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2021, “Año Jacobeo”

Official logo for the 2021 “Año Xacobeo”

Many of our readers, as they prepare their future Camino, must have heard that the year 2021 is a special one, since it’s a Jubilee Year or “Año Jacobeo” (“Año Xacobeo” in galician). What does this mean?

According to the Catholic Church, a Jubilee Year is celebrated in Santiago de Compostela whenever July 25th (the day of Santiago the elder) falls on a Sunday. And indeed, the next time this will happen will be on 2021 (and then in 2027). For catholic christians, this means that they can attain a plenary indulgence (full forgiveness of their sins) if they:

  • Visit the Santiago cathedral. (Strictly speaking, one doesn’t need to have made the full pilgrimage; it’s enough to have visited Santiago).
  • Pray for the pope (at least the Lord’s Prayer or the Creed).
  • Receive the Sacraments of Penance and Communion.

The Jubilee Year is also special because it’s only on those occasions when the cathedral’s Holy Door is open.

Indulgence can also be gained, for those pilgrims who haven’t been able to reach Santiago due to accident or illness, if you reach Villafranca del Bierzo and cross the Forgiveness Gate at its church.

This tradition was created by pope Calixtus II in 1120, and it was a big factor in the increase of pilgrimages to Santiago during the Middle Ages. (For those readers knowledgeable about the History of the Camino and who might find Calixtus II’s name familiar, the “Codex Calixtinus” takes its name from a supposed letter by this pope attached to the beginning of the document).

From a practical point of view, on jubilee years there is a considerable increase in the number of pilgrims, so it’s convenient to plan in advance and make reservations for your lodgings, specially in Santiago. Of course, one can also avoid such hassle by walking the Camino on a non-Jacobean year, such as 2020 itself…