The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in the 13th century


Map Code: Ax01378

The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is believed to hold the remains of the apostle St James. Local visits to the shrine are recorded in the 9th century, but it became a major centre of international pilgrimage through the evangelism of Pope Calixtus II (1119–24), who instituted ‘Compostelan years’ and plenary indulgence (full remission of sins) for those completing the journey. The Codex Calixtinus, completed in the 1140s, even contains a ‘tourist guide’ for pilgrims, recommending which routes to follow, churches to visit, even scams to be avoided. By the 13th century, with Jerusalem distant, perilous to reach and in Muslim hands, Compostela was the primary devotional destination. Along the main routes, towns prospered from pilgrim commerce, and various establishments specifically catered to pilgrim traffic. ’Hospitals’ run by Catholic orders provided refreshment and resting places, ‘pilgrimage churches’ were designed with ‘apsidioles’, recesses for the veneration of relics.

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