Portuguese Coastal Route.

Day 12 of our Portuguese Coastal Route adventure had us wrap up our roughly 180-mile journey at the famous cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

The famous Cathedral was consecrated in 1211, and is reported to contain the remains of the apostle St. James, for whom the route is named. All of the seven Caminos intersect at this final point, at the largest cathedral in Spain.

Let it Rain, Baby!

Heavy rain began around 3 a.m. Almost every pilgrim had seen the weather forecast, and expressed concern as to how best to navigate what was expected to be nasty weather. Since the heavy rain was expected to continue through early afternoon, my aunt and I decided to power through it and make haste for Santiago de Compostela.

Any part of our body not draped in a rain jacket or poncho was soaked within seconds of leaving the door. Our feet stayed wet for the next nine hours. It wasn’t just that the temperatures had dropped considerably…we were fighting 17 mph wind gusts.

We came across a group of eight new pilgrims we hadn’t seen before, looking dignified in somber-colored ponchos. By contrast, I have a feeling my aunt and I resembled tropical Skittles.

The Route

The route involved nearly 16 miles of almost every type of terrain we had previously seen. Through forests, up ancient Roman roads, and then dirt and packed sand. Along rocks, with streams gushing straight down. Through intricate, well-marked turns of quaint, beautifully maintained little villages. I’m not exaggerating when I state we must have heard about two dozen different roosters crow as we navigated from village to village.

Interestingly, while the roosters grew more vocal, the dogs became silent.

I was impressed by the physicality of the final day. There were so many as ascents and descents. It was as though the masterminds really wanted pilgrims to earn the right to see the Santiago de Compostela.

Arrival in Santiago de Compostela

In what felt like beautiful symbolism, fifteen minutes before arriving, the cold rain and wind suddenly yielded to patches of beautiful blue sky.

It’s not possible to describe how beautiful the Cathedral is. The facade is so stunning that I was bewildered by it. The closer we approached, the more magnificent it became.

One of the biggest surprises to me was that the enormous plaza felt empty. We could get as many pictures as we liked.

Obtaining the Testimonium

It may seem petty to value a small slip of paper. And yet, I wanted the pilgrim Testimonium, the certificate that formally recognized we had walked considerable distance to get there, SO MUCH.

The office to obtain the credential is a short walk from the cathedral. I was impressed by how well organized the Spanish office was. There were multiple machines for pilgrims to input their names, nationality, age, occupation, and purpose for the pilgrimage. After an official examined our pilgrim passports and verified we had appropriately documented our journey, she printed our certificates.

As in Rome, the certificates, including our names, are in Latin.

Coming out of the office, we ran into many of the pilgrims we had seen in the days before, all grinning from ear to ear. We high-fives, we hugged, we took and exchanged pictures. It might sound so trite, but although encounters were always brief, each one had felt meaningful.

Evening Pilgrim Mass at the Cathedral

Our Testimoniums safely packaged, my aunt and I located our apartment and changed out of our wet clothes. After many hours in cold water, our feet were shriveled and discolored.

That evening, we returned to the Cathedral for the 7:30 p.m. Mass. Since we were hungry, we asked the a woman at the credentialing office how long Mass would take. It depended on the priest leading the celebration, she said with an easy smile. Perhaps 30 minutes. Perhaps 90 minutes.

Alas, she also informed us that the famous Botafumeiro used to swing incense from the ceiling would not take place, as the cathedral was undergoing maintenance.

Any disappointment I felt quickly disappeared. The Mass was very well-attended, not only by the pilgrims we had met on the Portuguese Coastal Route, but pilgrims from every other route. Four priests were present, and their singing was so beautiful it gave me chills.

The Day After

The following morning, we returned to the Cathedral to light candles. At 8:30 a.m., there was literally one other person inside the massive structure. We saw the crypt reported to contain the remains of Apostle St. James, and two of his disciples.

Although this journey is over, all I can feel is gratitude for the gorgeousness of it, and by the warmth and kindness of everyone we met on the way.

I *really* enjoyed this walk. In the near future, I plan on doing a post comparing the Via Francigena pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago (Portuguese Coastal Route).

Portuguese Coastal Route, Camino de Santiago.

Portuguese Coastal Route

Wherever your journey in life takes you, Buon Camino!

By Katie Cerezo

Thank you so much for visiting. 😊 I have always loved traveling, and my legs are my primary means of transportation. It's a beautiful world, and I'm eager to explore it…one step at a time.

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