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PRWeb July 1, 2005


Pilgrims Find a Road Less Travelled:
Volunteers Open the Refugio de Peregrinos de Miraz on Spain’s Camino del Norte

The Confraternity of Saint James, a London-based organisation of potential and returned pilgrims serving the English-speaking world, is helping pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela with a new overnight refugio on one of the less travelled routes.

(PRWEB) July 1, 2005 -- By now you’ve probably heard of the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage path across northern Spain that’s attracting hikers, bikers, and spiritual seekers from all over the world. In 2004, 179,944 people walked or biked the popular, westward-leading “French Way,” ending at the medieval shrine city where the bones of Jesus’ apostle James are believed to be buried.

So many souls are seeking out the popular road these days that the Confraternity of Saint James, an organisation of potential and returned pilgrims serving the English-speaking world and based in London, decided to help fellow pilgrims by opening - a new overnight refugio on one of the less travelled routes.

The Confraternity in May began refurbishing and staffing a pilgrim refugio in a semi-abandoned rectory in Miraz, a tiny village on an alternative pathway from the north coast of Galicia to Santiago de Compostela. Miraz is in the province of Lugo, just a few days’ walk from the shrine city. The new refugio closes a 40-kilometre gap in accommodation that made this path too tough for some travellers. Now adventurous pilgrims can enjoy a Road to Santiago that has as long a history as the almost-too-popular, east-to-west Camino path.

The Confraternity is known for the warmth of the welcome and generous hospitality it provides at Refugio Gaucelmo, a hostel it opened in 1991 and now runs in Rabanal del Camino, a village in the mountains of Leon Province. It has become a “must visit” stop for pilgrims on the Camino Frances.

Miraz follows in the same tradition, said Laurie Dennett, a native Canadian who was there from the start of both refugio projects. In exchange for a donation, volunteer wardens at both refugios provide pilgrims with clean, simple bunk-bed accommodations, shelter for bicycles, horses, or pack animals, and a simple breakfast in the morning.

Confraternity leaders hope to relieve some of the overcrowding now seen on the “traditional” Camino, and want also to honour the original paths walked by English pilgrims from England since medieval times. Because England is across the water to the northeast, English pilgrims often travelled by ship to the northern ports of Spain, and walked southward to Santiago de Compostela through the rocky, wet region of Galicia known as “Green Spain”.

“The Camino del Norte is very different,” said Marion Clegg, a retired teacher who walked the Northern Way in 2002. “There you can feel valued as a pilgrim by local people who are eager to talk with you and help you. It often seemed to us in a conversation with a farmer on the way that we had somehow made his day and would be a topic of conversation when he got home. We felt also that there were more opportunities to gain the spiritual benefits of pilgrimage.”

The alternate paths, known collectively as “The Northern Route,” offer modern pilgrims plenty of physical challenge as well as breathtaking scenery, ancient villages, a resounding sense of history, and plenty of solitude. Record-keepers at the cathedral in Compostela say 8,032 pilgrims travelled the Northern Route in 2004. The Confraternity publishes detailed guides to the paths, which are updated as conditions change.

“Having walked many of the "alternative routes" to Santiago I was very enthusiastic to help with the Miraz project as a way of acknowledging the importance historically and spiritually of the less well known pilgrim ways - but which have their own character and history,” said Confraternity member Colin Jones, a well-travelled Church of England minister.

“We thought that the priest’s house at Miraz cried out for restoration as a pilgrim refuge,” Marion Clegg said, recalling the damp, spartan place from her 2002 trip. “There was a link missing at Miraz. When it was suggested that the C.S.J. might support another refuge we were sure that it should be at Miraz. We are delighted that Confraternity members are already helping pilgrims there.”

As with other pilgrim accommodation this refugio does not accept reservations. It will accommodate about 14 people overnight. It will be open from April to September and be staffed by voluntary ‘hospitaleros’ from many countries.

A major fund raising appeal will be launched in the Autumn
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