Culture & Traditions of the Camino
The Cathedral of Santiago recovers the traditional hug to the Apostle. Since last Wednesday, June 14, 2023, the alcove of the High Altar of the cathedral has opened again, recovering one of the most beloved rituals by pilgrims.
The embrace of the Apostle Santiago is one of the most popular and oldest of the jacobean rites, existing since the 13th century. Millions of pilgrims felt the emotion of embracing the Apostle after their Camino de Santiago throughout the centuries.
That was until March 2020, when the global pandemic caused by Covid-19 changed everything. As a result of the restrictions derived from the health crisis, the Cathedral had to ban the ritual.
Now, following the certification of the end of the pandemic by the OMS, the Cathedral has decided to reinstate it.
The fear many pilgrims had that the traditional hug of the Apostle would not return, as has happened with other beloved rites such as the laying on of hands on the mullioned column of the Portico de la Gloria, suspended in 2007 to prevent its deterioration, has been dispelled.
Timetable and route to hug the Apostle
Pilgrims who wish to hug the Apostle may do so from Monday to Sunday from 8:30 am until the Cathedral closes at 9:00 pm. Access to the chapel where the Apostle is located will be restricted, as usual, during the Pilgrim's Masses, which are celebrated at the Main Altar.
To access the alcove, the Cathedral has designed a route that facilitates the circulation inside the temple. The pilgrim must enter through the door of Azabachería, visit the Sepulcher of the Apostle and then go up to the alcove to hug the Apostle. The exit will be through the door of Abades, at the top of the Plaza de la Quintana.
The Cathedral has also issued recommendations on the ritual, such as avoiding kissing the image or making direct contact with the face.
We remind you that it is not allowed to access the Cathedral with a backpack. At our post office in Rúa do Franco, 4 (2 minutes away from the Obradoiro) you have a left-luggage office where you can leave your backpacks, bikes or walking sticks, as well as make shipments or buy souvenirs.
The locker is open from Monday to Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., including holidays.
One of the most ancient Jacobean rituals
There is no doubt that the embrace of the Apostle is one of the most exciting rites. Especially for pilgrims who enter the Cathedral after walking the Camino de Santiago. But it is also one of the most ancient. There is evidence that this ritual has been taking place since the 13th century, after the end of the construction of the Cathedral.
Along with the hug, the pilgrim usually uses of this moment to say a prayer or wish or to express some words of gratitude.
The ritual has not changed much over time. However, during the Middle Ages it was customary to ask the Apostle to recommend him to God after the effort of the pilgrimage. Also of medieval origin was the custom of the 'coronatio peregrinorum', by which pilgrims placed the crown that adorned the statue on their heads for a moment.
In the multiple documentary sources that exist about the hug to the Apostle, there is evidence of other practices such as giving up to 10 or 15 hugs to the image of the saint or placing the pilgrim's cloak and hat on the figure.
Image that presides over the Main Altar of the Cathedral
The recipient of the hug is a seated image of Santiago, popularly known as the Santiago of the embrace, and it is attributed to students of the workshop of Master Mateo. Since the consecration of the Cathedral, the Romanesque image has been placed at the back of the Main Altar, with a predominant view of the temple.
Its accessibility meant that, from the very beginning, pilgrims were able to show it all their affection. Especially because pilgrims couldn’t visit the original tomb space after the 12th century.
In the 18th century it was decided to create a more impressive environment for the image, building the current alcove. This baroque intervention also affected the Romanesque figure of the Apostle, which was then covered with the luxurious elements that we can see today, among which the sash and the silver staff stand out.
We hope you found this article interesting. And, most importantly, that you can enjoy hugging the Apostle at the end of your Camino de Santiago. If so, do not hesitate to tell us about it in the comments of this post or in our social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.
We take this opportunity to remind you of other rites that every pilgrim performs when arriving to Santiago, as well as all the services that Correos offers throughout the Camino de Santiago, such as the Paq Mochila, the Paq Peregrino or the Paq Bicicleta.
¡Buen Camino, pilgrims!
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