Religion & Spirituality
There’s no doubt, or debating the fact that the Camino de Santiago began as a Christian pilgrimage. A way to test your faith, respect your god and perhaps seek redemption.
The Codex Calixtinus, written in the 12th Century as a guide to the Camino (also the very first guidebook ever written, about anywhere) leaves you in no doubt as to the nature of the walk.
‘The pilgrim route is for those who are good: it is the lack of vices, the thwarting of the body, the increase of virtues, pardon for sins, sorrow for the penitent, the road of the righteous, love of the saints, faith in the resurrection and the reward of the blessed, a separation from hell, the protection of the heavens.
It takes us away from luscious foods, it makes gluttonous fatness vanish, it restrains voluptuousness, constrains the appetites of the flesh which attack the fortress of the soul, cleanses the spirit, leads us to contemplation, humbles the haughty, raises up the lowly, loves poverty.’
Nowadays, however, even the Dean of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is not so sure anymore. Here’s what Segundo Perez Lopez has to say about the people who walk the Way of St James today.
“The current situation of crisis in the world, and personal searching, leads oneself to get out on the pilgrimage route, to try to find oneself, and transcend, making sense of our existence.”
Notice he doesn’t mention anything about religion, or god, gluttonous fatness or the protection of the heavens. Even for a Catholic priest he recognises the more personal, spiritual nature of many pilgrims today.
The church will even provide you with a non-religious ‘Compostela’ – certificate of completion – if you like, which makes only one stipulation in accordance with religion.
You have to ‘make the Pilgrimage for religious/spiritual reasons or at least have an attitude of search’.
So even the Church is saying it doesn’t necessarily have to be about religion anymore.
Spirituality, a shared experience with others, the monotonous isolation of walking for weeks on end – perhaps, the church is admitting that maybe, there’s a touch of the divine in the act of the walk itself. Who knows, but it can’t do any harm to go and find out.