For his sabbatical this summer, Rev. Pirazzini is on a pilgrimage. He and four companions are walking The Way of St. James, beginning in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France and ending in Santiago de Compostela, Spain a distance of over 700 km. Here is a brief description adapted from a publication of the Navarre Provincial government (Spain). Santiago is the Spanish name for Saint James, the brother of John, the sons of Zebedee, who was one of Jesus´12 disciples. Tradition has it that Santiago preached in Hispania before being decapitated in Jerusalem in 44 CE. It is said that his body was taken in a boat to the end of the western world where he was buried. Eight centuries later, about 812, a hermit saw miraculous shining lights (stars) and found a cemetery with the tomb of the apostle, Santiago, in Compostela. Austurion King Alfonso II the Chaste went to Compostela from Cuiedo to visit the tomb and began the tradition of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. In a few decades, this pilgrimage was as important as the pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem. The number of pilgrims peaked in the 12th century. Due to plague, religious divisions, and other factors, the number of pilgrims gradually declined into the late 20th century. A resurgence began in the 1980´s, due to the Jacobian associations, the local authorities, and Pope John Paul II.
From other sources along the Camino, we have learned that the number of pilgrims dwindled into the 200´s in the latter 20th century. Now the number is over 200,000 per year and the pilgrims are from all over the world.
The website of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela posts the count daily of pilgrims who have arrived at the Cathedral, and provides a breakdown by nationality, as well as information about the cathedral and the services for the pilgrims.
We are receiving updates periodically and will post news of the journey on this page.
June 28 - Day One - St. Jean to Orisson, about 8 km. Most of the way was uphill and blazing hot. It was a vertical assent of 800 meters with gorgeous vistas over mountains and valleys and views of farms, fields, sheep and goats.
June 29 - Day Two - Orisson to the village of Roncesvalles, Spain about 18 km. The group finished crossing the Pyrenees, finishing a total assent of 1200 meter followed by the 1200 meter descent. They began in cloudy mist but ended up above the clouds. They descended through a silver beech forest and ended in the village of Roncesvalles staying in a huge church and monestary that has been converted to a modern hostal.
June 30 - Day Three - Roncesvalles to Zubiri, about 26 km. It was a long day of hiking which ended with a very steep downhill grade. In the hostel the group shared a room with 23 other people, sleeping on bunk beds.
July 1 - Day Four - Zubiri to Pamplona, about 24 km. It was a fantastic hike through gorgeous woods, gentle rolling hills, along a river, through charming towns and along dirt roads through waving fields of wheat. They watched Spain beat Italy in the final game of the Euro Cup Soccer Tournament on a large screen in the main square of Pamplona
July 2 - Day Five - Pamplona to Uterga, about 20 km. The group enjoyed a beautiful walk up to El Perdon, where the statue-sculpture of the pilgrims shares the hillside with a range of windmills. They also saw the first shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. They ended up with a long descent and this was the first day they noticed many people biking the Camino.
July 3 - Day Six - Uterga to Lorca, about 22 km. It was a very long, hard walk which ended in a very steep, long uphill grade at the end. The temperature was 102.
July 4 - Day Seven - Lorca to Villamejor de Monjardin, about 25 km. It was a long and slow but lovely walk through wheat fields and vineyards. The group stayed at a Dutch albergue (hostel).
July 5 - Day Eight - Villamejor de Monjardin to Longrono, about 25 km.
July 6 - Day Nine - Longrono to Ventosa, about 25 km. They left about 6:30 am and arrived in Longrono about noon. That evening the group joined the villagers in the town square to celebrate the Festival of the White Virgin. While the party continued until 4am, our group was in the hostel by 10pm, a common lock up time.
July 7 - Day Ten - Ventosa to Santo Domingo de Calzada, about 30 km. Today was the longest walking day so far. It was mostly gently sloping terrain through the wheat fields, vineyards and a few towns. After arriving at the albergue there was time to shower, do laundry and find a food store for provisions for Day Eleven.
July 8 - Day Eleven - Santo Domingo de Calzada to Belorado about 23 km. The albuergue they stayed in that evening had a swimming pool - a welcome relief after all the walking.
July 9 - Day Twelve - Belorado to Villefranca Montes de Oca, about 11 km. The group walked through three small, sad towns. Many villages seem virtually deserted. They stayed that night at an albergue owned by a man who has walked the Camino, to Rome and to Jerusalem and over 60,000 km as a pilgrim. Amazing!
July 10 - Day Thirteen - Villefranca Montes de Oca to Atapuerca, about 19 km. At the albergue, they all stayed in one small room. Atapuerca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because in caves nearby, the oldest human remains in Europe have been found. They date back over 900,000 years. There is an active archeological site with a visitors center and tours of the site. The group booked a tour for the next morning.
July 11 - Day Fourteen - Atapuerca to Burgos, about 20 km (by bus). The group took a tour of the archeological site, it was an interesting tour but unfortunately all in Spanish. From Atapuerca the group took a bus to Burgos, secured a space at the albergue and then headed to the cathedral. They spent two hours there and were grateful for the audioguides in English. It was a spectacular place with one unbelievable chapel after another.
July 12 - Day Fifteen - Burgos to Hornillos del Camino, about 21 km. The group walked through several towns and many wheat fields. The walking was all exposed with no shade.
July 13 - Day Sixteen - Hornillos to Castrojewiz, about 20 km. The group walked through wheat fields and wind farms all day. It was sunny and windy and the temperature was pleasant. The guide book says they are 460 km from Santiago, or 285 miles. They think they might make it!
July 14 - Day Seventeen - Castrojeriz to Fromista, about 26 km. They began the day doing up, over, and down a mesa. The incline was 100 meters in altitude and quite steep. The group enjoyed seeing the restored Church of San Martin de Fromista, a Romanesque church in Fromista that was originally consecrated in 1066. Due to a lack of menu comprehension (which was in Spanish), Mark ended up ordering a squid and lettuce salad with dressing made from squid ink which turned out to be delicious.
July 15 - Day Eighteen - Fromista to Carrion de los Condes, about 19 km. Part of the track was through the usual fields of wheat. The last part of the way was along a river in the shade. The walk was very scenic. That evening the group attended a free guitar concert in the church. The guitarist was Frank Wallace from the United States. That evening the group stayed in an albergue in a monastery.
July 16 - Day Nineteen - Carrion de los Condes to Leon, about 99 km. The group did not walk today. They are trying to pay attention to the time and their physical abilities as well as balancing walking with taking in some of the cultural treasures of the route. They took a taxi to Sahagun and then a train to Leon. The group stayed in in albergue in a convent and took in the sights of Leon, including the gorgeous cathedral.
July 17 - Day Twenty - Leon to Villar de Mazarife, about 21 km. The first part of the walk was though Leon, city streets and urban life. Then, it was out onto the dirt track o`er hill and dale, through the fields and the scrub, wheat and some sunflowers. The group stayed at the Albergue de Jesus.
July 18 - Day Twenty One - Mazarife to Astorga, about 34 km. This was the longest and hottest day of walking, with a temperature of 109.3 degrees. That evening the group toured the Bishops House, designed by Gaudi and the cathedral.
July 19 - Day Twenty Two - Astorga to Rabanal del Camino, about 19 km.
July 20 - Day Twenty Three - Rabanal to Riego de Ambros, about 20 km. The group traversed the highest poing on the Camino, Cruz de Ferro. There is a large cross on the top of this hill. People leave stones at the foot of the cross to symbolize leaving their burdens behind. It was cold and windy there, about 53 degrees. There was one albergue in town and it was run by the same guy who ran the only restaurant in the town. The town was charming.
July 21 - Day Twenty Four - Riego de Ambros to Fuente Cacabelos, about 26 km. The group travelled through the large town of Ponferrada and through several smaller towns. The albergue had separate rooms with two per room and no bunk beds. One of the few nights they did not sleep in bunk beds.
July 22 - Day Twenty Five - Cacabelos to Vega de Valcarce, about 24 km. The group took a bus about 10k to Villafranca del Bierzo and then resumed walking. This portion had some of the hardest walking with serveral substantial hills. There were beautiful views and vistas.
July 23 - Day Twenty Six - Vega de Valcarce to O'Cebreiro, about 13 km. The churhc in O'Cebreiro incorporates the earliest surviving buildings on the Camino. This church was served by a priest, Don Elisa Valina Sampedro, who started the system of marking the Camino with yellow arrows, that guide the pilgrims day in and out. Yellow arrows are found on signs, cement markers, buildings, asphalt, posts, really all over.
July 24 - Day Twenty Seven - O'Cebreiro to Triacastela, about 22 km. Here is a description of a typical day. They get up between 5am and 6am. They usually eat food they have purchased the day before - yogurt, fruit, cereal, bread and cheese, cereal baars, and coffee depening on what was available the day before. They leave the albergue as the daylight appears. When they arrive at the albergue, it is time to recuperate by eating, taking a shower, doing laundry by hand, sometimes a nap and journaling. They check out the town and the church. They look for a store to buy food for the next day but since it all has to be carried they don't buy much. Sometimes there is no store and they make due with what they have. They go to dinner about 7pm and discuss plans for the next day - how far, where to stop for the night, which albergue? Then back to the albergue and lights out about 10pm.
The albergues themselves are like youth hostels. Some are privately run, others are municipal. Generally, there are bunk beds. There are anywhere from 4 to 50 people in a room. The bathrooms are shared, sometimes men and women together, sometimes separate facilities. There are showers with hot water and facilites for hand washing laundry. Sometimes there are kitchens and refrigerators. Sometimes there is internet access that is coin operated. The albergues are locked at a certain time, usually 10 or 10:30 and then everyone must be out by 8am. The cost per night varies from a donation to 10 euros but the cost is generally 5 euros (about $6.25). An albergue is basically a hostel but only Camino pilgrims are permitted to stay there. When you sign in you are asked for your "credential", a cardboard folder that has your name on it that you have stamped at each place you stay and sometimes at other churches and sites that you have visited along the way. The stamps verify that you are a pilgrim walking the Camino. The albergues have been clean and basically comfortable.
As the group walks the Camino, they get so know some of the people walking with you, so they know most of the people staying at the albergues. There is a sense of staying among friends.
July 25 - Day Twenty Eight - Triacastla to Barbadelo, about 22 km. This is just over 100 km from Santiago de Compostela, the minimum distance to walk to receive a compostela, a certificate validating that you have completed the Camino. After this day, the group noticed many more people walking that they had not seen before. Today is the feast day for St. James, the patron saint of Spain.
July 26 - Day Twenty Nine - Barbadelo to Portomarin, about 22 km.
July 27 - Day Thirty - Portomarin to Palas De Rei about 24 km. The walk was gently sloping and scenic.
July 28 - Day Thirty One - Palas De Rei to Ribadiso, about 29 km. Much of the walking was on woodland pathways. Ribadiso is a small town with two albergues, one restaurant and no store.
July 29 - Day Thirty Two - Ribadiso to Arca do Pino, about 20 km. The group is staying mainly at private albergues now because they can make reservations and be sure of all staying together. It gets busier the closer they get to Santiago. Today's walk is largely through forest and woods with many eucalyptus trees.
July 30 - Day Thirty Three - Arca do Pino to Santiago, about 21 km. The group completes the pilbrimage joining 32,820 others who completed the pilgrimage in the month of July. They visit the alleged tomb of St. James and head up behind the altar to touch the statue of St. James. The group spends July 31 in Santiago attending the pilgrim mass at noon and seeing the town. Then they travel to Barcelona for some site seeing. We look forward to welcoming Rev Pirazzini home and hearing his stories when he returns the week of August 20th.
The red line on the map below represents the portion of the Pilgrimage completed.