The Way of Saint James and the construction of Europe
The phenomenon of the pilgrimages soon became the true backbone of Europe and turned Santiago into a grand centre of pilgrimage together with Rome and Jerusalem.
The discovery of the tomb of the Apostle Santiago the Elder, about the years 820 and 830, in a wood called Libredón where the Cathedral of Compostela now stands, constitutes one of the most important events of Europe in the Middle Ages in Europe.
Roman walls of Lugo, in the Primitive Way
The Way of Saint James is a World Heritage Site in three of its routes: the French Way (since 1993) and the Northern Spain Ways "the Primitive and North Ways" (since 2015)
The news of the apparition of the remains of Santiago quickly spread throughout the continent and the phenomenon of the pilgrimages and the commencement of a cult soon arose which converted the Way into the true backbone of Europe and Santiago de Compostela into a grand centre of pilgrimage together with Rome and Jerusalem.
1,200 years of history are involved. The goal is in Santiago de Compostela, capital of the Autonomous Community of Galicia. Its historical quarter was declared to be a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1985. In 1987, the Council of Europe recognised the Way of Santiago as the First European Cultural Itinerary.
In the 1993 Holy Year, the French Way was declared to be a World Heritage Site, in 2004 it received the Príncipe de Asturias Award for Concordia and, in the summer of 2015, the Primitive and the North Ways joined the French Way when they were also recognised by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, the maximum recognition which a cultural site can receive.
The way as a channel for cultural dissemination
It has been a true “highway of knowledge”: an entity for the dissemination of the grand cultural and artistic movements which arose in Europe.
Since the Middle Ages, the Way of Saint James has played a key role in the development of the cultures which make up the European identity. Signs of identity forged in a common area, loaded with memories and marked by a network of Jacobean routes which serve for communication and exchange and the flow of ideas, forms and projects.
The Portico de la Gloria, one of the jewels of the European Romanic style
Detail of the Portico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago
The Romanic, the Gothic cathedrals, the medieval lyrical poetry of the “cantigas” and the epic poetry of the “chansons de geste” arose on the Way
For centuries, this collective journey through history and culture which arose from the power of devotion and spiritual beliefs generated a number of its own cultural forms, rooted in the western tradition, which, in our days, serve as inspiration and remembrance.
It has been a true “highway of knowledge”: an entity disseminating the grand cultural and artistic movements which were arising in Europe: the Romanic, the Gothic cathedrals, the medieval lyrical poetry of the “cantigas” and the epic poetry of the “chanson de geste”. Moreover, it has also been an incomparable demonstration of human solidarity.
Walking westwards by a route with twelve centuries of history and leaving behind habits and routines is today, as it was at the dawning of the pilgrimages, a combination of sacrifice and reward which transforms the person who experiences it at least once in a lifetime.