5 advices for walking the Camino de Santiago

Are you going to walk the Camino? Are you determined to make some stages? Then, this article can help you. We want to offer you some advices that we know will help you in this adventure.

  1. comfortable footwear
    One important maxim for a nice Camino experience is wearing comfortable shoes that you know adapt to your feet and your step. Think: you’ll spend hours and hours with them on.
    A spare pair won’t do harm, just in case…
  2. give importance to breaks
    Sleep at night, take small breaks on every stage, take a nap… Resting will help you recover, and recovering will let you go on the next day.
    Otherwise you’ll get a tiredness buildup and you won’t be able to reach the goal.
  3. set yourself for realistic stages
    That you know you can surmount with your current physical condition and your aptitude… otherwise you will be stifled and feel frustrated. It’s not required for every pilgrim to walk the same distance every day.
  4. beware the meals
    We know. In Galicia, as well as other parts of the Camino, meals are delicious and hearty… but if you have a bellyfull at lunch, you’ll have a hard time walking afterwards.
    So, if you want to proceed after lunch, have light lunches and more generous dinners. Furthermore, it’s better to rise early and get sooner to the lunch, and later spend the afternoon resting.
  5. enjoy the Camino
    Last, but surely not least, enjoy the Camino; it’s a one-off experience… imbibe other cultures, meet people, enjoy places, etc.

And now, at last: Buen Camino for everyone!

San Anton monastery, a mandatory stop on the Camino de Santiago.

For all lovers of the Camino, or those who are thinking of walking it, the Monastery of San Anton is a mandatory stop in the Camino Francés. It’s a group of ruins that are worth a visit and have a lot of history behind, and which you can reach from Hontanas, right before arriving to Castrojeriz.
The Monastery of San Anton is located in the abandoned village of San Antón, a zone which used to belong to the town of Castrojeriz, in the province of Burgos (Castilla y León). It was founded in the XII century (year 1146) by the king Alfonso VII, and it was known as the “Royal Xenodochium of San Antonio Abad” (a xenodochium was an hospital for foreigners or pilgrims). The current ruins, however, belong to the XIV century.
As mentioned before, these ruins have a lot of history behind them. In the XII century the order of the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony was founded, and it opened several hospitals along the Camino de Santiago. They treated some contagious diseases, but specially the so-called “St. Anthony’s fire”, and treated the pilgrims in the way towards Santiago. This monastery was one of them.
The order gained reputation as miracle makers, since pilgrims got better one they reached Compostela…
Nowadays, the only part standing of the monastery is the arch of the tunnel, through which pilgrims passed on their way. Nevertheless, the ruins have become a mandatory stop for all those who walk along the Camino Francés.
Some curiosities about the San Antón Monastery.
Since the monastery was under royal protection for many years, the king’’s coat of arms can be seen in the church portal, as well as in the keystone.
During its heyday, the hospital had great influence, since it was the seat of the General Commendation of the order of St. Anthony in the kingdoms of Castille and Portugal, with more than twenty dependent monasteries and hospices, according to the Wikipedia. Its monks performed several ceremonies to bless objects like the so-called Tau cross, St. Anthony’s bread or the holy wine, which cured the illness. Many faithful attended these ceremonies.
Nowadays, the visitor can see the ruins of the monastery, the head of the church… and walk the road underneath the arch, which is still standing. The following video shows a reconstruction of what the monastery looked like (credits to José Antonio Peñas Artero for the magazine Muy Interesante).

San Juan de Ortega and the miracle of light

San Juan de Ortega 1

There are few places along the Camino the Santiago more significant for the pilgrim than the monastery of San Juan de Ortega, in the Burgos province. Built by the saint of the same name (known in the English speaking world as Saint John the Hermit), the monument has been associated with the pilgrimage to Santiago since its foundation.

Juan de Velázquez was born in the village of Quintanaortuño in 1080, and from his youth he devoted himself to improve the Camino de Santiago, building bridges and paving roads in collaboration with Saint Dominic de la Calzada. The decision of building the monastery came from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. According to the legend, when traveling back to Spain he suffered a shipwreck, and San Juan prayed to Saint Nicholas, promising to build a chapel in his honor if he survived. He did, so back home he started the work in the zone of the Montes de Oca, close to his hometown.

San Juan de Ortega 2

The San Juan de Ortega monument is comprised by the original chapel, a romanesque church built along it (where the saint is buried), the monastery and the pilgrims’ hospice. From the artistic point of view, the church’s main highlight is the capital of the Annunciation, which depicts the story of the angel Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin Mary.

Capitel de la Anunciación

The miracle of light.

Speaking of this capital, one of the most interesting phenomenoms associated with the monastery takes place in it, the so-called “miracle of light”. Every equinox (March 21 and September 22), at five o’clock (solar time), a ray of sunlight enters the church and illuminates the capital, going from left to right, “telling” the story of the Annunciation.

How to protect yourself from lightnings in case of thunderstorms

Foto via Thomas Gatzweiler, Flickr.
Pic via Thomas Gatzweiler, Flickr.

We are getting closer to autumn, one of the most popular seasons for walking the Camino de Santiago. It’s also the season, however, when rain and storms start to become more frequent. For those pilgrims walking the Camino, this presents a small but non-negligible risk: being struck by a lightning during a thunderstorm.

The risk of being hit by a lightning is indeed much higher in the countryside than in the city, since there are no tall buildings with metallic structures that might act as lightning rods. In order to prevent this, the best thing is to plan our route so that a hypothetical storm doesn’t catch us in the middle of the stage. Thus, we should follow these guidelines:

  • Pay attention to weather forecasts.
  • When in the road, observe the sky in case there are dark clouds or lightning flashes. Seek shelter in a safe place immediately if that’s the case.
  • During the summer, thunderstorms tend to take place after four in the afternoon, so try to plan your route so that you reach your destination before that time.

 

If, despite all, we are caught by a storm in the countryside, this is what we should do:

  • Avoid any high places, such as hills, and seek shelter in lower zones. It’s not a good idea to lie down on the floor, though, since electricity can travel along the ground.
  • Get rid of all metallic objects, and leave them at least 30 meters away. This also includes powering down and leaving cellphones.
  • In the same way, we should avoid metallic objects: fences, electric poles… as well as masses of water (rivers, puddles…).
  • Do not run, and much less with wet clothes. Your movement could create turbulences in the air that “attract” lightnings.
  • Avoid open, flat spaces, since we will stick out in the landscape and we could also attract lightnings.
  • In the same way, we should not seek shelter underneath solitary trees, rocks and other features that stick out from their surroundings.

 

Where should we hide then? A good place could be a forest or group of trees, specially if there are other taller trees nearby. However, the best place to hide in the countryside is a closed car, with the engine turned off, radio antenna lowered and windows closed. If lightning strikes it, the car will be electrically charged only on the outside, while the inside will be protected, thanks to the physical phenomenon known as “Faraday cage”. Nevertheless, we should be careful not to touch any metallic parts of the car once we get out.

If we cannot get in the car and have to remain outdoors, the best thing is to squat as low as possible, with hands on the knees and touching the floor only with your shoes.

If a person has been struck by a lightning, these are the first aid measures that we should perform:

  • If the person struck is unconscious, check for breathing and pulse.
  • If there’s no breath, mouth-to-mouth resucitation should be provided. If there’s no pulse, perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). People suffering from cardiac arrest due to a lightning strike have more probabilities of recovery than those due to other causes; therefore, first aid should be performed as soon as possible.
  • Check also for other injuries, such as bone fractures or burns. Do not move the patient if there are vertebral fractures.
  • Keep the patient warm until medical help arrives.

 

(Source: Asociación Profesional de Agentes Forestales de la CC. AA. de Madrid).

The “Codex Calixtinus”

Codex Calixtinus

Besides the remains of Santiago the apostle, one of the most precious treasures that are kept in the Compostela cathedral is the so-called “Codex Calixtinus”, also known as the “first guidebook for the Camino”, written in the XII Century.

The “Codex Calixtinus” is a medieval manuscript dating from year 1140 (approx.), which contains the oldest known copy of the so-called “Liber Sancti Iacobi”, a compilation of sermons, liturgical chants and miracles related to Saint James. There are about twelve copies of this book in Europe, but the oldest one is, as mentioned, the one kept in the cathedral.

The codex, or the “Liber Sancti Iacobi” (if we want to be accurate), begins with a letter supposedly written by Pope Calixtus II (hence the name of the manuscript), and continues with five sections, which contain:

  1. Liturgical texts (sermons, Masses) related to Saint James.
  2. Accounts of miracles attributed to Saint James.
  3. A description of how the saint’s body was carried to Compostela. This book contains the first appearance of sea shells as symbols of the pilgrimage, since it describes how pilgrims collected them at the beach as proof of their arrival to Santiago.
  4. The story of Charlemagne‘s arrival to the Iberian Peninsula and how Saint James appeared to him in a dream (Charlemagne’s iberian military campaign includes his famous defeat in the battle of Roncesvalles,which inspired the “Chanson de Roland”. These events are also described in the book).
  5. A “guide” for the medieval pilgrim, with a list of rivers, towns, hostels, churches… found along the Camino.

This last book is the best known one, and it’s the one that earned the Codex the nickname of “first pilgrim’s guidebook”. For decades, historians have relied on it for insights about the towns in the Camino during the Middle Ages, as well as details about the pilgrimage during those times.

The book’s authorship has traditionally been attributed to french monk Aymeric Picaud, who joined pope Calixtus II during his pilgrimage to Santiago in 1109, and might have taken the chance to compile the information that appears in Book V. However, many modern historians have doubts about this attribution.

Lastly, we can’t help but mention the occasion where this codex, with hundreds of years of history, jumped to the front pages in 2011, when it disappeared from the Santiago cathedral. After several months of investigation, the police managed to recover it and arrest its thief, a electrician who used to work at the cathedral.

 

“The Way”: where was it filmed?

Martin Sheen in "The Way"

There is no doubt that one of the movies that has contributed most to popularize the Camino de Santiago in the last few years around the world has been “The Way”, the U.S. film directed by Emilio Estévez starring Martin Sheen. Since its release in 2010,  “The Way” has spread the word about the pilgrimage to Santiago, and audiences worldwide have been touched by the humanity and warmth of its story.

Among the main appeals of “The Way” are its sceneries. Emilio Estévez and his crew filmed the movie in real locations along the Camino in Spain, and any pilgrim will easily recognize some of its best known landmarks.

It is for this reason that we decided to satisfy the curiosity of moviegoers and would-be-pilgrims, and create an interactive map with the main filming locations of the Camino that appear in the movie. Fly around on the map, click on the designated places, and you’ll learn which scene was shot in each of them. We hope that you’ll find it interesting:

Map

The monastery of San Martín Pinario

Once the pilgrim has reached Santiago, (s)he has a series of mandatory rituals and places to visit: the cathedral, hugging the statue of the Saint, taking the proverbial picture in the plaza de Obradoiro… But Santiago is a city with lots of hidden treasures that are worthy of discovery, and today we will talk about one of them.

The monastery of San Martín Pinario, located close to the cathedral, is the second biggest one in Spain, and it was founded in the X Century by the benedictine order. The current building is from the XVI century, and is therefore of renaissance /baroque style.

San Martín Pinario
Photo by Raúl A.: https://www.flickr.com/photos/torrelodones/

One of the most spectacular elements is the church’s vault, with fake coffers. Another item of interest is the main altarpiece, designed in the XVIII century by Casas y Novoa (the same architect that created the Obradoiro facade of the cathedral), which shows Saint Martin (sharing his cape with a poor) and St. Millán de la Cogolla and Santiago fighting infidels.

Church's vault
Photo by Diego Delso, License CC-BY-SA

An interesting anecdote is that the church’s towers rise only to the same height than the facade, due to the intervention of the cathedral chapter, which didn’t want towers higher than those of the cathedral itself.

Today the monastery hosts a museum of religious art, with an important collection of jewelery, sculptures and manuscripts.

Biking the Camino: the Eurovelo project

Every year there are more pilgrims doing the Camino on bike, and the initiative we want to talk today, named Eurovelo, will doubtlessly be of great interest for them.

ciclistas02

Eurovelo is a network of long distance cycle routes promoted by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), covering the entire European continent, from the Black Sea to Finisterre, and from the nordic regions to the Mediterranean. ECF’s vision is to allow people to cross all of Europe on bicycle through safe and well-marked routes.

Within this project, the Camino de Santiago (the Camino Francés, to be more accurate) has been included in the route EV3, the “Pilgrims Route”. The route begins in Trondheim (Norway) and ends at Santiago de Compostela, crossing such historical places as Hamburg, Paris or Bourdeaux. In the case of Spain, as mentioned, the route will follow the steps of the Camino Francés.

imageMap

As for its current state, the Eurovelo project is scheduled to be completed by 2020, when all the necessary work will be completed; this includes things like signs, road maintenance, etc. As we can see in Eurovelo’s official map, the Camino Francés is currently “under development”.

Without a doubt, this is a very interesting initiative that will contribute to make life easier to those who choose the bicycle to travel the Camino.