Ever since the 12th century, Jacobean Holy Years have occurred when the Feast of St James (St James' Day, 25th July) falls on a Sunday.  The last one hasn't been for 11 years. But this time, for the 2nd time in 9 centuries, it will be celebrated over two years: 2021 and 2022. This is due to an official decree from Pope Francis in Rome, who accepted Santiago's request to extend following the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Camino.  It is hoped that by stretching it over two years, there will be a greater opportunity for recovery and proper celebration once restrictions ease.

Historically, the Holy Year was an opportunity for pilgrims to Santiago to seek the "plenary indulgence" from the Cathedral, a special sort of forgiveness for their sins, which they'd only usually be able to receive at the end of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or Rome. 

This extra significance, as well as the special festivities and ceremonies, are a huge draw for pilgrims, and typically the annual number of those who visit Santiago increases markedly in Holy Years.  To give an idea, the last Holy Year was 2010, during which over 272,000 pilgrims got their Compostelas; compared to 145,000 in 2009 and 183,000 in 2011. 

You can read more about the opening ceremony for the Holy Year 2021/2022 on New Year's Eve 2020 here.

Ever since the last Holy Year, much work has been done on Santiago Cathedral to repair and renovate the building's facade and interior, including the famous Pórtico de la Gloria.  For a virtual tour of the finished work, see Ivar Revke's video below.