The credential or pilgrim’s passport as it is often called, is the most important document you need on the Camino de Santiago. You can often purchase these for a couple of euros within a town along the path at either a travel agency or church. With the credential, allows access to sometimes free accommodations or cheap albergues/hostels along the way.
The pilgrim is meant to carry this passport and get it stamped in each small town or major settlement the pilgrims walks through. Most of the time, these stamps can be located at the refugio, tourism office, church or café in the city that you are walking through or staying at. Getting a stamp can sometimes be associated with a ceremony between the stamp giver and the pilgrim where the two generally share information. As the Camino nears Santiago de Compostela most places just provide self-serve stations for obtaining stamps as it becomes too tedious to service the many pilgrims.
The credentials and stamps are very important to the Camino de Santiago. This is to keep a record of travel and to prove completion of the Camino. Upon showing proof of completion to the Pilgrim’s office in Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrim will receive the Compostela, the certificate of completion.
To earn the Compostela one needs to walk at least 100km or cycle at least 200km. Many hikers tend to start in the small city of Sarria, which is located along the Camino Frances route. It is a very popular staring point for many hikers since it is easily accessible by bus and rail from many cities in Spain and as well, many people generally do not have the time to complete a longer Camino de Santiago. To obtain the credential you must find the Pilgrim’s office in Santiago de Compostela.
The Pilgrim Mass
Each day at noon, there is a Pilgrim’s mass at the main cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It is important to attend this mass not only on the day that you arrive but the day after you receive your compostela. This is because at that mass, the pilgrim’s have their country of origin and the starting location of their Camino announced. The music is especially pleasing as it is of the Hymm of Santiago along with the swinging Botafumeiro. This ceremony involves a large incense container to swing across the entire cathedral, which is quite the site for many new visitors to the cathedral.
Pilgrims part take in the holy Eucharist and are invited to attend confession and seek penance. Since pilgrims come from all over the world, there are many confessionals with priests that speak a multitude of languages, so you will never be without the opportunity to seek penance. Seeking penance is the last rite required to receive the plenary indulgence for completing the Camino. In more recent years, there have been many pilgrims arriving per day in Santiago de Compostela. 2010 was a particular busy year, the pilgrim’s mass was held four times per day at 10:00, 12:00, 18:00 and 19:30 to accommodate all the pilgrims who arrive at different times throughout the day from the many paths that converge there.