In 1950 the first Society of Friends of Santiago de Compostela was founded in Paris.
On July 25, 1950, a small group of historians of art, archivists and specialists in medieval literature founded the Society of Friends of Santiago de Compostela in Paris. They were Jean Babelon, Georges Gaillard, René de La Coste-Messelière and Jeanne Vielliard.
The Way in O Cebreiro
The dual objective of the first associations was very clear: the study and valuing of the history, art and literature associated with the pilgrimage to Santiago and assistance to pilgrims
They were united by the long history of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, its manifestations and the role it had played in the evolution of Europe. The Statutes drawn up by this first nucleus of “friends of Santiago”, and which continue to be those of the Société Française des Amis de Saint Jacques de Compostelle, expressed dual objective: The study and valuing of historical, artistic and literary phenomena associated with the pilgrimage to Santiago, and assistance for current pilgrims on their journeys.
In 1962 a similar association was founded in Spain. Specifically in Estella. In the Jubilee Year of 1965, the French Association organised an Exhibition in Paris on the Way of Saint James and convened an international congress. This was the germ of an associative phenomenon which would later extend throughout Europe and, in the XXI century, throughout the five continents.
In the 1980-1990 decade, the associations began to spread throughout Europe.
As from the eighties in the last century, associating around the concept of the Way of Saint James significantly increased. In 1981 a Confraternita di San Jacopo di Compostella was created in Perugia, Italy. In 1983 Confraternity of St. James was established in England. In February 1987 the Deutsche St. Jakobus-Gesellschaft was set up in Germany, etc., and in other places such as Belgium, the Netherlands, etc.
A pilgrim at Triacastela
In 1987, from Strasbourg, the Council of Europe granted the badge of the First European Cultural Itinerary to the Way of Saint James, due to the power transmitted by the Way to the cultural union of the continent
1987 was a crucial year for the modern Way of Santiago. The I International Congress of Associations of Friends of the Way of Saint James took place in Jaca and the Spanish Federation of Associations of the Way of Saint James was established.
In that same year, 1987, in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe granted the badge of the FirstEuropean Cultural Itinerary to the Way of Saint James, due to the power transmitted by the Way to the cultural union of the continent. About 1990, the Jacobean movement underwent an exponential increase and also a change to its manifestations. It was then that the Associations of Friends of Santiago de Compostela or of Friends of the Way of Saint James multiplied, both in the countries which were pioneers of the movement and in other countries in all corners of the world and with their own credentials and Statutes.
The most decisive work of the Associations has been the study and signposting of the Jacobean itineraries, together with the creation and administration of hostels.
The signposting, care and defence of the Jacobean itineraries has, perhaps, been one of the most decisive pieces of work carried out by the European Associations. This goes from painting with yellow arrows to using other more stable components later.
Yellow arrow on a stone wall
In the same way as the medieval and modern fraternities, the Associations also organise activities for their members: periodical meetings, walks, banquets, etc
The other grand objective of the Associations is the creation and administration of hostels. Another objective is the maintenance and promotion of the Jacobean heritage in its zone, including the functioning of study centres in order to disseminate the historical and artistic features of the pilgrimages.
In the same way as the medieval and modern fraternities, the Associations also organise activities for their members: periodical meetings, walks, fraternal meals, information bulletins, the celebration of July 25 and, sometimes, purely cultural activities. All of these function based on volunteer work.
Meetings and current affairs
The Associations of Friends of the Way of Saint James are now spread over the five continents and new ones appear by the month.
The Associations of Friends of the Way of Saint James are now spread over the five continents and new ones appear by the month. Their priority is to attend to the pilgrims, providing them with the credential, information and, sometimes, accommodation.
I World Meeting in Galicia of the Associations of Friends of Santiago group image taken in San Martiño Pinario)
In June 2015, the I World Meeting in Galicia of Associations of Friends of the Way was held in Santiago and brought together more than 150 organisations from the five continents
They also maintain the routes and the Jacobean heritage. Many of them also conserve the initial objective of the study of the history, art and literature of the pilgrimage. As regards this facet, it must be remembered that, apart from the Associations, in the world there are several centres for the study of Compostela, such as those of France and Italy, which publish scientific articles and books, organise or participate in congresses and advise all the pilgrims.
There are also libraries specialised in Jacobean themes, journals such as Compostellanum, Compostelle, Compostella and Ad Limina, and pilgrimage museums. The S. A. de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo recuperated the International Committee of Experts on the Way of Saint James, currently composed of specialists from Spain, France, Italy, England and Portugal, which periodically holds international congresses in Compostela.
In June 2015, the I World Meeting in Galicia of Associations of Friends of the Way was held in Santiago. 28 countries represented by 157 Associations participated. In total, the number of Associations amounts to 350 throughout the world. 60% of these outside Spain.