Caminos de Santiago in Spain
One of most prominent pilgrimage destinations of the world is the city of Santiago de Compostela, the shrine of St. James the Apostle and the countrywide network of Caminos de Santiago in Spain.
The route of Camino de Santiago was known since many centuries ago. By the legend, the remains of St. James the Apostle were delivered by a ship from Jerusalem to the city of Santiago, and burried in the local cathedral. The believers of those days began to visit the cathedral and the shrine, and gradually treaded pilgrim paths. Some paths where walked just for periods of time, and some others became as permanent routes of pilgrimage. They were much popular in the middle ages. However, plaque, religion reformations and wars in Europe stopped the popularity of pilgrimage. In 1980, only a few pilgrims arrived to the city of Santiago de Compostela.
Since 1984, the renaissance of the Camino has begun. The most famous renovator of the Camino was the pastor Elías Valiña Sampedro. He created the yellow arrows and marked with them many kilometers of the Camino.
Elías Valiña was born in Saria (100 kilometers from Santiago). From his young days he was much engaged in Camino de Santiago. He studied the history of the Camino of Santiago, his doctoral thesis was on the Camino. After the studies in Salamanca, he lived and worked in town O Cebreiro, Galicia region.
When Don Elias started promoting the ancient route, it was in most places impassable and forgotten. Valiña decided to define the original sections of the pilgrimage route, and after convincing mayors and other parishes and attracting different associations of friends of the Way to become involved, the task of marking the original route began.
Don Elías began to use the yellow arrows as path markers in 1970-1980. He traveled along the route on his old Citroen and painted arrows on waysides to make the path visible. Why yellow? - Mainly, for these reasons:
• Yellow marking is well visible and seen from far,
• Yellow paints are widely used in Galicia region to mark hiking trails, and many pilgrims come from these lands,
• Thirdly, Don Elias used paint cans to mark the routes and they were of yellow color.
There is a famous story on how once the pastor was stopped by the Civil Guards, and caught with a can of yellow paint in his hand, drawing striking yellow arrows. They asked him what he was doing so close to the French border. ”Preparing a great invasion from France,” was his answer. Few years later, that led to thousands of pilgrims and to a new and rediscovered pilgrimage.
Another strong influence to Camino revival was done by the famous writer Paulo Coelcho who walked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela and also wrote a book on his pilgrimage.
In 1993, Camino de Santiago was announced by UNESCO as the object of World Heritage.
According to the statistics by Santiago Pilgrim Office, in year 2016, 660 Lithuanian pilgrims walked Camino to the city of Santiago de Compostela.