Way of St. James Pilgrimage Routes
Way of St. James Pilgrimage routes and the Kumano Kodo (ancient road) pilgrimage routes are the "only" two pilgrimage routes that are recognized as the UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage routes.
Way of St. James Pilgrimage routes were recognized into UNESCO World Heritage list in 1985 and the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes were recognized in 2004.
According to the ancient tradition, St. James (also known as St. James the Greater), one of Jesus's twelve apostles, travelled to Hispania (present day Spain), at the westernmost end of the known world at that time, to preach Christianity. The place he visited at that time is called Galicia, which is now part of Spain.
Back in Galilee apostle James was executed by then King of Israel Herod by sword and was the only apostle of Jesus to be martyred for his faith. St. James's disciples took his body to Galicia, the place where St. James spent a lot of time preaching Christianity and buried him there in around 44 AD.
St. Jame's remains were later found in Galicia in 813 AD by a shining light.
By then Christianity was already flourishing in Europe and the discovery of St. James's remains started great tradition of miracles and associated mythology. Local people built a Cathedral around the place where the St. Jame's remains were found.
Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela
A city grew around the place where the Cathedral was built and it came to be called as the Santiago de Compostela. As the importance of this Church grew, St. James was declared as the Patron Saint of Hispania (Spain).
Christians from around the world started to visit this ancient religious place and the tradition of pilgrimage to Galicia and Santiago de Compostela became popular. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela then came to be known as the "Way of St. James" pilgrimage.
Because of the location of Galicia in Spain and in Europe, multiple pilgrimage routes were devised to get to Santiago de Compostela. All pilgrimage routes consist of a starting point (usually outside Spain) and trails through parts of Europe and Spain to get to Santiago de Compostela. Most routes stretch for anywhere between 700 to 1000 kilometers and typically take about a month to complete the pilgrimage. The trails are only accessible by biking and walking.
The pilgrimage routes have names based on the point of origin, such as "The French Way", "The Portuguese Way", "North Way", "Primitive Way" etc.
Please visit the website http://www.santiagoturismo.com
, for more information about various routes that comprise this pilgrimage. This website also provides a lot of information about the Apostle James, Santiago de Compostela, the famous Cathedral where St. James's remains are kept and the information about the recognition of UNESCO World Heritage Pilgrimage Routes.
Famous Brazilian author Paulo Coelho (author of famous book "The Alchemist"), completed the Way of St. James pilgrimage using "The French Way". He detailed this pilgrimage in his book called "The Pilgrimage".
(above photos courtesy of Kumano Kodo pilgrimage brochures)