The English Way to Santiago or Camino Inglés (#caminoingles) has two traditional starting points: the port cities A Coruña and Ferrol. Only if you start your Camino in Ferrol you will be rewarded with a ‘Compostela’ pilgrim certificate, as you will complete over 100km on your way to Santiago de Compostela. Mostly used by pilgrims coming from Northern Europe, Britain and Ireland, the English Way was also an important trading route. On the English Way you will enjoy nice coastal views for the first two walking days, and you will visit pretty towns en-route, such as Pontedeume and Betanzos. The second part of this Camino route heads inland towards Santiago de Compostela across Galicia’s green countryside.
If you are travelling in the Spring, you will be able to experience Ferrol’s impressive Easter festival: Semana Santa de Ferrol.
Read more English Way Camino articles on our blog.
|Pontedeume||29||The English Way route of the Camino de Santiago was traditionally used by pilgrims coming from the British Isles and Ireland on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims used to arrived by boat at the ports of Ferrol (or A Coruña), and they would then continue their journey to Santiago, following a trail along the rugged coastline, passing towns such as Pontedeume and Betanzos, heading then inland across the green countryside and woodlands of rural Galicia on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Today, the English Way has two starting points but only if you start in Ferrol you will be able to apply for your Compostela certificate.|
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Even if A Coruña is a larger and more attractive town than Ferrol, only few pilgrims start their English Way from there, because it is situated less than 100 kilometres from Santiago de Compostela. That means that if you are starting your route from A Coruña, you won’t qualify for a Pilgrim Certificate – you will have to start from Ferrol instead.
The Jacobean pilgrimage enjoyed widespread fame throughout medieval Europe. Land and sea alike were furrowed with routes full of spirituality leading to Santiago de Compostela. The seafaring ways were packed with pilgrims from Scandinavia, Flanders, England, Scotland and Ireland on their way to destinations such as Ribadeo, Viveiro, Ferrol and A Coruña. Blessed by an exceptionally strategic location, the latter two coastal enclaves are the starting points of the two itineraries that make up the English Way. The A Coruña-Santiago route covers a distance of 74 km, while the stretch linking Ferrol-Santiago is 118 km long.
The pilgrimages from Scandinavia and the British Isles began in the XIIth century. One of the most noteworthy episodes occurred in 1147 with the arrival of a squadron of crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. This squadron took part in the conquest of Lisbon, aiding the first king of Portugal in his struggle against the Muslims. Before facing any bellicose encounter, crusaders from England, Germany and Flanders would visit the tomb of St. James.
The first maritime itinerary recorded between 1154-59 by the Icelandic monk, Nicholas Bergson, describes the voyage from Iceland to Bergen (Norway), Aalborg (Jutland) and Vyborg, sailing down the Kiel Canal -which marks the border between Denmark and Germany. This monk continued on foot to Rome, on his way to the Holy Land. Icelandic and Scandinavian pilgrims travelling to Santiago took this maritime route to Denmark, continuing their journey on foot to Roncesvalles, or by boat to the north of the Iberian Peninsula.
During the Hundred Years War that raged between France and England throughout almost the entire XIVth century and the first third of the XVth century, the British used boats to travel to Santiago. The vessels that were chartered for this purpose would set sail -with permission from the Crown- from London, Bristol, Southampton and Plymouth and they would return to England loaded with goods from Galicia. The presence of these pilgrims in Santiago is well-documented by the ceramic pieces and coins dating from the XIVth and XVth centuries, found during excavations in the cathedral.
Other traces of seafaring pilgrimages can be found in the offerings made to the Apostle. The most outstanding is the famous portable alabaster altarpiece depicting the life of St. James, which was donated to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in 1456 by Father John Goodyear, who was the parish priest of the church of Chale on the Isle of Wight (diocese of Winchester). This work of art, part of the collection of the Cathedral Museum, portrays five scenes in the life of the apostle: his vocation, his preaching in Hispania, his martyrdom in Palestine and the transfer of his body by boat to Galicia. Another splendid offering related to the pilgrimages undertaken from the British Isles is the ‘Pearl cross’. This piece, crafted in gold and silver, displaying enamel work and studded with pearls and gems, was created in Paris around 1375-1400 and donated by King Jacob IV of Scotland (1475-1513). The divorce of Henry VIII (1509-47) from Catherine of Aragón caused him to break ties with the Catholic Church, thus bringing an end to the pilgrimages from England.
Whether they were noblemen, princes, clergymen or plain citizens, the pilgrims found refuge in the hospitals along the English Way. From Ferrol to A Coruna, the route was less arduous thanks to the services provided by the religious order of the Sancti Spiritus. Starting in the XIVth c, the Franciscan Order opened the doors to their dwellings in Pontedeume and Betanzos, under the auspices of the nobleman, Fernan Perez de Andrade, ‘0 Bo’.
Along this stretch, which headed out from Ferrol, there were pilgrim hospitals run by the Hospitalers of the Sancti Spiritus located in Ferrol, Neda, Mino, Paderne and Betanzos. Another pilgrim hospital dedicated to San Lorenzo was founded in Bruma, in 1140, becoming part of the Hospital of Santiago in 1175. In the A Coruna stretch, the city offered pilgrims accommodation run by the religious orders of Los Angeles, Santa Catalina and San Andres, and, as they proceeded along the Way, there were facilities in Sigras and Poulo. Some of these establishments had chapels and cemeteries, whose archives contain records of the deaths of pilgrims of English, Nordic, German, French and Italian nationalities. These records highlight the importance of the Jacobean pilgrimages along this route.