The Compostela is a sort of certificate of achievement and is awarded at the end of a Camino journey of 100km or more distance; issued to anyone making the pilgrimage on foot, by bicycle or on horseback and who produces their credencial (pilgrim passport) for inspection of proof of journey walked.
Important to note here is that many local Spanish pilgrims (I like to call them the 100km crew) only walk the last 100km or so and in doing so are able to collect the same Compostela as someone who say walked the full 800km from St. Jean Pied de Port. These pilgrims need to make sure that they receive 2 stamps in their pilgrim passport for each day of their walk to qualify to receive their Compostela and from this year – to further protect the integrity of the walk I was informed – they must have had their stamps given either by a Municipal albergue or directly from a church (not simply stamped at any cafe or restaurant as was the previous system).
Pilgrims who walk further than the last 100km of the Camino (for example from St. Jean Pied de Port) do not need to collect 2 stamps daily in their pilgrim passport along the last 100km of the Camino.
In Santiago de Compostela the Compostela is awarded in the Oficina do Peregrino at Rua do Vilar 3, which is located about 5 minute’s walk from the cathedral in the heart of Santiago’s old city quarter:
(click on any photo to enlarge)
The office opens daily from 8am to 9pm, with the front doors being closed at 8:30pm to attend to pilgrims who are still inside the building queued up.
Volunteers (Amigos) assist with the process of managing the often heavy numbers of pilgrims waiting their turn in line and they can be recognised immediately by the blue t-shirt which they wear:
The Amigos project is supported by the associations:
American Pilgrims on the Camino, Canadian Company of Pilgrims, Confraternity of St James in the UK, Nederlands Genootschap van Sint Jacob, and Irish Society of the Friends of St. James.
As you make your way through the entrance of Rua do Vilar 3 (slowly or quickly; depending on the time of day) you will see notices reminding you to have your pilgrim passport ready and also a sign which lets pilgrims know that the Compostela is personal and that you cannot obtain a Compostela for someone else who is not present. Seems obvious but they must have had a reason for putting the sign up.
There is also an informative message board just past the entrance:
The best time to visit to get your credencial is first thing in the morning when the queue of pilgrims isn’t anywhere as long as later in the day when some unfortunate pilgrims have to wait hours.
When you finally reach first in line of the queue you will need to decide which type of Compostela you want to receive. The standard one is free but you can also pay 3 Euros to have written the amount of kilometres walked and the date which you started and finished:
Also, you will be asked the reason(s) why you walked your Camino; spiritual, for sport, or both.
As I understand it in the past if you stated spiritual then you would receive two certificates and if you stated sport then you would just get the one.
The rules must have changed because I stated spiritual and sport and received the standard one certificate, deciding also not to pay the 3 Euros for the premium compostela with km and date of start and finish recorded for prosperity:
Please note that a very special Compostela is being issued this year by the monks at the San Francisco church (located 5 minute’s walk from the cathedral at the end of Rua de San francisco) and this certificate is only issued every 100 years; 2014 being the current centenary year.
The next time this Compostela will be issued will be in 2114.
I also decided to get this one as I might be busy doing other things in 2114:
If you have any questions about getting your Compostela or if you wish to add information, then please feel free to leave a comment or question in the Reply box below.