Santiago and the Compostela

In Santiago itself the great cathedral, the goal of the pilgrimage.  Every pilgrim arrives in the square in front of it, called the Plaza Obradoiro, and can gaze up at the beautiful façade with many statues of Santiago himself. 

Pilgrims are normally free to enter the cathedral (though not with their rucksacks).  On St James Day, 25th July, and other holy days, a giant censer,  the Botafumeiro, is swung on ropes from floor to vaults, emitting clouds of incense over the people inside. 

However, please note that for the rest of 2019 (at least), there will be no pilgrim masses held in the Cathedral and sadly no botafumeiro swung. Certain areas of the building will be closed for restoration. A pilgrim mass will still be held every day at noon in the Iglesia de San Francisco very closeby. That said, pilgrims will still be able to access the tomb of St James.

Swinging the Botafumeiro

Just off the square is the Pilgrim Office: the pilgrim welcome and information centre.  Here you can collect the much sought-after Compostela…

The Compostela is like a Certificate of Welcome. Pilgrims present their credencial, answer some questions about personal details and their motivation for doing the camino.  Once the volunteers there are satisfied that you have walked (or ridden) the last 100km, or have cycled the last 200km, they will receive your final stamp in your credencial and either:

  • The Compostela (still written in Latin and confirming the completion of the camino)if you state “religious” or “spiritual” as part of your reason for doing it
  • Or the Certificado, which is the certificate for pilgrims who have done it for other reasons or not quite met the requirements of the Compostela

See the Pilgrim Office website for details about how to qualify for a Compostela and translation of the Latin text.
The compostela and certificado are free, but you may make a donation if you wish.

You might also want to purchase a Certificate of Distance to record exactly how far you have walked or ridden (€3), and a tubo (€2) (a cardboard tube to protect your compostela or certificado).

Alternatively, shops nearby will laminate your compostela in plastic for a small fee.

Top tips:

The Hotel de los Reyes Católicos give away 10 free pilgrim meals three times a day. If you take a photocopy of your Compostela (they will keep it) you can take advantage of this for up to 3 days.  Make sure you queue at the garage door, down the ramp to the left, and collect the meal on a tray from the kitchen.  There is a small dining room set aside.

It also gives you reduced-price access to the Cathedral museum, and is supposed to give access to the refugios for those making the return journey the way they came.

For anyone on pilgrimage to the Cathedral but travelling by air/road/rail etc, it is now possible to buy a Certificate of Visit from the Archicofradia Offices in the Plaza de la Quintana (€3) to commemorate your visit there – please see the Cathedral website.


Confraternity of Saint James,
27 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NY, United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44) (0)20 7928 9988
Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered no. 4096721 — UK Registered Charity no. 1091140
Founded in 1983 to promote the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela

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