Until 1991, there was no proper accommodation for pilgrims on the exposed and rugged 54 km stretch of the Camino between Astorga and Ponferrada – the passage across the mountains of León.
The Confraternity, in association with the El Bierzo association of Friends of the Camino, converted the old parish house at Rabanal del Camino for use as a refugio (hostel), and continues to administer the Refugio and the provision of hospitaleros (wardens) during the season (the Refugio is open from 1st April to 31st October each year).
The Refugio – in common with others – offers accommodation to bona fide pilgrims only. Pilgrims who have used motorised assistance (such as luggage transport services) will not normally be admitted unless there is a valid reason for doing so, such as a health issue. We operate on a first come first served basis and do not accept reservations.
In 1997 Refugio Gaucelmo was awarded the first Premio Elías Valiña, established in memory of the parish priest of O Cebreiro who pioneered the late 20th century revival of the pilgrimage, and awarded each year to the pilgrim association judged to have contributed most to the pilgrimage.
The day-to-day costs of the Refugio are largely met from pilgrims’ donations, but the Fund established for the initial conversion is still open to help us pay for the regular maintenance and further development of the Refugio, and we should welcome any help you care to give (how to contact us).
The volunteer hospitaleros – members of the Confraternity or other national Pilgrim Associations- generally stay for two weeks at a time, must have made the pilgrimage, and should have adequate command of Spanish (French and German are also helpful). If you would like to be considered as a possible warden, please see the selection criteria and then print and complete our hospitalero application form . The return address is given on the form. (If it should happen that we have a full complement of hospitaleros for the current year, we still welcome enquiries from those interested for the reserve list, or for future years).
We keep a record of the numbers of pilgrims staying at the Refugio, their countries of origin (138 in 2017), and their means of making the pilgrimage. To see the statistics for 1991-2007, click here and for 2009-2017 click here. You will note that in recent years the number of pilgrims staying at Gaucelmo has dropped as there is now much more available accommodation in the area, but we still look after around 5,000 pilgrims each year and have now welcomed more than 154,000 pilgrims (November 2017) since we first opened.
During the winter 1999-2000, four young monks, originally from Santo Domino de Silos, and now affiliated to Sankt Ottilien’s Erzabtei in Germany, established the Monasterio Benedictino de San Salvador de Monte Irago next door to Refugio Gaucelmo. Now a the community of monks holds daily services in the village church (which they have stripped to Benedictine simplicity but with a new stone altar), all sung in Gregorian chant –
To mark the 10th Anniversary of refugio Gaucelmo in October 2001, an icon of Santiago Peregrino, commissioned in memory of the Confraternity’s former Treasurer and Librarian, Stephen Badger, was installed in the refuge. The icon is painted in the Orthodox style and is the work of Sister Petra Clare of the Sancti Angeli Benedictine Skete, Inverness. It depicts a central image of St James with scenes from his life and subsequent scenes related to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. To learn more about it, please click on Icon of Santiago Peregrino, Rabanal