A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it

Advertisement

How were "official" Camino routes chosen?

Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
I'm aware that most of the major Camino routes (Frances, Portugues, etc.) were chosen because they replicate the paths that medieval pilgrims took to Santiago de Compostela. But does anyone have any information about when and how these routes were chosen? In other words, who made the decision and what criteria did they use? Is there a governing body (the Pilgrims Office, for example) that has the final word?
I understand, for example, that historical research done by Fr. Elías Valiña Sampedro in the 1980s played a big role in delineating the Frances. But what about the other routes? Who did the research to get them accepted? I'm particularly interested in how some of the minor or alternative routes, like the Portuguese Coastal and Spiritual Variant, came to be included, since they don't seem to have medieval roots. Did local economic boosterism play a role?
Sorry about such an open-ended question but anything that points me in the right direction would be appreciated. Thanks!
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I don't personally care about any of that. I just enjoy walking! I walked the Portuguese camino last spring; a portion on the coastal, a portion on the central and I included the sprliritual variant...but I am not Catholic...I enjoyed it all anyway! No matter!
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Is there a governing body (the Pilgrims Office, for example) that has the final word?
The closest thing to a governing body is the cathedral chapter. The pilgrim office is a department of the cathedral. The chapter decide which routes it will recognize and endorse as official for Compostela purposes. A different but related question is international recognition by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Site designation. Since the initial recognition of certain routes in 1993 others have been added. If you are interested in the rather dry summaries and supporting texts for the UNESCO listings you can find some of that on this website: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/669/
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
I'm aware that most of the major Camino routes (Frances, Portugues, etc.) were chosen because they replicate the paths that medieval pilgrims took to Santiago de Compostela.
Virtually all of the original routes are under macadam. Deer, then men with oxen followed the routes of least resistance. When motorized vehicles were invented, these original routes were paved for exactly the same reason they arose in the first place -- they were easiest.

You won't get authenticity on any modern map; just the changes as pedestrians had to avoid roads.:)

You can see the Roman additions to roads, not just pilgrimage routes, here:



I love the search for knowledge, but don't ruin a pilgrimage in search of a history that does not exist. For example, the route does not follow the Milky Way. They run at an angle to each other...
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
But what about the other routes? Who did the research to get them accepted? I'm particularly interested in how some of the minor or alternative routes, like the Portuguese Coastal and Spiritual Variant, came to be included, since they don't seem to have medieval roots.
As far as I can tell, much of the research is done by local associations, ie local people, mostly volunteers, who are interested and enthusiastic about such a project.

As to official recognition, you have to ask not only "who" but also "for what purpose". For example, if I read this correctly, it appears that at the beginning of last year, the Spiritual Variant had been recognised by the Santiago Cathedral - purpose: obtaining a Compostela - but not by the Xunta of Galicia - purpose: ?. I don't know if this has changed.

Outside of Galicia, I don't think that the Santiago Cathedral has much say or interest. The recognition by Unesco covers a subset of the Caminos in Spain (Frances and Northern roads only). In France, Unesco recognition covers only some very limited sections of one or two of the roads to Santiago and otherwise an equally limited number of buildings such as churches and monasteries. There is no Unesco recognition for any of all the other roads that can be regarded as pilgrimage roads to Santiago, for example in Germany or Benelux or in Portugal. The purpose of Unesco recognition is mainly symbolic but the Unesco label will be withdrawn if the state that applied for it does not properly protect the entity for which the label was granted.

Then there is the recognition by the Spanish state. In the case of the Camino Frances, you can consult the maps, it is not just the trail we walk but a certain area to the right and left of it and this recognition has a legal purpose as it regulates which kind of new buildings or other infrastructure are allowed.
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
Via Romana was usually the easiest way to get from Point A to Point B, it would be on a valley path along a river probably following the natural habitat of the local fauna. Why get any deeper into it than that? The Romans went a long way to develop the current Camino trails some 2000+ years ago but it was in the interest of commerce not religion.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
But does anyone have any information about when and how these routes were chosen? In other words, who made the decision and what criteria did they use? Is there a governing body (the Pilgrims Office, for example) that has the final word?
This may interest you: an article as recent as June 2019. If my limited Spanish does not fail me completely, it describes how the Dean of the Santiago Cathedral recognises a new Jacobean route, namely the "Camiño da Geira e dos Arrieiros de Braga a Santiago". Again, it's a local association that presents the documentation, and the Dean says that it fulfills "the conditions of other pilgrimage paths" so that "the Compostela is granted".

The documents date from the 14th to the 20th century, and the group also presented evidence on other heritage and toponymy. It seems that the Dean certified it all and a request has been made or will be sent to the Ministry of Culture (regional or national?).

They don't require evidence of pilgrimage in the High Middle Ages; the Late Middle Ages and Modern Age will do. The Variante Espiritual is inspired by a documented pilgrimage in the 18th century.
 
Last edited:

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
I don't personally care about any of that. I just enjoy walking! I walked the Portuguese camino last spring; a portion on the coastal, a portion on the central and I included the sprliritual variant
You would not have been able to walk these trails, or even know about them, if some people had not cared enough to research them and apply for their recognition and for funds ... 🤓
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
Local "amigos del camino" associations have a big saying in deciding the "official route". In the case of the entry in Burgos, the association have consistently resisted the more pleasant "river option" and kept the weary route along the highway.
In France the GR routes need government approval, and it does not come easily. "Pas de question" of buying a brush and a paint bucket and start to paint red and white strips at your free will....
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
You would not have been able to walk these trails, or even know about them, if some people had not cared enough to research them and apply for their recognition and for funds ... 🤓
True! I agree! No disputing that! I'm a lucky lady for sure!
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
You would not have been able to walk these trails, or even know about them, if some people had not cared enough to research them and apply for their recognition and for funds ... 🤓
Until relatively recently the officially recognised trails have simply been a convenience for pilgrims rather than a restriction placed upon them. We remain free to follow routes of our own devising which take in places of personal significance and interest though the cathedral will no longer necessarily recognise such journeys with a Compostela. Is the precise route followed or the final destination most important in defining a journey as a pilgrimage? While I value the pilgrim infrastructure which generally comes with official recognition of a route I do not need that endorsement to consider my journey a pilgrimage.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
While I value the pilgrim infrastructure which generally comes with official recognition of a route I do not need that endorsement to consider my journey a pilgrimage.
But how many people would walk the Camino Portugues and the Variante Espiritual without it all?
 

Bradypus

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
But how many people would walk the Camino Portugues and the Variante Espiritual without it all?
I expect that very few would choose to walk an 'unofficial' route.The actual numbers are of less interest to me than the general principle involved. I would be interested to learn the cathedral's rationale for restricting the Compostela to those who follow officially recognised routes. Unfortunately I can find no reference to when this decision was made and on what grounds.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
I would be interested to learn the cathedral's rationale for restricting the Compostela to those who follow officially recognised routes. Unfortunately I can find no reference to when this decision was made and on what grounds.
I agree. I find this ultra weird. However, the question raised by the OP is not why but how recognised Camino routes come into existence.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
But how many people would walk the Camino Portugues and the Variante Espiritual without it all?
None? How many would walk any route, even the lauded Frances, without the infrastructure? The modern camino is, IMO, utterly dependent on the infrastructure that supports it and the publicity that drives it.

Meanwhile, amongst the throngs an occasional weary pilgrim makes their way to the Shrine of the Apostle. Grateful for shelter, appreciative of kindnesses bestowed and bemused by the circus.

The OP's question is a good one but there aren't any complete answers. I am thankful that despite Junta's, UNESCO, Bar owners, Asociación de Amigos, John Brierley and Wiki-tracks there is still no-one in charge. There is no Authority; and even if there was there will still be a few would take no notice of them.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
Wow! Thanks to everyone for all this great information. It will take me a while to work through these posts and follow up on some of the individual comments, but thank you very much!
Just to be clear, by the way, I'm not criticizing the modern routes for lacking medieval authenticity. They are what they are and my wife and I enjoyed both our Caminos on the Portuguese. The reason I'm asking these questions is that I'm writing a book about our Camino this year, which covered the Spiritual Variant, and was trying to figure out how the SV ended up being "approved" by the Pilgrims Office (for the Compostela but not certificate of distance). That led me to the larger question of how all these routes were developed and approved in the first place.
The Camino(s) we have today is a marvelous system and all the more wonderful for having come together in such a decentralized, haphazard fashion based on the efforts of many, many people rather than one bureaucratic entity.
 

MichaelC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
Nov 2018: Kumano Kodo (part)
2021 (?): Via Francigena, Aosta to Rome
The absolute best academic research I've seen on this is in French, but google translate does a passable job of translating the pages into English: Le triomphe de Compostelle. One caveat before you dive in: the site's authors are absolutely supportive of modern pilgrimage routes, but they are also brutally critical about a lot of what they see as "methodological errors" in studies of the camino's history.

For example, they trace the long history of the medieval pilgrimage to Compostela, and conclude that there is no evidence that any one route or path had any more pilgrims than any other path. They find that there were certain sanctuaries and towns that were natural gathering points, especially on certain holy days - but that otherwise there was no one singular Camino.
 
Last edited:

Hurry Krishna

Indian on the Way
Camino(s) past & future
2009 (from Sarria), 2014 from St Jean Pied de Port, 2016 from Porto, 2018 from Le Puy to Santiago.
I'm aware that most of the major Camino routes (Frances, Portugues, etc.) were chosen because they replicate the paths that medieval pilgrims took to Santiago de Compostela. But does anyone have any information about when and how these routes were chosen? In other words, who made the decision and what criteria did they use? Is there a governing body (the Pilgrims Office, for example) that has the final word?
I understand, for example, that historical research done by Fr. Elías Valiña Sampedro in the 1980s played a big role in delineating the Frances. But what about the other routes? Who did the research to get them accepted? I'm particularly interested in how some of the minor or alternative routes, like the Portuguese Coastal and Spiritual Variant, came to be included, since they don't seem to have medieval roots. Did local economic boosterism play a role?
Sorry about such an open-ended question but anything that points me in the right direction would be appreciated. Thanks!
Frederic Gros, Phylosophy of Walking, Ch 13, provides some sort of an account of the emergence of the modern pilgrimage paths - Camino Frances in particular. You might find it interesting.
 

Jolande17

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
August 11 - 18
On a related note, there are tours/ agencies offering support to pilgrims to recomend certain legs e.g., SJPdP to Pamplona then start again from León to Santiago. The pilgrims who do this consider them walking the whole Camino Frances. This kind of selective legs are available in other routes as well. I am fully aware that we walk our own Camino, but I just would like your thoughts about the guided Camino tours.
 

Frostwood

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portugal September 2019
Interesting thread. I first thought it was going to address the questions I have of who paints the yellow arrows, how do they know where to paint them, and do they ever get in trouble for defacing property when they put them on stone walls, buildings, and private property? I keep reading no one is in charge, but someone is making decisions somewhere.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I'm aware that most of the major Camino routes (Frances, Portugues, etc.) were chosen because they replicate the paths that medieval pilgrims took to Santiago de Compostela. But does anyone have any information about when and how these routes were chosen? In other words, who made the decision and what criteria did they use? Is there a governing body (the Pilgrims Office, for example) that has the final word?
The current waymarked ways are mostly defined by various national hiking associations.

The Francès particularly, and a couple of other routes, including mostly the Le Puy route, are rare exceptions to the general rule from having been defined before the general hiking association rules were established against the traditional routes (that are often rather egregiously tarmacked).
 

Jeff Titelius

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (León to Santiago) 2018
Hi there. I don't believe this was mentioned above but I do know that the Camino Primitivo that stretches from the cathedral in Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela (321 km) is the first official "Camino Jacobeo" and the first pilgrim to follow the "Original Way" was King Alfonso II who trekked along back in the 9th century to commemorate the discovery of Santiago's remains which occurred a few years prior.
Here's a great resource that may help you further along in your studies. https://stingynomads.com/camino-primitivo-stages/ . Buen Camino!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
Interesting thread. I first thought it was going to address the questions I have of who paints the yellow arrows, how do they know where to paint them, and do they ever get in trouble for defacing property when they put them on stone walls, buildings, and private property? I keep reading no one is in charge, but someone is making decisions somewhere.
You've got the painted yellow arrows, but then you also have the more official-looking distance markers in the shape of obelisks. One would suppose that the painted arrows are the responsibility of the private associations, but surely the expensive distance markers are installed by some governmental entity?
 

MichaelC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
Nov 2018: Kumano Kodo (part)
2021 (?): Via Francigena, Aosta to Rome
Interesting thread. I first thought it was going to address the questions I have of who paints the yellow arrows, how do they know where to paint them, and do they ever get in trouble for defacing property when they put them on stone walls, buildings, and private property? I keep reading no one is in charge, but someone is making decisions somewhere.
Back to the original question then! According to UNESCO: the Autonomous Communities through which the routes pass have each defined the protection of this serial property in their respective territories. The routes are Crown property, and the built components are under a mixture of private, institutional, and public sector ownership, as are the buffer zones. The serial property is managed by the Jacobean Council (Consejo Jacobeo), which was created for the purpose of collaborating on programmes and actions to protect and conserve it; to further its promotion and cultural dissemination; to conserve and restore its historical-artistic heritage; to regulate and promote tourism; and to assist pilgrims.

This only applies to the five UNESCO routes in Spain: the Camino Francés and the "Northern Routes" (Coastal, Interior of the Basque Country–La Rioja, Liébana and Primitivo). The Church obviously recognizes other routes.


And I just went down the rabbit hole on this one, but I found some cool stuff. Here are the UNESCO's "World Heritage" pilgrimage routes, as well as others that are being considered. There's tons of great historical information here!

World Heritage Sites
Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern Spain
Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France
Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (Kumano Kodo) (Japan)

Nominated Routes
Via Francigena in Italy
Routes of Santiago de Compostela in Portugal
The Silver Route (Spain)
The Galilee Journeys of Jesus and the Apostles (Israel)
Huichol Route through the sacred sites to Huiricuta (Tatehuari Huajuye) (Mexico)
Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine)
Egyptian Hajj Road
Darb Zubayda (Pilgrim Road from Kufa to Makkah)
Syrian Hajj Road

and relating to Falcon269's post: Roman Ways. Itineraries of the Roman Empire

I'm not sure if all of these are walking routes. Some appear to be older routes that the promoters hope will be restored and developed.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
@kenwilltravel, I'm not sure whether you want to have an in-depth look at this or just want to know who places the yellow arrows and who places the mojones ... but there's a Camino Olvidado or Viejo Camino which apparently is not yet "recognized" as a Jacobean camino. At least that's what I understand from this blog entry from 2016 on this website http://www.viejocaminoolvidado.com/recuperacion/2016-2/ . It sheds some light on the various actors and stakeholders involved.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
You've got the painted yellow arrows, but then you also have the more official-looking distance markers in the shape of obelisks. One would suppose that the painted arrows are the responsibility of the private associations, but surely the expensive distance markers are installed by some governmental entity?
I answered my own question. It's the regional junta of Galicia and the various provinces responsible for the mojones (https://translate.google.com/transl...l-camino-de-santiago-donde-estan/&prev=search). And here's another article that adds more info about the mojones and yellow arrows (https://translate.google.com/transl...llas-mojones-concha-del-peregrino&prev=search).
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2019)
I always imagine a Centurion climbing over Alto del Perdon from Pamplona (est. by Pompeo in about 75 BC) instead of following the valley near Tiebas to Puente La Reina! My imagination always fails me.
As I walked from Pamplona to Alto del Perdon, up through the fields of grain I had no difficulty imagining a Roman soldier on horseback riding up the trail behind me.

I sat with my back to a tree, inside a fairie circle, just off the trail looking back towards Pamplona, having my lunch and time shifted for me. In that moment, I expected that the next person I saw coming up the trail would be a Centurion.

I realise that isn't what you meant and I am not faulting your logic. Given a choice, a traveler takes the easy route, it is just that the example that you chose triggered a memory for me.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
To Santiago and beyond (from home; Voie de Tours; Camino Francés; Biskaya; Manche; Via Brabantica)
As it got mentioned just now in a different thread: there is the Camino del Manzanal that is currently recuperated and revived. It appears that the whole process takes years. I know that members of local camino associations have been trying to promote it for several years already. This is a stretch of about 70 km from Astorga to Ponferrada that crosses the Manzanal pass instead of the pass near Foncebadon. This is a historically well established road, with Roman artefacts in Bembibre and numerous pilgrim and traveller reports throughout the centuries, among them Künig von Vach in the 15th century but also a surprising number of other well known pilgrims until the middle of the 20th century.

Elías Valiña was aware of it, of course, and so were many other scholars. I don't know why the pilgrimage road across the Manzanal pass and through Bembibre was cast aside initially when the revival of the Camino Frances started in earnest.
 

Nigel Clark

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF May /June 2017
CF Sept / Oct 2019
I was quite surprised when I got my certificate of distance for the CF , last week,to find that it has been reduced from 799 kms( in 2017) to 779 kms , my legs severely dispute this !! However does anyone know why the reduction ?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese Coastal (2018)
Portuguese Coastal, with Spiritual Variant (2019)
I was quite surprised when I got my certificate of distance for the CF , last week,to find that it has been reduced from 799 kms( in 2017) to 779 kms , my legs severely dispute this !! However does anyone know why the reduction ?
I worked in the Pilgrims Office earlier this year and we had a piece of software that showed "official" distances for various routes. From St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago was 779 km (compared to 713 from Pamplona, for example). That was on every distance certificate I wrote covering that stretch of the CF. Nobody ever questioned it. Can't say how you got 799 in 2017 but the voluntario who wrote up your certificate last week was just going by what he or she saw on the screen.
 

Get on our Mailing list for new products on the Camino Store and news from the Camino Forum








Advertisement

Booking.com

Camino Conversations

Camino Conversations

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

Most downloaded Resources

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 16 1.2%
  • February

    Votes: 10 0.8%
  • March

    Votes: 56 4.3%
  • April

    Votes: 197 15.0%
  • May

    Votes: 326 24.8%
  • June

    Votes: 95 7.2%
  • July

    Votes: 24 1.8%
  • August

    Votes: 27 2.1%
  • September

    Votes: 379 28.9%
  • October

    Votes: 158 12.0%
  • November

    Votes: 17 1.3%
  • December

    Votes: 7 0.5%

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store
Top
AdBlock Detected

We get it, advertisements are annoying!

Sure, ad-blocking software does a great job at blocking ads, but it also blocks useful features of our website. For the best site experience please disable your AdBlocker.

I've Disabled AdBlock