The compostela

Capitulum hujus Almae Apostolicae et Metropolitanae Ecclesiae Compostellanae sigilli Altaris Beati Jacobi Apostoli custos, ut omnibus Fidelibus et Perigrinis ex toto terrarum Orbe, devotionis affectu vel voti cosa, ad limina Apostoli Nostri Hispaniarum Patroni ac Tutelaris SANCTI JACOBI convenientibus, authenticas visitationis litteras expediat, omni- bus et singulis praesentes inspecturis, notum facit :
Dnum/Dnam____ (Pilgrims name in Latin)
Hoc sacratissimum Templum pietatis causa devote visitasse. In quorum fidem praesentes litteras, sigillo ejusdem Sanctae Ecclesiae munitas, ei confero.

Datum Compostellae die____(dia) mensis____(mes) anno Dni____ (año) Canonicus Deputatus pro Peregrinis.”

That is the actual text of the Compostela. A lot of times pilgrims , a non pilgrims , have a hard time with the actual meaning and requirements of the Compostela. In this article we are going to try to ease out your doubts.

Compostela and no compostelana

Compostela (and not “Compostelana”, as it is sometimes mistakenly known) is a document of the Cathedral Chapter of Santiago that certifies the pilgrimage on foot , by bicycle , sailing , wheelchair or horse along the Way of Santiago for religious or spiritual reasons to Santiago.

It is granted by the cathedral of Compostela. Its antecedents are in the Middle Ages, when various formulas and means were used -insignias, letters of proof, etc.- to certify the accomplishment of the pilgrimage when returning to the place of origin. Numerous examples are preserved in various places in Europe. However, the Compostela as we know it today arose, later, towards the 16th century, out of the need to provide the pilgrims who arrived in the city with a document that would allow them to be admitted as such in the Hospital Real de Santiago -current Hostal de los Reyes Católicos-, in the Obradoiro square.

tile camino de santiago

The modern Compostela

On May 1, 2014, the press was notified of the new model or design of this accreditation:
“On their arrival in Santiago, the pilgrims will receive a new Compostela, which replaces the one that had been delivered since the eighties. The new Compostela features a greca from the 15th century Breviary of Miranda; a reproduction of the image of Tumbo A -which represents the discovery of the ark by Bishop Teodomiro- and the Iacobus from the Codex Calixtinus. In its Latin text, the specification of having travelled the last 100 km on foot or on horseback, or the last 200 km by bicycle” has been added to confer this document:

“…hoc sacratissimum templum perfecto utique pedibus sive equitando itinere centum milia metrorum birota vero ducentorum pietatis causa devote visitasse. In quorum fidem praesentes litteras sigillo ejusdem Sanctae Ecclesiae munitas, ei confero…”

It was also reported that … “The Church will no longer require the declaration of faith to deliver Compostela to people who complete the Camino de Santiago after travelling at least one hundred kilometres on foot or two hundred kilometres by bicycle or on horseback”.

The requirements 

Pilgrim credencial

To get the “Compostela” you must:

  • Make the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, or at least an attitude of search.
  • Do the last 100 km on foot or horseback or the last 200 km by bicycle. It is understood that the pilgrimage starts at one point and from there you come to visit the Tomb of St. James.
  • You must collect the stamps on the “Credencial del Peregrino” from the places you pass through to certify that you have been there. Stamps from churches, hostels, monasteries, cathedrals and all places related to the Way are preferred, but if not they can also be stamped in other institutions: town halls, cafés, etc. You have to stamp the Credencial twice a day at least on the last 100 km (for pilgrims on foot or on horseback) or on the last 200 km (for cyclists pilgrims).

You can do the Way in stages, provided they are in chronological and geographical order. However, if you only do the minimum required distance (last 100 or 200 km), you must always get your Credencial stamped at the start and end of each stage, including the corresponding date, to show that the pilgrim has resumed the Way in the same place where they last stopped (i.e. you should always get the stamp at the starting point even though you have already stamped the card in the same place at the end of the previous stage).

Children and pilgrimage. Children who make the pilgrimage with their parents or in groups, and have received the sacrament of Communion, or have the ability to understand the meaning of the spiritual or religious nature of the Way, can receive the “Compostela”. If they are not mature enough due to their young age, they are given a special certificate with their names. In the case of infants or very young children, their names are included on the parent or accompanying adult’s “Compostela”. If you are in any doubt, please contact us at the Pilgrim’s Reception Office so we can look at each individual case.

What does the text mean?

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 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 ……….

Deputy Canon for Pilgrims.

Where to get it

pilgrim office main entrance

Pilgrims office

From Easter to 31 October: open from 8:00 to 20:00 hours*.
In winter (from 1 November to Easter): open every day from 10.00 to 19.00 hours.
The Pilgrim Reception Office is closed on Christmas Day, December 25, and New Year’s Day, January 1.

Rúa Carretas, nº33
15705, Santiago de Compostela
A Coruña – SPAIN
Phone: +34 981 568 846

There are also some other certificates that are of interest for the Pilgrim. The In Memoriam, the certificate of distance, the Pedronia, the Traslatio,etc... if you wanna know more stay posted!

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