The Camino Part 1: History of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James)


Padron Pilgrim Church

St. James is one of the chosen three Apostles present at the Transfiguration of Christ.  Following the death of Christ in circa 32 AD the remaining disciples left the holy land and began spreading the gospel as they had been commanded to do by Jesus. James the Greater, as he was known then, left for the Iberian Peninsula to evangelize and where he is reported to have stayed for approximately 2 years.  Later, he returned to Jerusalem where Herod beheaded him. His disciples took his body back to Spain.

In the ninth century his body was rediscovered, a cathedral built to house his tomb, and pilgrims began to stream across Europe in pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Legend tells us that his followers took his body to the port of Jaffa (modern day Tel-Aviv) where they found a boat made of stone, guarded by an angel, waiting for them. This boat transported the martyred disciple’s body back to the Iberian Peninsula landing at a port then named Iria flavia, now a district of Padrón in Galicia, North West Spain.

If you visit Padrón go into the main church, Santiago de Padrón, near the Alameda. In this church you will find the “Pedron”, a large stone which is reported to have been used to moor the stone boat carrying the body of St James, and from which the town gets its name.

The body was transported to a hillside approximately 23kms north of Iria Flavia and was buried, remaining undiscovered for nearly 800 years. In the 9th century AD a hermit named Pelayo is reported to have had vision of a large bright star surrounded by a circle of smaller stars pointing to a spot somewhere in the Libradón mountains. The hermit reported his vision to the Bishop of Iria Flavia, Theodomir, who decided to investigate Pelayo’s vision and a tomb, containing the body of the Saint and 2 of his followers Athanasius and Theodore, was subsequently discovered.

St James was proclaimed patron saint of Spain by the King Alfonso II, who built a church and monastery over the tomb in honour of the saint. Because of Pelayo’s vision the place was named Campus Steliae or field of stars, which later became Compostela. News of the discovery of the tomb quickly spread and the pilgrimage or “Camino” to Santiago begins.

Pilgrims began to stream across Europe in pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.The pilgrimage begins at numerous points in Europe and converges in the Pyrenees at the Basque village of Roncesvalles (or Jaca)  then treks west for 400 miles across northern Spain to Santiago, near the Atlantic coast. Along the way you will tred sacred ground, may visit a Eucharistic miracle at O’Cebriero, can visit astounding Romanesque churches and cathedrals, kneel in the woods at lonely crosses of wood or stone or iron, smile at endearing local shrines and meet delightful people.

Return to Camino de Santiago page


4 thoughts on “The Camino Part 1: History of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James)

  1. Pingback: The Camino Part 2: The Ritual of Visiting Santiago Cathedral | The Catholic Pilgrim

  2. Pingback: The Camino Part 3: The Botafumeiro | The Catholic Pilgrim

  3. Pingback: The Camino Part 4: the La Compostela (Pilgrim’s Passport) | The Catholic Pilgrim

  4. Pingback: The Camino Part 5: WAY (Movie) | The Catholic Pilgrim

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