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(Number 2) What would you do if....

When they reach Santiago will they recieve the Compostela?

  • Yes

    Votes: 33 82.5%
  • No

    Votes: 7 17.5%

  • Total voters


Nunca se camina solo
Greetings from Santiago

Due to popular demand here is another dilemma - again it is real.

An enquiry is made to the Pilgrims´ Office on behalf of a disabled person. It has been their long -held ambition to make a pilgrimage to Santiago and to recieve the Compostela. The nature of their disability is now such that they have to make the pilgrimage with motorised transport. They will also have a back up vehicle carrying essential supplies etc. When they reach Santiago will they recieve the Compostela?
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I say yes. This pilgrim is doing the Camino the best way that he/she can. I would venture to guess that doing the camino, even with motorized transport, might be more difficult for a disabled person than it would be for an able bodied person walking the Camino.


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I would hope they would receive a Compostela, though in places, I imagine they would need to follow the road as the track would be too rough for any motorised transport. Having a back-up vehicle would not appear to be any kind of problem: there are many who get a Compostela who carry a daypack and have the rest of their gear transported ahead. I imagine it is the 'motorised' bit that is the trickier bit as far as the 'rules' go.

When I stayed in Domaine de Mathieux they had photos where quite a large group of French people had helped a disabled person make the pilgrimage. In steep, rockier places, this meant that the group members took turns maneuvering a stretcher up and down these sections of the route. And this also meant that the disabled person needed a large team of people to support them. Organising such a group would be almost impossibly difficult for most, whereas a few family or friends could more easily provide support with use of a back-up vehicle.
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This one is a bit difficult because it is a reality that some individuals are too disabled to qualify under current rules for a Compostela. However, with proper planning it would seem like a compromise could be achieved. In that the Compostela is given to those who go on pilgrimage for a spiritual purpose, it may be possible for the Pilgrim's office to coordinate the this pilgrimage with the individual's priest or spiritual adviser at their home. Then the individual could leave home knowing that if they met an agreed upon course of action, a Compostela would be given.

Many of those who suffer have only a desire to visit a shrine, holy place, or relic. This one is challenging because this physically challenged pilgrim places a value upon obtaining a Compostela. In days past, this is an individual who went to holy places to be healed. This degree of courage would seem to merit some degree of extra coordination. However, it does put a much greater responsibility upon an already over-worked group in the Pilgrim's office.

Good question and thank you for allowing us to mull over it.


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this is really interesting. I'd be very interested to know what people with disabilities make of this - I'm presiding at Mass at the Deaf Church here tomorrow, so I'll ask them.

Many people with disabilities see the disability as a key part of their identity. "I don't want my deafness or blindness healed, but I've got rheumatism in my shoulder ..."



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Interesting that each of the "what if" posts deal with the compostela rather than something like -

after a long day and in a town with little accommodation left would you give up your spot in an albergue to an elderly pilgrim who hadn't walked far or who possibly had there bag transported?

John (in the mountains of british columbia and thinking of spain)


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Well, assuming we're not asking "How disabled do you have to be to be 'allowed' to receive a compostela after having completed the camino by motorized transport", I say yes - let these folks receive a compostela. I have been involved in groups where the "how disabled" question comes up -that is do you have to be totally incapable of walking, or just have painful knees or other body part walking....Always results in vigorous debate., and honestly - who gets to decide?

So yes - the same principle as the "What if?"#1 - if someone cheats on this - who does it hurt? Only that person. So the assumption has to be that they are honest and true pilgrims and should get the compostela.

When I was in Portomarin, I came across such a disabled person. She had been so stricken by a stroke or heart attack, that she had to be carried up the stairs by her daughter & husband. She was obviously a very devout Catholic. She could only walk short distances, with much assistance from her family, who held onto to both her arms. Her dream had been to walk to Santiago, but the stroke/attack had made that impossible & even so, her daughter said they were racing against time to get her to Santiago before she got too weak and frail to move. My impression was that the end was near for this lady & her family was doing what they could to help her complete the Camino. I hope she made it to Santiago & was given a Compostela.

Anyone who says this woman did not deserve a Compostela because she had to be driven from place to place, well, you'll just have to guess my opinion of you.

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Cycled from Scotland,walked Francias, walked V.D.L.P, winter on Francais, stroll on Englaise
May I set a rather different hare running on this interesting topic.
Put simply - "what does the Compostela mean to today's Pilgrim?".
Is it a free pass from time to be spent in Hell OR a rather lovely piece of paper?
As a non Catholic I had two of my four framed and I look at them ever day, but I don't for one moment imagine that the are a free pass out of hell.
I was present in the Pilgrim Office on the now infamous day that the MonoCyclist Pilgrim was refused his Compostela. I saw and spoke to him every day on the Francais and know why he was making the Pilgrimage and know that he earned that piece of paper. He was refused because he "hadn't done the journey in the proper spirit". Others in the office that day had "cheated" by taking buses or taxi for sections but were awarded the Compostela. He was crushed by his Church's refusal so clearly he fell into the free pass camp.
I submit that it is what we learn and experience during the journey is the true reward, that which we carry inside us for ever, and that anything else is a material souvenir.

Tia Valeria

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We knew a young lady who had many health problems and also had to use a wheelchair all her life. Every 3 years she went to Lourdes in the 'Jumbulance' (a specially adapted ambulance-coach) with a group of similarly needy folk. The other 2 years she helped to raise funds to send others who needed help with the considerable costs.
Hopefully in similar very special circumstances such folk would receive their Compostela if they fulfill the spiritual criteria. The medical back-up might be family. I would not expect them to be using albergues as they would no doubt need different facilities according to their needs.
Again Johnny:- what did happen?
Tia Valeria


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The Compostela is not your 'get out of hell' ticket - that is an indulgence. You don't need to walk at all to earn an indulgence, just visit the cathedral, attend mass, say confession etc.,

The Compostela is merely a piece of paper, introduced in the 1950s (but there are no records until the 1970s) affirming that you walked, cycled or rode your horse the required distance to Santiago.

Many disabled people in wheelchairs complete a camino, with vehicle back-up, but not in any form of motorised transport.

I have two Compostelas and two of the other document given to non-Christians who walk the route.


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Thousands of early English pilgrims took a ship to the north coast. And they were ablebodied.
Surely the credencial is a nice souvenir, but the compostela is just a page of dog Latin.
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I have nothing to add tothe previous comments. I just hope that this was a yes.


Nunca se camina solo
This was a real case which was asked of the Confraternity of St James who in turn asked the Pilgrims´Office. I happened to witness the discussion which was very interesting. The Cathedral authorities want to promote pilgrimage as a spiritual journey to Santiago in all of its forms. They introduced the sello and mileage qualifications for the Compostela simply to make it a special recognition of the effort pilgrims put into their journey as distinct from those for whom tourism is the sole motive. Here is the answer they gave which is on the CSJ website:

Will a disabled pilgrim using motorised transport or with back-up be given a Compostela?

This question has been debated thoughtfully and thoroughly in the Pilgrim Office at Santiago. They do not have a hard-and-fast rule about disabled pilgrims and power-assisted modes of transport. They consider each case individually, giving particular attention to the person’s motivation and effort. Their view is that if the person makes their way albeit with assistance for 100 kms and collects sellos on a credencial they will issue a Compostela. They suggest that you ask the CSJ for a letter of introduction and (if possible) have the CSJ tell them by e mail when you are about to arrive.


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Seems to me this Compostela thing, in a world increasingly dominated by our worship of things, is becoming a shiny distraction to what the Camino really stands for. :?:

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The Compostela is straight forward:

"The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic Metropolitan Cathedral of St. James, custodian of the seal of St. James' Altar, to all faithful and pilgrims who come from everywhere over the world as an act of devotion, under vow or promise to the Apostle's Tomb, our Patron and Protector of Spain, witnesses in the sight of all who read this document, that: Mr…………………has visited devoutly this Sacred Church in a religious sense (pietatis causa).

Witness whereof I hand this document over to him, authenticated by the seal of this Sacred Church.
Sangria. Given in St. James de Compostela on the (day)……(month)……A.D. ………
Chapter Secretary"

It is for devoutly visiting the Sacred Church in a religious sense (English translation). The other requirements for distance on foot or bicycle, even some sort of "pilgrimage," are to decrease the number of applicants and preserve bureaucratic sanity (oxymoron?). The Compostela is evidence of a grueling physical endeavor only because those bureaucrats set the 100/200 km criteria. Proof of "devoutly" can be found only in the minds of the pilgrims.

Left open for debate is the necessity of a "piece of paper" to evidence having "visited devoutly this Sacred Church."
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Nunca se camina solo
Well of course it is a personal choice. Receiving the Compostela is a tradition. That´s all. There are no Camino police and nothing is compulsory. Ten of thousands of people each year queue to get a Compostela like pilgrims before them. Some don´t. Many pilgrims go the pilgrims´ mass. Some don´t. Etc.

The Compostela has a long history. The first ¨cartas probatorias¨were recorded in the 13th Century and an example of these is kept in the Cathedral archives. In the 17th Century the text was amplified and by the 18th Century it took on much of the form as we know it today. The Compostela of the 20th Century is clearly drawn from those which evolved and were in use over the previous 700 years.

Best wishes from Santiago



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A similar document, the Testimonium, is given if you walk the last 160km to Rome on the Via Francigena. It is advertised as a 'limited edition' document and here you can only earn one Testimonium, no matter how many times you walk the routes to Rome.
When you arrive at St Peter's you have to be interviewed by Don Bruno Vercesi, in the Sacristy, where he asks certain questions and writes them down in a large register. (My Testimonium is number 424).
Another difference is that in Rome there are two Testimoniums, issued by different organisations. One is issued (as above) through the AIVF and the other, is issued by the AEVF at the Piazza San Pietro, Piazza Pio XII. Pilgrims must have walked the last 100 km of Via Francigena to earn this one and I'm quite sure that there is no restriction on how many of these you can claim.
Its a nice touch to get a little certificate at the end of your walk.


  • Testimonium S.JPG
    Testimonium S.JPG
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I've never heard of this, and it sounds so interesting! Please elaborate! What are the interview questions?



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Don Bruno is a lovely, gentle priest who took us through to his office in the Sacristy and interviewed us indiviudally. From what I remember it was a casual interview, similar to those when you book into an albergue - where do you come from, what is your occupation, what is your age, when and where did you start, did you stay with the brothers at such and such monastery, did you go to mass, which section did you enjoy the most, how did the pilgrimage affect you, did you walk for a religious reason (even though I said no, I still got the Testimonium). He then said a blessing and signed the Testimoniums.
If you go to the pilgrims' office at the Piazza San Pietro, I'm sure you just show your credential ad are given the certificate - as is done in Santiago.

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