History of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James)

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 where he is reported to have stayed for approximately 2 years. In 44AD he returned to Jerusalem, where he was promptly beheaded by King Herod. 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.

This Saint James and his connection with Padron page will tell you more about the history of St. James and the town of Iria Flavia (Padron).

The French Route

The French route is the oldest of the various pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela and is so called because of the different ancient starting points as mentioned in the medieval manuscript called the Codex Calixtinus. These four main starting points were: Paris, Vézalay, Le Puy and Arles.

In modern times most pilgrims choose to start their pilgrimage in Saint Jean Pied-de-Port at the foot of the Pyrenees or sometimes Roncevalles.

In this Camino section we will describe the full 800 km (500 mile) route from Saint Jean Pied-de-Port, giving information on towns along the route and any significant monuments and a little information about the 5 Spanish provinces you will pass through. The whole route will take approximately one month to complete (on foot). Wherever possible we will be using the Spanish (or Gallego) names for the buildings as after all that is how they will be signed as and the given name of any important people.

There are 33 stages to the French route or Camino Frances as follows:

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