Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port capital of the Basque province of Lower Navarre is known as Donibane Garazi in Basque, it is a small town located on the Nive River, 8 kilometres from the Spanish border.
St Jean Pied de Port walled city is ranked among the most beautiful villages in France. Stroll the cobbled streets, go back to the time of the Kings of Navarre and contemplate the Nive du New Bridge. On the way to Compostela, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port has always been a strategic place located just 8 kilometres from the Spanish border. After visiting the main attractions of the city, stops take place at the artisan’s village of Osses, a pretty locality in lower Navarre.
St Jean Pied de Port
Saint Palais at the European ‘Crossroads of the Ways’. to Compostela is a haven of peace, knowledge and art in the heart of the Basque Country, in Lower Navarre.
Chateau at Saint Palais
Les Basse Landes boasts superb and varied panoramic views, endless pine forests, lakes, vineyards on hillsides, parks and floral gardens. If country walks are your thing, hike, cycle or getting on a horse are readily available. Get away from it all here. The waters offer fishing, and the Courant d’Huchet offers remarkably rich flora and fauna. Unique natural landscapes abound in Les Landes.
Les Basse Landes
St Jean Pied de Port is famous for being one of the traditional starting points of the Way of St. James (the El Camino). Located on the Roncevaux Pass at the base of the Pyrenean Mountains, the name “Pied-de-Port” actually means “foot pass.” Being a walled town it has numerous gates. The most well-known is Porte St-Jacques which was along the Route of Santiago de Compostela in France, and made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
Saint Palais at the European ‘Crossroads of the Ways’ to Compostela is a haven of peace, knowledge and art in the heart of the Basque Country, in Lower Navarre.
Les Basse Landes boasts superb and varied panoramic views, pine forests, and lakes, vineyards, parks and floral gardens. Get away from it all here. The waters offer fishing, and the Courant d’Huchet with remarkable rich flora and fauna. Unique natural landscapes abound in Les Landes.
Walking… El Camino
Video El Camino
More about El Camino
The main pilgrimage route to Santiago follows an earlier Roman trade route, which continues to the Atlantic coast of Galicia, ending at Cape Finisterre. Cape Finisterre, is Spain’s westernmost point. The fact that the Romans called it Finisterrae (literally the end of the world or Land’s End in Latin) indicates that they viewed it as such. At night, the Milky Way overhead seems to point the way, so the route acquired the nickname “Voie lactée” – the Milky Way in French.
Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela
The earliest records of visits paid to the shrine at Santiago de Compostela date from the 9th century, in the time of the Kingdom of Asturias and Galicia. The pilgrimage to the shrine became the most renowned medieval pilgrimage, and it became customary for those who returned from Compostela to carry back with them a Galician scallop shell as proof of their completion of the journey. This practice gradually led to the scallop shell becoming the badge of a pilgrim.
The earliest recorded pilgrims from beyond the Pyrenees visited the shrine in the middle of the 11th century, but it seems that it was not until a century later that large numbers of pilgrims from abroad were regularly journeying there. The earliest records of pilgrims that arrived from England belong to the period between 1092 and 1105. However, by the early 12th century the pilgrimage had become a highly organized affair.
One of the great proponents of the pilgrimage in the 12th century was Pope Callixtus II, who started the Compostelan Holy Years. The official guide in those times was the Codex Calixtinus. Published around 1140, the 5th book of the Codex is still considered the definitive source for many modern guidebooks. Four pilgrimage routes listed in the Codex originate in France and converge at Puente la Reina. From there, a well-defined route crosses northern Spain, linking Burgos, Carrión de los Condes, Sahagún, León, Astorga, and Compostela.
The daily needs of pilgrims on their way to and from Compostela were met by a series of hospitals. Indeed, these institutions contributed to the development of the modern concept of ‘hospital’. Some Spanish towns still bear the name, such as Hospital de Órbigo. The hospitals were often staffed by Catholic orders and under royal protection. Donations were encouraged but many poorer pilgrims had few clothes and poor health often barely getting to the next hospital.
Roman bridge over the river Órbigo (Spain)
Romanesque architecture, a new genre of ecclesiastical architecture, was designed with massive archways to cope with huge crowds of the devout. There was also the sale of the now-familiar paraphernalia of tourism, such as badges and souvenirs. Pilgrims often prayed to Saint Roch whose numerous depictions with the Cross of St James can still be seen along the Way even today.
The pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela was made possible by the protection and freedom provided by the Kingdom of France, from which the majority of pilgrims originated. Enterprising French (including Gascons and other peoples not under the French crown) settled in towns along the pilgrimage routes, where their names appear in the archives. The pilgrims were tended by people like Domingo de la Calzada, who was later recognized as a saint.
Pilgrims walked the Way of St. James, often for months and occasionally years at a time, to arrive at the great church in the main square of Compostela and pay homage to St. James. Many arrived with very little due to illness or robbery or both. Traditionally pilgrims lay their hands on the pillar just inside the doorway of the cathedral, and so many now have done this it has visibly worn away the stone.
Pilgrims walking El Camino
The popular Spanish name for the astronomical Milky Way is El Camino de Santiago. According to a common medieval legend, the Milky Way was formed from the dust raised by travelling pilgrims.
Another legend states that when a hermit saw a bright star shining over a hillside near San Fiz de Solvio, he informed the bishop of Iria Flavia, who found a grave at the site with three bodies inside, one of which he asserted was Saint James. Subsequently, the location was called “the field of the star” (Campus Stellae, corrupted to “Compostela”).
Another origin myth mentioned in Book IV of the Book of Saint James relates how the saint appeared in a dream to Charlemagne, urging him to liberate his tomb from the Moors and showing him the direction to follow by the route of the Milky Way.
During the war of American Independence, John Adams (who would become the second American president) was ordered by Congress to go to Paris to obtain funds for the cause. His ship started leaking and he disembarked with his two sons at Finisterre in 1779. From there he proceeded to follow the Way of St. James in the reverse direction of the pilgrims’ route, in order to get to Paris overland. He did not stop to visit Santiago, which he later came to regret. In his autobiography, Adams described the customs and lodgings afforded to St. James’s pilgrims in the 18th century and he recounted the legend as it was told to him
Although it is commonly believed that the pilgrimage to Santiago has continued without interruption since the Middle Ages, few modern pilgrimages antedate the 1957 publication of Irish Hispanist and traveler Walter Starkie’s The Road to Santiago. The revival of the pilgrimage was supported by the Spanish government of Francisco Franco, much inclined to promote Spain’s Catholic history. “It has been only recently (1990s) that the pilgrimage to Santiago regained the popularity it had in the Middle Ages.”
Only a few routes are named here. For a complete list of all the routes (traditional and less so), see: Camino de Santiago (route descriptions)
The Camino Francés, or French Way, is the most popular. The Via Regia is the last portion of the (Camino Francés). Historically, because of the Codex Calixtinus, most pilgrims came from France: typically from Arles, Le Puy, Paris, and Vézelay; some from Saint Gilles. Cluny, site of the celebrated medieval abbey, was another important rallying point for pilgrims and, in 2002, it was integrated into the official European pilgrimage route linking Vézelay and Le Puy.
Most Spanish consider the French border in the Pyrenees the natural starting point. By far the most common, modern starting point on the Camino Francés is Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, on the French side of the Pyrenees, with Roncesvalles on the Spanish side also being popular. The distance from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela through León is about 800 km (500 mi).
St Jean Pied de Port (Camino Francés)
The Camino Primitivo, or Original Way, is the oldest route to Santiago de Compostela, first taken in the 9th century and which begins in Oviedo.
Camino Portugués, or the Portuguese Way, is the second-most-popular route, starting at the cathedral in Lisbon (for a total of about 610 km) or at the cathedral in Porto in the north of Portugal (for a total of about 227 km), and crossing into Galicia at Valença.
The Camino del Norte, or the Northern Way, is less traveled and starts in the Basque city of Irun on the border with France, or sometimes in San Sebastián. It is a less popular route because of its changes in elevation, whereas the Camino Frances is mostly flat. The route follows the coast along the Bay of Biscay until it nears Santiago. Though it does not pass through as many historic points of interest as the Camino Frances, it has cooler summer weather. The route is believed to have been first used by pilgrims to avoid traveling through the territories occupied by the Muslims in the Middle Ages.
The Central European Camino was revived after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Medieval routes, Camino Baltico and the Via Regia in Poland pass through present-day Poland reach as far north as the Baltic states, taking in Vilnius, and Eastwards to present-day Ukraine and take in Lviv, Sandomierz and Krakow.
The Way of St. James/El Camino is said to have originated in France, where it is called Le Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle. This is the reason that the Spanish themselves refer to the Way of St. James as “the French road”, since most of the pilgrims they saw were French. The origin of the pilgrimage is most often cited as the Codex Calixtinus, which is decidedly a French document. Though in the Codex everyone was called upon to join the pilgrimage, there were four main starting points in the Cathedral cities of Tours, Vézelay, Le Puy-en-Velay and Arles. They are today all routes of the Grande Randonnée network.
St. James’s Gate (the Guinness brewery)
St. James’s Gate (the Guinness brewery) in Dublin was traditionally a principal starting point for Irish pilgrims to begin their journey on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James). The pilgrims’ passports were stamped here before setting sail, usually for Coruña, north of Santiago. It is still possible for Irish pilgrims to get these traditional documents stamped at St James’ Church, and many do, while on their way to Santiago de Compostella.
The compostela is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completing the Way. To earn the compostela one needs to walk a minimum of 100 km or cycle at least 200 km. In practice, for walkers, the closest convenient point to start is Sarria, as it has good bus and rail connections to other places in Spain. Pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela who have walked at least the last 100 km (62 mi), or cycled 200 km (120 mi) to get there (as indicated on their credential), and who state that their motivation was at least partially religious, are eligible for the compostela from the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago. The compostela has been indulgenced since the Early Middle Ages and remains so to this day.
Celtic Camino Ireland
The Celtic Camino is a series of pilgrimage routes in Ireland and the UK that are linked to the Camino Inglés in Spain. Traditionally, Camino pilgrims would start their journey from their own homes, and various Camino de Santiago routes developed over time, crossing most of Europe. The English Camino, was the route preferred by British and Irish pilgrims on their way to Santiago, as well as other pilgrims from northern Europe. Pilgrims would take a boat from the main ports in their countries and land in the North of Spain to continue their journey to the Holy Cathedral.
While Coruña is a traditional starting point, the Camino Society Ireland has a new Irish ‘Compostela’ that pilgrims can request in St James Church in Dublin after completing 25kms of any pilgrim trail in Ireland. Starting your journey in Ireland the Kerry Camino trail from Tralee to St James Church in Dingle, in the West of Ireland. is suggested.
Kerry Camino Ireland
The scallop shell
From its connection to the Camino, the scallop shell came to represent pilgrimage, both to a specific shrine as well as to heaven, recalling Hebrews 11:13, identifying that Christians “are pilgrims and strangers on the earth”. A marker in the pavement indicates the route of the Way of St. James through Navarrete, La Rioja, Spain.
The scallop shell is an ubiquitous sight along the Camino, where it often serves as a guide for pilgrims. The shell is even more commonly seen on the pilgrims themselves, who are thereby identified as pilgrims. Most pilgrims receive a shell at the beginning of their journey and display it throughout their journey. During the medieval period, the shell was more a proof of completion than a symbol worn during the pilgrimage.
Scallop Shells (El Camino)
• Transport from your hotel to St Jean Pied de Port and return.
• Guided tour of St Jean Pied de Port and its history.
• lunch in historic Hotel Central
• Hotel pick-up/drop-off in Biarritz or Lourdes.
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• Duration: All Day in St Jean Pied de Port, St Palais, & les Basse Landes.
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