The Ancient City of Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) is located in Galicia, situated in the far north-west of Spain. In the beginning of the 9th century, a hermit called Pelagius saw a mysterious light shining over a Roman tomb forgotten in the middle of a forest. Very soon, the incredible news spread all over the Christian world: the tomb of St. James the Greater, the beloved apostle of Jesus Christ, had been discovered in a far site near the finis terrae, the end of the known Earth, in the northwest of Iberian Peninsula. A few years later, this site became a famous pilgrimage town, one of the most important of Christianity. Pilgrims came from all over Europe following the Camino de Santiago to reach the city born around the Holy Tomb, exercising a great influence on the surrounding area. This is evidenced in the small towns, churches, hospitals, and monasteries that were built near the Camino to attend to the thousands of pilgrims who came to visit the tomb. This influence in the local architecture and art was especially strong and long-lasting in the north-west of Spain, but the fame and the reputation of the sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela went well beyond; Galicia was even known in the Nordic sagas as Jakobsland. This famous pilgrimage site also became a symbol in the Spanish Christians' struggle against Islam. Destroyed by the Muslims at the end of the 10th century, it was completely rebuilt in the following century. The Old Town of Santiago de Compostela, together with the outlying Santa Maria de Conxo Monastery, constitutes an extraordinary ensemble of distinguished monuments. The squares and narrow streets of the Old Town contain Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicist buildings. This town is not only a harmonious and very well preserved historical city, but also a place deeply imbued with faith. The cathedral, considered as a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, keeps the remarkable Pórtico de la Gloria, a jewel of the medieval sculpture. However, the authentic symbol of the city is the Baroque western façade of the cathedral, which forms one of the sides of the square of Obradoiro, one of the world´s most beautiful urban areas. The phenomenon of pilgrimage is not only a relevant historical fact, but also a continuous movement thanks to the celebration of the Holy Years.
The French Way
EL Camino de Santiago
The most famous route taken by pilgrims is the "French Way". There is information on this road since 1135, specifically in archives within the Codex Calixtinus, where you could find for the first time the distances separating the tomb of St. James from many of the main European cities. All this, added to the present time, make this route the most documented. Due to the Christian culture, this route of the Way of Saint James became the route with the greatest number of pilgrims in Medieval Europe, to be able to appreciate the so longed for tomb in Santiago de Compostela. This provoked that every time it had more relevance within the pilgrims and the people had knowledge about it, reason why it was won the honor of being the route more recognized in the whole world, which brought with it a great economic and social recognition. Today is the most traveled route as it is the most recognized worldwide, so it is also the best conditioned to be able to supply the large number of pilgrims who walk on it. It has a route close to the north of the peninsula of approximately 760 km divided into 31 stages and starting at Saint Jean Pied de Port
The End of the World
In Roman times it was believed to be an end of the known world. The name Finisterre, like that of Finistère in France, derives from the Latin finis terrae, meaning "end of the earth".
The way to Finisterre and Muxia begins from the main cathedral in Santiago de Compostela and heads west for approximately 90km. It travels across the peaceful country side of Galicia, all the way to Fisterra and the Atlantic coast. The town of Fisterra sits on the cape of Finisterre (very easy to confuse the two names!) and from the town pilgrims can reach the lighthouse that marks the 0km point of the camino. From here many pilgrims choose to walk a further 29km to Muxia, another beautiful small seaside town.
The path is unique amongst the camino routes in Spain as it is the only one that begins, rather than ends, in Santiago de Compostela. In fact it can almost be considered an "add on" to whatever route a pilgrim took to reach the city in the first place.