The credencial or Pilgrim Record is carried to evidence the bona fide pilgrim status of the bearer. It has two important purposes; it gives access to the pilgrim albergues and it has to presented at the Pilgrim Office of Santiago Cathedral in order to obtain a compostela, the stamps collected in it daily a detailed record of your journey along the camino.
The credencial or Pilgrim Record is stamped at the beginning of the pilgrimage, and daily at churches, albergues, town halls (ayuntamientos), tourist offices, hotels, bars, shops, petrol stations etc along the way. The Spanish word for stamp is sello. The Pilgrim Office now ask pilgrims to get 2 sellos per day after they cross the Galician border. Pilgrims present the completed record at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago, fill in a questionnaire about why they have made the pilgrimage and may then qualify for a Compostela if they declare a spiritual motive for their journey. Non-spiritual pilgrims may ask for a certificado instead. Walkers and pilgrims on horseback must have completed at least the last 100km and cyclists the last 200 km, in one stretch, to qualify. This website has information and pictures of the various sellos available.
What is the difference between the credencial and the Pilgrim Record?
The credencial, a distant successor to the safe-conducts issued to medieval pilgrims, is a document printed and issued by the cathedral authorities in Santiago, and made available to bona fide pilgrims at points along the route – e.g. at Roncesvalles, and at some churches and albergues – and through the Spanish associations. It presupposes that the bearer is making the pilgrimage for spiritual reasons by foot, cycle or horse. This does not necessarily mean Roman Catholic and pilgrims will not be asked about their denomination, or even whether they are Christian, although of course historically the pilgrimage itself has meant Christian pilgrimage. Today and in practice, however, the credencial covers anyone making the pilgrimage in a frame of mind that is open and searching.
The Pilgrim Record is a similar document, accepted as proof of bona fide pilgrim status, and issued by pilgrim associations outside Spain, including the Confraternity of Saint James.
Information about how to get a credencial or Pilgrim Record can be found on our page How to get a Pilgrim Record / Pilgrim Passport / Credencial.