What is the Compostela certificate?

What is the Compostela certificate and how can you get yours? Today we introduce you to the fascinating origins of the Compostela certificate and how you can get yours after completing your Camino de Santiago journey.

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THE ORIGINS OF THE COMPOSTELA CERTIFICATE

Since the origins of the pilgrimage to Santiago in the Middle Ages, pilgrims Camino required some proof of the completion of the pilgrimage. The first ‘accreditations’ of the journey to Santiago were scallop shells and badges that were very easy to forge.

Fraudulent badges were easily purchased throughout the city and as a result the Cathedral and the Pope himself had to intervene and decree excommunication penalties against counterfeiters.

From the 13th century the Cathedral started issuing ‘Cartas Probatorias’ or proof letters, which were more difficult to forge. This is the origin of today’s Compostela certificate, awarded to Camino pilgrims who travel the required distance.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO GET YOUR COMPOSTELA?

In order to receive the Compostela, you must walk at least the last 100kms of any of the Camino de Santiago routes, with stamps on your Credencial pilgrim passport to prove it.

Cycling at least the last 200kms of any of the Camino de Santiago routes, with stamps on your Credencial pilgrim passport along the way as proof.

In order to receive the Compostela, you must walk or cycle the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons, or an attitude of search’. If you are walking the Camino for other reasons, you can request the secular version: the Certificate of Welcome. The requirements are the same.

You can do the Camino in stages but they must be chronological and geographical order.

If you only do the minimum distance required (last 100 or 200 km), you should get your Credencial stamped at the start and end of each stage, including the date, to show that you have resumed the journey in the same place.

CAN CHILDREN GET A COMPOSTELA?

Yes, children walking the Camino with parents or as part of groups, can also receive the Compostela, provided that they have received the sacrament of Communion, or have the ability to understand the meaning of the spiritual or religious nature of the Camino.

If they are too young, they are given a special certificate with their names. In the case of infants their names can be included on the parents’ certificate.

If you are in any doubt, please contact the Pilgrim’s Reception Office for advice.

WHAT DOES IT SAY?

This is the English translation of the Compostela text:

The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Altar of St. James,

to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain,

recognises before all who observe this document that: _________

has devotedly visited this most sacred temple having done the last hundred kilometers on foot or on horseback or the last two hundred by bicycle with Christian sentiment (pietatis causa).

In witness whereof I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church.

Issued in Santiago de Compostela on ___ of _____ year of our Lord ____

The Dean of the Cathedral of Santiago.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR COMPOSTELA?

The Compostela certificate and other official Camino certificates are issued by the Pilgrims Office in Santiago de Compostela, Oficina de Acogida del Peregrino. It is located a few minutes from the Cathedral on Rua Carretas.

Check opening times before travelling and bear in mind during busy periods, it might not be possible to issue your Compostela certificate on the same day.
To collect the Compostela it is necessary to withdraw a ticket with a QR code that allows you to check the queue in real time.

HOSTAL DOS REIS CATOLICOS PARADOR

Today it is a luxury parador hotel but the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos was founded in 1499 to host Camino pilgrims. Pilgrims had to show their Compostela and they had the right to stay for free for three days and it became the most important hospital in Galicia, as well as the original building of Santiago’s School of Medicine.

The Hostal is one of the oldest hotels in the world, as it has welcomed pilgrims through its doors since the 15th century, uninterrupted.

Since becoming a Parador in 1954, the Hostal still honours that hospitality tradition and gives free meals to the first pilgrims that arrive each day, as long as they show their Compostela.

ARE THERE OTHER CAMINO PILGRIM CERTIFICATES?

Yes, there are other Camino pilgrim certificates, here’s an overview:

Certificate of Welcome

The Camino welcomes people of all faiths, creeds and also those who want to experience it for its culture and history. Since not all pilgrims undertake the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons, the Pilgrims Office issues a Certificate of Welcome, instead of the Compostela.

Certificate of Distance

You can request the Certificate of Distance in addition to the Compostela or Certificate of Welcome, stating the number of kms travelled. This certificate costs 3 €, it is slightly larger than the Compostela and is printed on parchment paper. It features a phrase in Latin from the Codex Calixtinus.

Finisterrana

If you walk the Camino to Fisterra you can request the Finisterrana certificate at the local tourist office or hostel. The same rules apply, which is stamping the pilgrim passport as proof of your journey.

Muxiana

If you continue on to Muxia, you can request the Muxiana certificate at the local tourist office.

Traslatio Xacobea

This is a certificate Issued by the Fundación Xacobea and Padrón town council to pilgrims that have taken the Traslatio route which travels partly by sea and river from O Grove or Ribeira, retracing the route taken of the boat that carried the remains of St James the Apostle.

Pedronía

This is another certificate available in Padrón and you must travel at least 18 km to Padrón from Santiago or any other location on the Ría de Arousa following the sea and river route.

We hope you found this article about the history of the Compostela certificate useful. For additional information about our Camino tours or to request a quote, contact our travel experts.

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