Christian legend has it that when the Apostles divided the known world into missionary zones, the Iberian Peninsula fell to James. Seventh and eighth century documents suggest that he spent a number of years preaching there before returning to Jerusalem, where in the year 44 AD he was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I. After his martyrdom, popular belief relates that his followers carried his body to the coast and put it into a stone boat, which was guided by angels and carried by the wind beyond the Pillars of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar) to land near Finisterre, at Padrón, in northern Spain. Queen Lupa provided the team of oxen used to draw the body from Padrón to the site of a marble tomb which she had also provided. Saint James was believed to have been buried there with two of his disciples. And there the body lay, forgotten until the 9th century.
Early in that century, Pelagius, a hermit living in that part of Galicia, had a vision in which he saw a star or a field of stars that led him to what proved to be an ancient tomb containing three bodies. The local bishop, Theodomir, declared the remains to be those of St. James (Sant Iago) and two of his followers, whereupon King Alphonso II forthwith declared Santiago to be the patron saint of Spain, or of what would eventually be Spain. A small village named Campus de Ia Stella (Field of Stars) and a monastery were established on the site. News of the discovery spread like wildfire and pilgrims began to arrive, and miracles came to be attributed to the site. The miracles encouraged pilgrimages which began at points throughout Christian Europe and beyond and ended at the tomb of Santiago in Compostella (Campus de la Stella). Anxious to support the Spanish Church in its struggle against the Moors on the Peninsula, the Archbishop of Galicia and the cathedral authorities, as well as the monks of the Abbey of Cluny in France promoted the pilgrimage, which became known as El Camino de Santiago. Thus began the millennium-long Way of St. James establishing Santiago de Compostela as one of the three most important pilgrimages in Christendom after Rome and Jerusalem.
In 2012, 134,979 pilgrims from all over the world completed the final 100 km walk to Santiago and qualified for the coveted ‘Compostela’ or certificate. The Way of St. James crisscrosses Western Europe beginning in various cities and towns and arriving at Santiago through Northern Spain. An important point on the Way of St. James is Saint Jean Pied de Port located in the southwestern part of France at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. St. Jean Pied de Port is the traditional start of the French Way or Camino Francés, and it is the old capital of the traditional Basque province of Lower Navarre where the Basque language is still spoken on both sides of the border. The town stands at the base of the Roncevaux Pass which crosses the Pyrenees and leads pilgrims on foot for 800 kilometers (500) miles to Santiago de Compostela. On September 28, 2013 I will be walking the Camino Francés, arriving in Santiago de Compostela on October 26, 2013.
The Camino is generally regarded as a journey of the body, mind and spirit. More than just a simple walk, the Camino is special because of the fellow pilgrims I’ll meet, the stories we’ll share and the challenges we’ll overcome. For many, the walk is to find inspiration – improving their outlook on life, bringing them into closer contact with nature and expanding their cultural horizons through contact with other pilgrims. I choose to walk the Camino for personal and spiritual reasons, as well as to take time out from my busy modern life. I am not so much a human being on a spiritual journey but rather a spiritual being on a human journey. I bring with me in spirit those family and friends I have loved and who have left this world. I bring with me also in spirit, my beloved Olyve, and those family and friends in this world who I love and who dwell in my heart. Everyone experiences the journey in a different way. As is tradition, my journey will be unlike any other.