Even if you didn’t know about Holy Years, you are likely to have heard me mention them. As I set out to Spain to explore new paths and will get to sample elements of one, I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain more.
The path, the Camino de Santiago, is named after St James and all routes lead to the tomb believed to be that of the Apostle Saint James the Greater, in the crypt of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. The Feast Day of St James is on July 25th and when it falls on a Sunday that year is celebrated as a Holy Year.
There is a Holy Year every 6, 5, 6 and 11 years and I should be saying to you that the last Holy Year was last year in 2021. However, due to the pandemic, a request was made from the church to Pope Francis to extend the year and this was successful.
Due to the number of people who normally arrive in Santiago on a Holy Year, the existence of Covid greatly reduced this as there were restrictions in place. Much of the accommodation on all levels was closed as were bars and restaurants. This exceptional measure was made to allow a greater amount of time over which people could then plan their travel and avoid the large crowds of pilgrims. This is apparently the first time ever that the Holy Year, and the benefits of it, will last two years instead of one.
During a Holy Year the Holy door is open, the only time this happens, and people can enter the cathedral in that way. I shall report more when I get to experience that too.
There has also been a special Camino Passport produced and I managed to grab one when they were first released, even though at the time I did not think I would be able to use it on a Holy Year. That of course has now changed. The pilgrim passport is a vital part of the journey as in it you gather stamps from the places you stay, some of the bars and restaurants and also some of the churches. Two a day for the last 100km is the proof you need to claim your Compostella, your pilgrim certificate.
It will be interesting to be out there for an event and in a time when I would not choose to lead a bigger group. In all years the last part of all the camino routes into Santiago are busy as this Pilgrim Path becomes more and more popular. At present there are still times when you are away from crowds and there is a real sense of community. However, I personally like spontaneity and not having to make bookings all the time for restaurants and not having to queue either. I also like to be able to stay in places close to the path with my groups and at the end, in the centre of Santiago, so everyone gets a feel for the old city and can easily explore. Often during Holy Years accommodation is booked far in advance and it means staying further away. It is not the experience I choose for my clients.
The next Holy Year will happen in 2027 so if you choose to be part of this, then get planning.