Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

How many Ways of Saint James are there?

The Way of Saint James is surely the mother of all pilgrimages, a centuries-old network of pilgrimage routes that converge at the majestic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. This cathedral is believed to enshrine the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great, making it a place of deep significance for Christians –and for Catholics in particular. For over a thousand years, pilgrims have been drawn to the many paths that comprise the Camino, seeking self-discovery, faith, and connection to a rich historical legacy.

The origins of the Camino de Santiago date back to the 9th century when the tomb of Saint James is said to have been discovered in what is now Santiago de Compostela. According to legend, a hermit named Pelagius (or Pelayo) was guided to the site by a field of stars, leading to the name “Compostela,” from the Latin Campus Stellae –field of stars. This miraculous discovery spread throughout Christendom, attracting pilgrims eager to venerate the saint’s relics.

Initially, pilgrims would begin their journeys from their hometowns. Over time, established routes emerged, guided by factors like the availability of food and shelter, the presence of holy sites, and safety from bandits.

All roads lead to Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is not a single path, but rather a vast web. Some of the most established and popular routes include:

  • The Portuguese Way (Camino Portugués): This route begins in Lisbon, Portugal, and continues north into Spain, with a coastal variation from Porto.
  • The Northern Way (Camino del Norte): This route follows the rugged, scenic coastline of northern Spain. For those starting in northern Spain from the coastal towns of Ferrol or A Coruña, we offer a shorter route.
  • The Silver Way (Via de la Plata) is an ancient Roman route stretching from Seville in southern Spain all the way to Santiago. These routes extend beyond Santiago, ending at Cape Finisterre and the sanctuary of Muxía, considered the “end of the world” on the Atlantic coast.
  • Camino Olvidado: One of the oldest routes, known for its remote trails and stunning scenery.
  • Whether you seek a well-trodden, social path or a quieter, more solitary experience, there’s a route taking you to Santiago to suit your needs.

The Camino welcomes all, regardless of faith or background. In 1987, the Council of Europe declared the Camino de Santiago the “First European Cultural Route.”

In 1993, Unesco recognized the Camino Francés of Santiago de Compostela as World Heritage Site. In 2015 the declaration included the four routes of the Northern Ways (Camino Costero, Camino Primitivo, Camino Lebaniego and Camino Interior Vasco-Riojano). Today, it stands as a symbol of unity and reminds us of the enduring power of spiritual journeys.

This post is also available in: Español Italiano

Leave a Comment