This Week in Pilgrimage: The End of a Holy Year


I’ve started a new blog schedule this week.

(Of course, you probably weren’t aware there was an old one, but it did exist—in my head.)

On Mondays and Wednesdays (Pacific time—it may often end up being Tuesdays and Thursdays in more distant parts of the world), I’ll continue to publish interviews, thoughts and stories on walking pilgrimage routes, with probably a little more historical content.

On Fridays, I’ll have a roundup of all the walking pilgrimage-related news I’ve come across over the past week, and other miscellaneous things that don’t quite fit into other posts. If you know of anything you think belongs here, please tell me. I definitely can’t keep track of everything.

Please note that a number of my sources are Spanish. My Spanish translation skills aren’t wonderful, and neither are Google Translator’s, but between us we muddle through. The information should be accurate, but I can’t one hundred percent guarantee it.

So without further ado….

The End of the Holy Year

The Puerta Santa has closed, and another Jacobean Holy Year has come to an end. The next isn’t for another ten years, in 2021.

In 2010, according to Pilgrim’s Office statistics, 272,340 pilgrims received the Compostela, up from 145,878 in 2009 and 179,944 in 2004, the previous Holy Year.

You can see a lot of other statistics, including gender, mode of transportation, age, motivation, nationality, profession, starting points, and routes, on the Pilgrim’s Office website. Do keep in mind that these statistics reflect only the pilgrims who received Compostelas—the Federación Española de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino de Santiago estimates there were 300,000 pilgrims in all.

But despite these statistics, the regions of Navarra, Aragón, La Rioja and Castilla y León actually saw a three to six percent drop in the number of pilgrims that passed through in 2010 compared with 2009. It’s the astronomical number of pilgrims who started in Galicia who account for the large rise in Compostelas.

The director of the Centro de Estudios y Documentación del Camino de Santiago has explained this by saying (as far as I understand) that the majority of pilgrims who go for longer pilgrimages prefer the “soft symphony” of non-Holy Years on the Camino to the “big Jacobean hubbub” of the Holy Year.

Temporary Pilgrim Centre on Saint Olav’s Way

From what I can understand by using an online translator, a temporary pilgrim centre has been set up in Trondheim to help manage, develop and promote Saint Olav’s Way.

This is good news, because it means that the work of the Pilgrimsleden pilot project, which ended in 2010, will continue.

The Camino/Harry Potter Link

Writer and journalist Félix Pacho has just published a series of essays about the history of the Camino de Santiago. One of the stories he tells is of the alchemist Nicholas Flamel, familiar to some of us through the first Harry Potter book, who walked the Camino as far as León in search of someone who could translate an old book.

His Camino ended in León because he found the translator he was looking for: a Jewish doctor. The book turned out to be about both turning ordinary metals into gold and the secret of eternal youth. But the doctor died on the way back to Paris with Flamel, leaving the book only partly translated.

So Flamel didn’t get the secret of eternal youth … that time.

According to J. K. Rowling, he did find it eventually in the philosopher’s stone (sorcerer’s stone to Americans), which let him live another few centuries to become a friend of Dumbledore’s.

So … three degrees of separation between Harry Potter and the Camino. Who’d ever have guessed?

Camino Bits and Pieces

  • Spain’s new anti-smoking laws theoretically mean no more smoky bars, but Johnnie Walker reports that people are still smoking in the outdoor sections of bars and restaurants.
  • On December 27, the Spanish soccer team dedicated its 2010 World Cup win to the apostle Saint James.
  • In April of this year, the Santiago Cathedral will celebrate the 800th anniversary of its consecration. There are going to be two big exhibitions: one that tells the story of the cathedral complex, and another that tells the history of “Compostela,” which I believe means the city. There will also be musical concerts as part of the celebration. The cathedral itself will continue to undergo restorations throughout the year, and should be in “full splendor” for the next Holy Year in 2021.
  • As of yesterday, there were two new buses connecting Santiago de Compostela with its airport. From what I can gather, they’re wheelchair accessible, and depart every half hour. The first leaves Santiago at 6 a.m., and the airport at 6:45 a.m. The last leaves Santiago at 12 midnight, and the airport at 12:45 a.m.
  • In further airport news, according to Camino a Santiago on Twitter (yes, I’ve joined Twitter, which is actually a great place to keep up with Camino updates in Spanish), Santiago’s airport won’t have any international flights until spring—bad news, as they say, for foreign pilgrims returning home.
  • According to the mayor of Santiago de Compostela, the city’s historic centre may well be almost completely restored within the next five to seven years. Apparently, the number of the ancient buildings in poor shape decreased from 49.17 percent in 1989 to 16.65 percent in 2008.
  • Five Spanish communities: Euskadi, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia and La Rioja, are trying to lure pilgrims north of the Camino Francés. They’ve banded together to produce two pamphlets, together called “Los Caminos del Norte a Santiago.” The pamphlets promote the Camino del Norte, the Camino Primitivo, and the Camino del Interior. The first has information on the route and attractions along the way—it sounds like an overview to attract pilgrims. The second is a practical guide in Spanish, English, French, German and Italian with information about accommodation, shops and hospitals and more. The article doesn’t say where you can get this pamphlet, but I’d assume it’s available at tourist information offices.
  • The lucky people of Dublin will soon have a chance to see The Way, the Emilio Estevez movie about the Camino. The movie will be part of this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
  • Raquel Martín, president of the association Amigos del Camino de Santiago en Ávila, reports a substantial increase in pilgrims on the Camino de Levante in 2010 compared to previous years, judging by the number that have stayed in the association’s albergue: 350. He hopes to soon see an albergue in every town in Ávila where pilgrims might stop for the night.
  • Emilene, who is already gearing up for her Camino in 2012, wrote this week about what she suspects are going to be her two biggest Camino challenges: getting lost, and not speaking Spanish. She has an interesting quotation from Tony Kevin, and another (you can decide for yourself if it’s interesting or not) from this blog.
  • Sil, who kindly gave me the words of the Dum Paterfamilas (the original Ultreïa song) the other week, wrote today about why non-religious people have spiritual experiences on the Camino, and speculates that it has to do with connecting with the right (intuitive) side of the brain.
  • Johnnie Walker, who has walked many routes to Santiago and produced guidebooks on some of them, recently published all his on-line videos in a single post. They cover everything from a variety of Camino routes to the Botafumeiro in Santiago Cathedral.
  • Neville Tencer and Julie Burke, whom I interviewed last month about their pilgrimage to Rome, wrote this week about linking the Camino de Santiago with the Via Francigena to Rome.

And that’s it … for this week.

If you have any additions or suggestions, or just want to chat, please do comment or write. Have a great weekend!

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Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 4:50 pm
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4 Comments

4 Responses to This Week in Pilgrimage: The End of a Holy Year

  1. Hi Anna-Marie,
    I’m really enjoying your blog thank you but don’t know how I missed it before now? Have you decided what route to take for your next Camino?
    Best wishes
    Nell

    • Anna-Marie says:

      Hi Nell,

      I’ve just started reading your Camino blog and am really enjoying it. It brings back so many memories, and I love the “Suspend Memory” technique.

      I’m going to walk the Via de la Plata this April! Are you planning to return to the Camino?

      Best wishes to you, too.

      Anna-Marie

      • Nellpilgrim says:

        Hi,
        I’ve started a tad further back ‘the road’ this time and am walking from Nurnberg to Santiago. Thought I’m doing this Jacobsweg/Camino in stages and got Germany pretty much covered and will be heading into Switzerland this year………. then theres just the little matter of France to walk cross:)