A History of the Camino—Including its Pagan Origins

The objective of most pilgrims following the Camino de Santiago is reach the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain. Some believe that the name of Compostela comes from Latin “campus stellae” meaning field of stars, others believe it comes from “compositum” – burial place. Disagreement about the origins of the city’s name aside, it is a proven fact that there was a pre-Christian necropolis on the site and also that the Path followed by the Camino existed long before the finding of St. James’ remains in the 9th century.

However, the origins of the Path are lost in time. Up until then the route had been known as Via Finisterre (from Latin, the Way to Land’s End) and archaeological sites along it show that Celtic peoples travelled it 1,000 years before Christ in search of Land’s End and the Sun’s resting place, celebrating all sorts of ceremonies, as did other peoples before them.

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