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Yellow arrows



I've a bit of a strange question. I'm trying to write a book about the camino (which I did in April-May of this year and many thanks for your guide book which was invaluable to me for it) and am trying to find out about the yellow arrows - who first used them and when? Does anyone know anything about this or where I can find the answer?

With thanks


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
Don Elias Valina Sampedro of O Cebreiro parish - a dedicated priest and scholar who devoted over 30 years of his life to the resurrection and promotion of the camino.
D Elias was appointed priest of the parish of Santa Maria La Real of O Cebreiro in 1959 when he was just 30 years old. Under his direction the church of St Mary’s as well as the ancient inn and pilgrim hospital which he described as being “little more than a dunghill” - were restored and in 1972 O Cebreiro was declared a Historical Monument.
He concentrated all of his energies on the restoration and reanimation of the camino. In 1967 he wrote his doctoral thesis on - The Road of St James: A Historical and Legal Study. He directed the - Artistic Inventory of Lugo and its Province- six large volumes of an exhaustive description of all the monuments and items that could have any value
“In the 1970’s there survived only a remote memory of the Jacobean pilgrimage” he wrote. In 1971 he wrote the book ‘Caminos a Compostela’.
In 1974 Edwin Mullins published a book “The Pilgrimage to Santiago”. In it he recounts how it was for a pilgrim on foot in the early 1970’s:
“It was more often a question of dropping into village bars and enquiring politely where the old road might be.”
In 1972 only 6 pilgrims were awarded the Compostela.
D. Elias’s guide was published in 1982 and at a gathering in Santiago in 1985 he was entrusted with the co-ordination of all the resources for the camino. Pilgrim albergues were established and he was the first to mark the way with yellow arrows with paint begged from the roads department.
Ten years later, in 1986, the Santiago Cathedral issued 2,491 certificates. In 1989, the year of the Pope’s visit (and sadly, also the year D Elias passed away) 5,760 compostelas were issued. If you are one of the estimated 600,000 pilgrims to trustingly follow the yellow arrows this year, remember the generous hand that lovingly drew them. You can see a bust of D. Elias - and a number of dedication plaques - in the churchyard.


  • D Elias Valino Sampedro.jpg
    D Elias Valino Sampedro.jpg
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Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2005), VDLP(2007), Madrid(2009), Ingles(2009), Sur (2011), VDLP(2011)-partial, VDLP(2014)
Many thanks for this, John and Sil for the lovely accounts of the history of the yellow arrows. I've tucked this information away and will indeed remember D. Elias during my next camino.


Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
What amazes me is how many crusty, rusty, very old yellow arrows can be found on extremely out-of-the-way trails, atop mountains and down along rivers, places where you´re sure no one has ever been before!

always reassuring to find those friendly flechas glowing in the underbrush (when they´re not just bits of yellow moss trying to fool you..)



Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
...... and amazing how, weeks after getting back home from the camino, your heart leaps when you see a flash of yellow on a pavement, road or lampost! Very powerful, subliminal symbol!

Javier Martin

Veteran Member
Now we are remembering him in the 20 years since Elias Valiña died. He changed the way of walking to Santiago. He always tried to improve the Camino.

In 1962, Alvaro Cunqueiro, a famous galician writer, asked to a little boy in O Cebreiro, Do you usually see any pilgrims? And the fellow answered ... I saw one of them two years ago ...

Buen Camino, gracias, Elías Valiña.

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain


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