The scallop shell is one of the most iconic symbols of the Camino de Santiago and still used today to guide pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela along the many different routes.
Painted or printed on walls, sidewalks, on tiles, Camino markers… the scallop shell (or ‘vieira’ in Galician and Spanish) will help you find your way.
The scallop shell is believed to be a metaphor, its lines representing the different routes pilgrims travel from all over the world, all trails leading to one point: Santiago de Compostela.
Medieval pilgrims often wore a scallop shell attached to their cloaks or hats for the duration of their journey to Santiago. More than being just a symbol or a pilgrim badge, the scallop shells also had a practical purpose.
The name of Don Elías Valiña Sampedro might not ring any bells but you will certainly recognise his most ‘famous’ creation: the yellow arrow showing pilgrims the way along the Camino de Santiago.
Don Elías was parish priest of O Cebreiro and a Camino visionary: after years studying the Way of St James, he was convinced of the importance of this ancient trail and set himself the challenge of reviving the route we call the Camino Frances. In 1984, he put in motion his mission to rescue, clean and mark the trails along this Camino, starting in Roncesvalles, in the Pyrenees.
Legend has it that Don Elías drove across the whole north of Spain on his Citroën GS packed with yellow paint, painting arrows to show pilgrims the way to Santiago.