What is the Compostela Pilgrims Certificate?

Camino Compostela Certificate

The Compostela Pilgrims Certificate

From the earliest days of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, there was a desire for the completion of the journey to be recognised in some way. Pilgrims used the scallop shell to symbolise their arrival at the Tomb of St James the Apostle—the Compostela Pilgrims Certificate.

However, this simple practice was easily debased. Vendors started selling shells to pilgrims as they entered the city. Due to the prevalence of fraudulent practices, the Church had to impose the penalty of excommunication on the perpetrators. From the 13th century onwards, documents called “Evidential Letters” were used more effectively to record a completed pilgrimage. These are the direct roots of the Compostela.


The Compostela was an essential and valuable document for pilgrims. In the 16th century, the Catholic Monarchs constituted the Foundation of the Royal Hospital and ordered the construction of a hospital for pilgrims in Santiago. This was housed in the building now occupied by the Hotel Hostal de los Reyes Católicos. On presentation of their Compostela, pilgrims were allowed to stay in the hospital for three days. The hospital looked after pilgrims’ health needs, becoming the most critical hospital in Galicia. Later in its history, it became the centre of the faculty of medicine at the University of Santiago de Compostela. In 1954, it was converted to a state-run Parador hotel. However, the hotel continues the tradition of pilgrim hospitality by providing free meals for three days to 10 pilgrims during the production of the Compostela Pilgrim Certificate.

In the 20th century, the growth of pilgrims arriving in Santiago by vehicular transport gave rise to a concern that the aspects of effort and sacrifice previously characteristic of the pilgrimage may be lost or diminished. It was also the case that there was a growth in certificates issued by other bodies which sought to imitate the traditional Compostela.

Therefore, the Cathedral of Santiago decided that to gain a Compostela, a pilgrim had to provide evidence on a credencial Camino Pilgrim passport that they had walked or travelled on horseback for at least the last 100kms of their journey to Santiago and, if travelling by bicycle, the last 200kms. That rule still stands today.

The Compostela Pilgrims Certificate

To be awarded the Compostela:

  • You must have made the pilgrimage for religious reasons or a similar motivation, such as a vow.
  • To arrive at the apostle’s tomb in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, you must have walked or travelled on horseback for at least the last 100 km or cycled for the last 200 km.
  • You should collect at least two Sellos (stamps) daily on your Camino Credencial Pilgrim Passport. These will usually be where you sleep and one other place, such as a Church, ayuntamiento, café, etc. You must ensure that you do this at least in the last 100 km from the Cathedral of Santiago if you are walking or on horseback and 200 km if you are travelling by bicycle.

You may walk the Camino de Santiago routes in stages; however, if you are walking the last 100 or cycling the last 200 in stages, you must obtain a sello with the date in the place you stopped and obtain another sello with the date from the same place on the day you start again.

Children walking the Camino de Santiago: Children who have made the pilgrimage with parents or in a group and who understand the religious and spiritual nature of the Camino may also receive a Compostela. See our Camino for Families page.

However, if they are not yet old enough, a certificate bearing the child’s name can be provided. In the case of very young children, their names can be inscribed on the Compostela of the accompanying adult. If you have any questions about this, please ask in the Pilgrims’ Office.

The text of the Compostela Pilgrim Certificate

The text of the Compostela is written in Latin, and it is the tradition of the Pilgrims’ Office to write the pilgrim’s name in Latin. The translated text is as follows:

“The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint James, custodian of the seal of Saint James’ Altar, to all faithful and pilgrims who come from everywhere over the world as an act of devotion, under vow or promise to the Apostle’s Tomb, our Patron and Protector of Spain, witnesses in the sight of all who read this document, that: Mr/Mrs/Ms…………………has visited devoutly this Sacred Church in a religious sense (Pietatis causa).

Witness whereof I hand this document over to him, authenticated by the seal of this Sacred Church.

Given in Saint James of Compostela on the (day) …… (month) …… A.D. ……”

When is the Pilgrims’ Office open?

Monday to Sunday, 9.00 – 21.00 (In summer: from Easter Monday to 31 October).

Monday to Sunday, 10:00 – 20.00 (In winter, from 1 November to Easter Sunday). Please note that on Sundays and during Camino festivals in winter, the office is closed from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Pilgrims’ Office is open during these hours every day of the year except Christmas Day – 25 December, and New Year’s Day – 1 January. If you complete your pilgrimage on these days, your Compostela can be obtained in the Cathedral.

Read here to learn more about Camino Pilgrim Passports & Certificates.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on the pilgrim’s certificate or any of the Camino de Santiago routes.


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