The First Pilgrims

Some of the very first records of pilgrims to make their way to Santiago de Compostela are from as early as the 8th century. Since then the Camino de Santiago has become a prominent medieval pilgrimage and has become tradition for pilgrims who successfully complete the journey to Santiago de Compostela to return with a scallop shell as proof of their completion.

Pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela slowly gained popularity over the centuries. Pilgrims from beyond the Pyranees Mountains are said to have started the Camino de Santiago in the 10th century. Pilgrims from England and abroad only started walking during the 11th century and by the 12th century has become a very organized and popular pilgrimage.


Many pilgrims relied on the suggestions of the Codex Calixtinus, which was published around in the 12th century. The fifth book of the Codex is still however, used as support material for many modern day guidebooks. The four main pilgrimage routes found in the Codex start in France and rally at Puente la Reina. From there many pilgrims walk a well planned route through Northern Spain to Burgs, Sahagun, Leon, Astorga and Santiago de Compostela.

Since the pilgrimage had gained so much popularity by the 12th century, the path was developed to include many hospitals and care facilities along the way. These sites were of importance to Spanish royal family and were provided protection by the royal guards. Pilgrims were often quite safe and well taken cared for along the path. Any pilgrim who wore the iconic scallop shell was given a free meal and was rarely touched by thieves for they dared not attack pilgrim on God’s journey. Not only that, but also many pilgrims originated in France, which led to France providing some protection for pilgrims along the path. As a result many French people settled in and along the towns of the Camino.