The Credencial or Pilgrim's Passport
When planning your Camino one of the first things you need to obtain is the Credencial, known in English as the Pilgrim's Passport.
The Credencial is a document which you will need to get stamped along your route and it is then handed in at the Pilgrim's office in Santiago who then issue you with a Compostela, the certificate issue to say you have completed the Camino. This is issued to Pilgrims who have walked at least the last 100 kilometres, or if you have chosen to do the Camino by cycling, the last 200 kilometres. It is also used to allow you into the Albergues or Refugios, without it you will not get a bed for the night. You may also need to use it to prove you are a Pilgrim when you ask for a Pilgrim's menu at some of the restaurants.
Outside Spain there are a number of organisations who issue the Credencial.
- In the UK you can obtain it from the Confraternity of Saint James.
- In the USA contact the American Pilgrims of the Camino.
- In Ireland the Irish Society of the Friends of St James.
- In Canada the Little Company of Pilgrims.
- In South Africa the Congraternity of St James of South Africa.
If you are unable to get your Credencial before you leave for France or Spain there are a number of places en route where you can pick one up. They are as follows:
St Jean Pied-du-Port - Accuiel St Jacques at 39 Rue de la Citadelle
Roncevalles – Centro de Atención al Peregrino, Casa Prioral
Pamplona – Albergue de Peregrinos de Jesus y Maria near the Cathedral or the Edificio Central in the University of Navarra
Puente la Reina – Albergue de Peregrinos de los Padres Reparadores
Estella - Albergue de Peregrinos
Logroño – Albergue Municipal de Peregrinos
Santo Domingo de la Calzada - Albergue de peregrinos de la Cofradía del Santo
Burgos – Albergue Municipal de Peregrinos or the Pilgrim's office at the Cathedral
Carrion de los Condes – Oficina del Peregrino in the Monasterio de San Zoilo
Leon – Albergue Ciudad de León
Astorga – Albergue de peregrinos Siervas de María
Rabanal del Camino – Albergue Nuestra Señora del Pilar
Molinaseca – Albergue de Peregrinos Alfredo
Ponferrada – Albergue de Peregrinos San Nicolas
Villafranca del Bierzo – Albergue de Peregrinos Ave Fónix
O Cebreiro – Albergue de O Cebreiro and at the Santuario
Samos – Albergue del Monasterio de Samos
Sarria – Albergue de Peregrinos de Sarria
Portomarin – Albergue de Peregrinos
Once you have your Credencial and have started your Camino you will need to get this stamped on a daily basis. You can do this at the Albergue or Refugio you are staying in for the night or at the local church. Other places that may stamp your Pilgrim's passport can be the Ayuntamiento which is the town hall or the office of the Guardia Civil.
Since 2002 Pilgrims have been required to have their Credential stamped at least once a day on the Camino between France and Galicia, however, as soon as you have entered Galicia you are required to get your Credential stamped twice a day. This was introduced by Pilgrim Office of Santiago to try and ensure that only those who have undertaken the Camino on foot, by bike or on horseback are issued the Compostela. If you run out of space on your Credential you can collect a new one at any of the places mentioned previously.
Once you have made it all the way to the steps of the Cathedral in Santiago with your completed Credential you will need to make your way to the Pilgrim's office situated on a side street to the right hand side of the Cathedral.
Once there hand over your Credential, you will then be asked some questions about what motivated you to do the Camino, being mindful that if you do not state spiritual as one of your motivations you may not be given the Compostela, instead you may be given a certificate proving you have completed the Camino.
Once you have your Compostela you can head off to the Praza do Obradoiro and the Hotel de los Reyes Católicos where, if you are lucky, you may be able to get one of their 10 free pilgrim meals. Unfortunately you cannot enter the hotel by the usual main entrance but have to queue down the ramp to the left hand side of the hotel at the garage door.
The Compostela also entitles you to a discount on the entry fee for the Cathedral museum and at refugios/albergues back along the route you have come.
The Compostela is always written in Latin and reads as follows:
CAPITULUM hujus Almae Apostolicae et Metropolitanae Ecclesiae Compostellanae sigilli Altaris Beati Jacobi Apostoli custos, ut omnibus Fidelibus et Perigrinis ex toto terrarum Orbe, devotionis affectu vel voti causa, ad limina Apostoli Nostri Hispaniarum Patroni ac Tutelaris SANCTI JACOBI convenientibus, authenticas visitationis litteras expediat, omnibus et singulis praesentes inspecturis, notum facit : (Latin version of name of recipient)
Hoc sacratissimum Templum pietatis causa devote visitasse. In quorum fidem praesentes litteras, sigillo ejusdem Sanctae Ecclesiae munitas, ei confero.
Datum Compostellae die (day) mensis (month) anno Dni (year)
Canonicus Deputatus pro Peregrinis
In English it says:
The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint James, custodian of the seal of Saint 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: …………………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 Santiago de Compostela on the (day)……(month)……A.D. ………