St. James.
- The text is written in Latin. Here is the translation:
"The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic Metropolitan Cathedral of St.
James, custodian of the seal of St. James' Altar, to all faithful and pilgrims
who come from everywhere over the world as an act of devotion, under vow or
promise to the Apostle's Tomb, our Patron and Protector of Spain, witnesses in
the sight of all who read this document, that: Mr…………………has visited devoutly
this Sacred Church in a religious sense (pietatis causa).
Witness whereof I hand this document over to him, authenticated by
the seal of this Sacred Church.
Given in St. James de Compostela on the (day)……(month)……A.D. ………
The pilgrim has to abide by the rules above mentioned
if he/she wants to obtain the “Compostela”. The
recent revival of the Way has caused the creation
of an official model of the pilgrim's credential.
Printed in thin cardboard, it consists of 14 pages
to be opened as an accordion. The first and the
last ones are at the left side of this page. The
second – below – is a form that functions as a recommendation
letter and has to be filled in the pilgrim's parish,
in a Christian association, abbey, confraternity,
etc. At the bottom, there is a specific place for
the last stamp with the corresponding date once
you are in the Pilgrims’ Office, where you will
also be given the “Compostela”.
In the following pages the pilgrim will find a place
where to put on the stamps of the refuges, parishes,
confraternities, etc. On the other side there is
a series of maps with the different Ways to St.
James. Finally, one of the pages contains the following
directions for use:
This credential is destined for those who aim to
walk, go on horseback or cycle to St. James as an
act of religious devotion or at least as a spiritual
search. It is intended to identify the pilgrim.
Therefore, the presenting institution has to be
a parish, a confraternity and the like. The credential
does not generate any right to the pilgrim. It has
two practical goals:
The admittance to the refuges offered by Christian
hospitality along the Way and
To obtain the “Compostela” from the Cathedral of
St. James, which is the official certificate of
the pilgrimage. It is only awarded to those who
have come in Christian terms: devotionis affectu,
voti vel pietatis causa - “being the motivation
devotion, vow or piety”. In order to get the "Compostela",
you also have to walk or go on horseback up to the
Apostle's Tomb for at least the last 100 Km or cycle
for at least the last 200 Km.
Thus, the pilgrim credential can exclusively
be drawn up by the Church through its institutions
– that is to say, Bishopric, Parish, Confraternity,
etc. or institutions authorized by the Church. This
is the only way to obtain the “Compostela” in the
S.A.M.I. Cathedral of St. James (Jornadas
sobre el Año Santo: noviembre 1993).
Refuges do not receive any subsidy; therefore pilgrims
should collaborate on their maintenance, keeping
their austerity in mind – cleaning, facility care,
Organized groups on bicycle or with supporting car
please look for alternative lodgings.
The bearer of this credential abides by these rules.
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive this
pouch, habit for your pilgrimage, so that, castigated
and corrected, you hasten to prostrate at Saint
James' feet, where you yearn to arrive and, after
having completed your journey, you come to us delighted
with the help of God, who rules over the world without
this staff as support for the journey and your efforts
during your pilgrimage so that you are able to defeat
the throngs of enemies and thus arrive safely at
Saint James' feet and, after having completed your
journey, you come to us delighted with the consent
of the same God, who lives in and rules over Heaven
without end. Amen."
à Q.Pratique Départ