The Portuguese Way

The Portuguese Way has given the cult of St. James a territory that is essential for understanding the true international scope of the pilgrimage phenomenon. This route grew in importance beginning in the 12th century, following Portugal’s independence.

Portuguese Way:

  • Length 107.2 Km
  • Difficulty Medium-Low

Coastal Portuguese Way:

  • Length 162.6 Km
  • Difficulty Medium-Low
Tui seen from Portugal

This route grew in importance beginning in the 12th century, following Portugal’s independence. It runs along ancient roads and paths, including Via XIX, built in the 1st century AD, which links Braga with Astorga via Ponte de Lima, Tui, PontevedraSantiago and Lugo. It was one of the most important Roman roads, forming the backbone of the province of Gallaecia. A coastal variant of this route crosses the Miño River at A Guarda and hugs the coastline, meeting up with the inland route at Redondela.

The Portuguese Way has given the cult of St. James a territory that is essential for understanding the true international scope of the pilgrimage phenomenon. This route grew in importance beginning in the mid-12th century, following Portugal’s independence.

The Portuguese Way map

From the 12th century onwards, the flow of pilgrims into the northern part of the peninsula established not only spiritual connections, but also cultural and economic ties, human bonds that political borders have never been able to break.

From the 12th century onwards, the flow of pilgrims into the northern part of the peninsula established not only spiritual connections, but also cultural and economic ties, human bonds that political borders have never been able to break. The example of kings and queens, nobles and the high clergy was decisive in establishing a powerful devotion to St. James. This included the famous 14th-century pilgrimage of Elizabeth of Portugal, the ‘Holy Queen’, who offered her crown at the altar of St. James and would be buried in Coímbra with a pilgrim’s staff. Another example is Portugal’s King Manuel I, who made the pilgrimage from Lisbon to Santiago in 1502. In memory of his stay in Compostela, he ordered that a lamp remain lit in the church at Santiago night and day, allocating an annual sum for this purpose.

The pilgrimage phenomenon made such a powerful impression in Portugal that the country’s north–south road network would be organized around it, passing through the locations established for the Portuguese Way to Galicia: Lisbon, Santarem, Coímbra, Porto, Barcelos, Ponte de Lima and Valença do Minho, where it crosses the Miño River and enters Galicia.

In the 19th century, which brought the lowest influx of pilgrims–the result of the new times marked by the French Revolution and the invasion of Spain by Napoleonic troops–it was the Portuguese Way that became the most active. During this century, more than 80% of foreign pilgrims were Portuguese.