What is the Compostela? Is it the same as the Credential? And what’s a Compostelana? There are many questions pilgrims ask themselves when they embark on the Camino de Santiago for the first time. And one of the most common has to do with the Compostela: what is it? What is the meaning behind it? Where can I get one, and what do I do with it? Today we will try to answer some of these questions so that you can enjoy the Camino with all the information you need.
First things first, just what is the Compostela? The Compostela (sometimes incorrectly called a “Compostelana”) is the document that certifies that a pilgrim has completed the Camino de Santiago. The Compostela is awarded by the Church authorities, and can be collected at the Pilgrim’s Reception Office in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. This accreditation was created in the 9th and 10th centuries when the pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint James the Apostle was given official status. At first, insignias such as the venera or scallop shell were used to certify the pilgrimage. But these were easy to falsify, and in the 13th century the Church decided to replace them with the so-called cartas probatorias or evidentiary letters, which are the direct predecessor of today’s Compostela.
So what is a Compostelana?
There is no such thing as a Compostelana! When people refer to the Compostelana, they really mean the Compostela. This incorrect name of unknown origins has become widespread in popular Camino culture. But as good pilgrims we should call things by their proper name and, as we have said, the document that certifies our pilgrimage is called the Compostela.
What do I have to do to get a Compostela?
In order to get a Compostela, a pilgrim must fulfil three basic requirements: they must have taken the Camino for spiritual or religious reasons; they must have completed at least 100 km by foot or on horseback, or 200 km by bicycle, on any of the routes that make up the Camino. And they must be able to accredit the distance covered.
La Credencial del peregrino es el documento necesario para conseguir la Compostela
To fulfil these requirements, pilgrims must carry with them a document that many get mixed up with the Compostela: the Pilgrim’s Credential (or Passport). As we explained in a previous blog, the Credential is the document that accredits our status as pilgrims. The Credential is an individual, non-transferable document that can be obtained from the various Friends of the Camino de Santiago associations, hostels, parish churches, and religious guilds of the Apostle Saint James (Cofradías del Apóstol Santiago). Pilgrims must get their Credential stamped in the towns they pass through to show that they have completed the minimum kilometres required. These stamps can be obtained in hostels, Friends of the Camino associations, churches and other places such as town halls, cafes or Correos post offices. Your Credential can have as many stamps as you like, but to receive the Compostela, Santiago Cathedral requires a minimum of two stamps per day during the last 100 km for pilgrims on foot or horseback, and during the last 200 km in the case of cyclists.
Where should I start the Camino de Santiago if I want to get the Compostela?
Before they start walking, many pilgrims wonder where they should begin their Camino de Santiago to get the Compostela. We can help you with that! If you’re going to walk the Camino, as a minimum, you will need to start in Sarria if you’re on the Camino Francés (French Route); in Tui on the Camino Portugués (Portuguese Route); in Ferrol or Neda on the Camino Inglés (English Route); Vilalba on the Camino del Norte (Northern Route); Lugo on the Camino Primitivo (Primitive or Original Route) or Ourense for the Camino Sanabrés or Vía de la Plata (Silver or Mozarabic Route). Even those taking the Camino to Finisterre and Muxía in the reverse direction (towards Santiago) can get the Compostela if they take the coastal stage of the Camino between Muxía and Finisterre and complete the rest of the route to the Galician capital.
For pilgrims travelling by bike, the minimum distance is set at 200 km. That means that cyclists who decide to take the French Route should start, as a minimum, in Ponferrada; in Póvoa do Varzim on the Portuguese Route; in Tapia de Casariego on the Northern Route; Grandas de Salime on the Primitive Route, and A Gudiña on the Sanabrés or Via de la Plata routes.
Can children be awarded the Compostela?
Of course they can! According to the Cathedral’s rules, children that take the Camino de Santiago and have taken Communion or are old enough to understand the spiritual nature of pilgrimage can receive the Compostela. If they are too small, the Santiago Cathedral will give them a special certificate bearing their name. Babies are included on the Compostela of their parents or accompanying adult.
Apart from the Compostela, are there any other Camino de Santiago certificates?
There are other certificates apart from the Compostela available to people who have completed the Camino de Santiago. Here’s a quick summary of those certificates:
Distance Certificate. Apart from the Compostela, the Pilgrim’s Reception Office gives all pilgrims that request one a Distance Certificate, a document accrediting the number of km covered, wherever your pilgrimage began. It shows the date and point you started, the km covered, the date you arrived in Santiago and the route taken. Pilgrims that have undertaken a pilgrimage in the past can also request one by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fisterrana and Muxiana. Pilgrims that decide to extend their route to Finisterre or Muxía – or simply choose that route in the first place – can obtain a certificate for their pilgrimage. To do this, they should continue to get their Credential stamped up to their destination – if there’s space – or get a new Credential. It works in the same way as the Compostela: you need to get two stamps per day as evidence of your journey along each stage. Then the Finisterre Hostel or Muxía Tourist Office can issue you with this certificate.
Traslatio Xacobea. This is the document that proves that you have undertaken the Traslatio, a sea/river route which follows the original route taken by the boat carrying the remains of the Apostle when it reached the Galician coast. The Traslatio Xacobea certificate is issued by the Fundación Xacobea and Town Council of Padrón to all boats and their passengers that can demonstrate that they have taken this route, which goes from the Port of San Vicente do Mar (in O Grove) or Ribeira to Padrón.
Pedronía. According to legend, the town of Padrón is the spot where the remains of the Apostle arrived in Galicia, and it has its own certificate: the Pedronía. To get this certificate, pilgrims must travel a minimum of 18 km to Padrón from Santiago or any other location on the Ría de Arousa following the sea/river route. They must also have visited the most important places linked to the Apostle in that town: the Parish Church of Santa María de Iria Flavia, a former Episcopal See; the Fuente del Carmen, decorated with depictions of the Traslatio and the baptism of Queen Lupa; Santiaguiño do Monte, where the Apostle gave a sermon; and the Pedrón, the stone where the boat bringing the Saint’s remains from Palestine was moored, housed in the Parish Church of Santiago de Padrón.
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¡Buen Camino! This is our wish at Correos! – that pilgrims can fully enjoy their Camino and discover new places, histories, people and experiences through our postcards.
We transfer your rucksack
So that you can travel light along the Camino de Santiago
We transfer your rucksack or suitcase from your accommodation at one stage to the next!! This way, your walk is more comfortable, your bag is lighter and you can enjoy every step of the Camino. We will take your luggage every day to your next hostel or hotel.
Bicycle transportation services
We send your bicycle to your starting or finishing point
Decide where you want to start the Camino and we will send your bicycle there from any branch of Correos. Once you finish the Camino de Santiago you can go to the nearest post office and send it back home again. Your bicycle will be insured and we package your bike without disassembling it.
For everything you want in or out of your rucksack
With our Paq Peregrino you can send suitcases or parcels to any point along the Camino (hostels, hotels, branches of Correos, etc) so that you have your personal belongings when you arrive. You can therefore have extra clothes or other items and not only the ones you carry along the Way. You can also send back whatever you have in your daily rucksack that you no longer need.
So that you have nothing to worry about other than just enjoying the Camino
Correos offers a prepaid card that is not linked to a bank account. In this way, you can defort walk the Camino without taking your credit or debit cards with you. You only have to put the money on the card that you are going to need and then top up again if your balance is low. This is a simple, safe and comfortable way of taking your money along the Camino.
Stamping Your Credential
So that you have the best stamps on your Pilgrim's Passport
Branches of Correos along the Camino de Santiago stamp your Credential or Pilgrim's Passport with our special stamps. Many of these stamps represent important tourist attractions from that particular place to help you remember your jorney.
Sending parcels along the Camino de Santiago
Send your parcels without having to go along to a branch of Correos!
You can send a parcel from any of the over one-hundred branches of CORREOS located along the Camino de Santiago and additionally from some of our “Tiendas Amigas del Camino”, a network of shops and accommodation from where you can send parcels any time of the day. This service will help you to get rid of things from your luggage that you no longer need. You can also buy souvenirs or some typical products without having to worry about carrying them with you.
Lockers in Santiago
So that you can freely visit the Cathedral or enjoy the city
Our Pilgrim's Office at Rúa do Franco, 150 metres from the Plaza del Obradoiro, has lockers. You can leave your rucksack, suitcase, bike or trekking pole before you go into the Cathedral or you can wander around Santiago without having to worry about your luggage.
To help you with anything you may need
We have over 150 branches of Correos along all the Caminos. We will be delighted to welcome you and help you with anything you need.