Now you can to buy a present for a friend travelling the Way of St. James - Camino de Santiago
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The story of the Cross of St James; Way of St. James; El Camino de Santiago de Compostela - and the 'Field of Stars' in Spain
The 1,000-year-old pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is known as the Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago - in Spanish). Some 250,000 pilgrims travel to the city each year from all over Europe and other parts of the world in order to find inspiration and/or deeper spiritual understanding. The city of Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, in northern Spain, and the city's Cathedral is the final destination of this medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James. In 1985 the city's Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Santiago is the local Galician translation of the Latin 'Sanctu Iacobu' (Saint James).
Two of Jesus's twelve disciples were named James, and one of these, James the Greater, whose younger brother was John the Apostle, was an original disciple and a very close associate, possibly a cousin, of Jesus. He worked as a fisherman alongside Peter. James was present at the transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane. A mixture of history and legend says that James travelled to the Spanish Iberian peninsula in the early day's of Christ's ministry - preaching the Gospel.
According to ancient tradition (that can be traced back to the 12th Century), in AD 40 Jesus's mother, the Virgin Mary appeared to James in a vision on the banks of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta (present day Zaragoza, in Spain), while he was preaching. She told him to return to Judea, in the Holy Land. There, in AD44 he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I. Because James was denied burial after his execution, his followers took his remains to Jaffa, where they boarded a ship to take the body back to Galicia (Iria Flavia). In the 9th Century, the relics were discovered by a hermit named Pelagius who, after observing strange lights in a local forest, went to Theodemar, the local Bishop of Iria Flavia for help. Theodemar was then guided to the spot by a star, thus establishing the "Compostela" - as the "Field of Stars" (Campus Stellae in Latin) . . and hence Santiago de Compostela.
So, Santiago de Compestela became a pan-European place of peregrination, second only to Rome and Jerusalem.
In 2010, over 272,000 pilgrims completed the final 100 km walk to Santiago and qualified for the coveted 'Compostela' or certificate. The Way of St. James criss-crosses Western Europe, arriving at Santiago through Northern Spain. It is generally regarded as a journey of the body, mind and spirit. More than just a simple walk, the Camino is special because of the fellow pilgrims, the stories they share and the challenges people overcome. Modern pilgrims choose to do the Camino for personal, spiritual and/or religious reasons - or simply to take time out from their busy, modern lives. For many, the walk is to find inspiration - improving their outlook on life, bringing them into closer contact with nature and expanding their cultural horizons through contact with other pilgrims. Everyone experiences the journey in a different way.
Symbols and gifts for the Camino:
Some pilgrims identify themselves by carrying a heavy cape, long stave, sandals and/or a felt hat turned up at front and bearing a scallop-shell emblem. (The scallop shell is said to date back to the Crusades against the Moorish invaders. The Lord of Pimentel was forced to swim across a river and when he emerged he was covered in scallop shells.) Many also carry with them a St James's Cross - believed to promote courage, strength and hope.
St. James is the Patron Saint of all Spain and, according to Don Quixote in Cervantes' book, "St. James has been given by God to Spain for its protection".
Wish someone "good luck" and a "buen camino" (good walk) with one of our St. James Crosses.