The Camino Pilgrim Passport, Camino Certificate, and Compostela.
Most people have a clear idea of why they want to walk the Camino de Santiago routes: for religious reasons, as a personal spiritual journey, for a healthy challenge, or just the social aspect.
Whatever your motivation for walking the Camino routes, make sure you get your ‘Camino Pilgrim Passport‘ to get it stamped along the way, documenting your progress.
The Camino Pilgrim Passport
The Camino Pilgrim Passport (Credencial del Peregrino) will be proof that you have walked the 100km necessary to obtain your ‘Camino Compostela’ or ‘Camino Certificate’, the official documents testament to your journey.
You can get your Pilgrim Passport:
- From the Confraternities of St. James
- From authorized associations in Spain
- From authorized associations worldwide
- From the Camino Society in Ireland
- At the start of your route, from outdoor shops, pilgrim shops and churches along the Camino
You will need to collect at least two stamps per day from churches, town halls, or other official establishments on your way to Santiago.
Correos, the Spanish postal service, has special Camino stamps available to pilgrims in many post offices along the Camino de Santiago, including the post office in Rua do Franco, Santiago de Compostela.
Once in Santiago de Compostela, you must show your stamped Camino Pilgrim Passport at the Pilgrims Office to apply for your Camino Compostela certificate and any other Camino pilgrim certificate you might want to receive.
The Camino ‘Compostela’
The ‘Compostela’ is the original religious certificate written in Latin, expended by the Church when pilgrims prove they have either walked 100km or cycled (or travelled on horseback) 200km to Santiago de Compostela.
Originally, pilgrims used the scallop shell as proof of their pilgrimage but this quickly became a fraudulent practice with many people buying and selling shells. From the 13th century, the Church introduced a more rigorous system based on letters, the origin of the ‘Compostela’.
The Camino ‘Compostela’ was a valuable document: pilgrims would travel to Santiago in pilgrimage, in many cases as a penance. By getting a certificate showing they had walked to Santiago they could get back home and show they had paid their penance; repented for their sins.
Apparently, a roaring trade of forged ‘Compostelas’ also boomed in Santiago in the Middle Ages. The way to Santiago seemed to be paved with good intentions!
For some, walking to Santiago and getting their ‘Compostela’ meant they had secured their reference letter or VIP ticket to heaven: the ‘Compostela’ was considered an important paper, one to show St Peter at the gates of heaven.
In the 16th century, the Catholic Queen and King Fernando and Isabel created the Foundation of the Royal Hospital and started the construction of a pilgrims Royal Hospital in Santiago, in the building that hosts today the luxurious Hostal dos Reis Católicos Parador hotel. By showing their ‘Compostela’ pilgrims could stay for up to three days. Today, the hotel still provides free meals for three days to 10 pilgrims with their ‘Compostela’.
How to get your Compostela in Santiago
- Visit the Pilgrim’s office in Santiago
- Go to the waiting area
- Withdraw a ticket with your number
- There is a QR code in the ticket that allows you to verify the status of the row in real time. (Notice: in times of great influx, it cannot be guaranteed Collection of the Compostela on the same day)
- You can stay in the waiting area until your turn or you can leave and come back when it’s your turn (it is recommended to go back at least 50 numbers before your one in order to not to miss your turn)
Camino Certificate of Welcome
Many things have changed since the Middle Ages. Today, many cycle or walk the Camino for leisure, as a cultural experience and other non-religious reasons but this doesn’t mean you can’t get a certificate as a souvenir of this very special journey.
Pilgrims traveling for sport or cultural reasons can obtain a non-religious version of the Compostela, called Certificate of Welcome, also from the Pilgrims Office in Santiago (Rúa Carretas 33). The same rule of 100km for walkers and 200km for cyclists and horse riders apply for this certificate.
Camino Compostela and Camino Pilgrim certificates are issued to pilgrims, on a donation basis, by the Pilgrims Office in Santiago.
If traveling as part of an organised group, the Pilgrims Office also has a special service, where the names of the group can be submitted by email a few days in advance by the group leader (a special form from the Pilgrims Office must be filled in). Once the group has reached Santiago, the leader can bring the group’s pilgrim passports to the office and receive all the ‘Compostelas’ for the group.
Camino Certificate of Distance
Another certificate of distance is also available, stating the starting point and distance walked/cycled by each pilgrim, available in many different languages. This can be obtained in addition to the ‘Compostela’ and it costs €3. If you walked the Camino before that date, you can request this certificate by emailing the Pilgrims Office in Santiago.
It might not get you a fast track to heaven but it will be a nice memento of your trip to Santiago!
Camino Cathedral Visit Certificate
If you are visiting Santiago Cathedral (and if you’ve walked all this way you probably are!) you can request a Cathedral Visit Certificate (Certificado de visita a la Catedral), also from the Pilgrims Office (from 9 until 2pm). Ask at the door to direct you to the Archdiocese office. You can request it also on behalf of your group and you will only need the name of the people visiting, and a donation of €3.
*Please note in order to receive any of the Camino certificates issued by the Pilgrims Office in Santiago, your finishing point must be Santiago de Compostela.
*Take your Camino pilgrim passport if you are planning on attending pilgrim mass at the cathedral as some pews are reserved exclusively for pilgrims.
For more information about the Compostela, please visit the official website of the Pilgrim’s office.