One of our most prized keepsakes from walking the Camino de Santiago is our official Compostela. We experienced great satisfaction upon receiving our Compostelas. We looked into this certificate some more and this is what we found.
What is the Compostela Pilgrim Certificate? The Compostela is a certificate of completion of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. You receive the Compostela by presenting your stamped Credencial to the Pilgrim’s Office when you arrive in Santiago de Compostela. To qualify to receive your Compostela, you must have walked (for religious reasons) at least 100km or cycled at least 200km of the Camino de Santiago.
Where do you get your Compostela Certificate?
The Compostela Certificate is only received in the city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. When you arrive in Santiago de Compostela after walking the Camino, you will want to head to the Pilgrim’s Office (also known as the Pilgrim’s Reception Office, or Oficina de Acogida Al Pergrino, in Spanish). Their address is Rúa das Carretas, 33, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Spain. You will want to arrive when their office is open, and you can find the official hours as well as closures here: https://oficinadelperegrino.com/en/.
The Pilgrim’s Reception Office is currently open from 8:00a.m. to 8:00p.m. during the summer hours of 2019. During the Winter the hours change to 8:00a.m. to 7:00p.m.
If you arrive during the Spring, Summer, or Fall, plan for time that you will stand in line, waiting for your Compostela. If you arrive in the Winter months, you most likely will not have to worry about lines at the Pilgrim’s Office. We arrived in the Summer of 2018 and spent about 45 minutes waiting in line. The lines can vary at different times of the year, and different times of the day.
When is the best time of the day to pick up your Compostela?
After reading other pilgrims’ experiences on the Camino, most agree that the best time of day to get your Compostela is early in the morning, as soon as the Pilgrim’s Office opens (currently 8:00a.m.). This is because most pilgrims arrive in Santiago de Compostela in the afternoon after walking in the morning. Arriving to the Pilgrim’s Office in the morning will mean a shorter wait time in line, most pilgrims have reported waiting 15 minutes or less in the morning. This means that the worst time of day to receive your Compostela is in the afternoon when most other pilgrims are flooding into Santiago de Compostela. If you choose to arrive in the afternoon (1:00pm to 5:00pm), you may have a long wait in line, some pilgrims have reported waiting in line up to 3 hours. A great option is to arrive in the city in the afternoon, and the following morning to head to the Pilgrim’s Office for your Compostela. Fellow pilgrims report that the line can start as early as 7:30am.
What does it cost for a Compostela?
The Compostela Certificate is free to those who have met the requirements for receiving the Compostela. We find it refreshing that the Pilgrim’s Office does not charge for the Compostela certificate, opting rather to provide the service for free. While the Compostela has no cost, you will want to consider purchasing a protective case (small cylinder) for a couple of euros to transport the Certificate safely back home. The protective tube can be purchased at the Pilgrim’s Office, the one we bought had a scallop shell pattern, which made it nice for displaying.
What are the requirements to qualify for the Compostela?
To qualify to receive your Compostela Certificate, you will need to complete the following requirements:
The requirement of undertaking the Camino de Santiago for religious reasons is one that the Pilgrim’s Office takes seriously. But don’t worry, there is no exam or scrutiny by the Pilgrim’s Office. When you walk up to receive your Compostela, you will be asked why did you walk the Camino (either verbally or on a piece of paper). You can choose to walk the Camino for non-religious reasons (cultural reasons, tourist sight-seeing, health, etc), but if one of these reasons is your primary purpose, you should inform the Pilgrim’s Office. In these cases, you will not receive the Compostela Certificate, however, you will receive a Certificate of Welcome or a Certificate of Distance if you choose. While there is no way of proving that you walked with religious intent, you will want to tell them truthfully if you walked primarily for another purpose so they can issue you the appropriate Certificate.
Another requirement is the completion of the Pilgrim Passport (also known as the Credencial). You will want to pick up a Credencial at the beginning of your pilgrimage, and have it stamped along the way. You will want to have your Credencial stamped once per day, until you are within 100km of Santiago de Compostela, then you will want your Credencial stamped two times per day. For more information on the Credencial, check out our recent blog post covering it in detail.
Can I still get a Compostela if I do not walk the Camino for religious reasons?
No, if your primary motive for walking the Camino is for non-religious reasons, you will not qualify for a Compostela Certificate. You will however qualify for a Certificate of Welcome or a Certificate of Distance, which certifies that you walked the Camino de Santiago at least 100km. It is best practice to be truthful with the Pilgrim’s Office so that you can be issued the appropriate certificate. If you attempt to apply for a Compostela without having walked the Camino with religious intent, the staff may question you further to gauge whether you are telling the truth or not. Again, honesty is the best policy. We found that each certificate will serve as a great keepsake for remembering your pilgrimage.
What is the size of the Compostela?
The Compostela Certificate measures 8.27” x 11.69” (210mm x 297mm). This is the standard international A4 paper size. If you plan on framing your Certificate when returning home, then you will want to purchase a frame that can display this size.
What is written on the Compostela Certificate?
The Compostela Certificate is written in Latin. It includes blank spaces for your name and the date that the Certificate was issued. When you arrive at the Pilgrim’s Office, you will give them your name. They will then use a computer to generate a “Latin” version of your name. Irene was able to have a beautiful translation of her name placed on the certificate. However, some names (like the name Kyle) do not translate well into Latin, so they instead put your (non-Latin) full name on the Compostela. You may be able to ask to have your original name placed on the Compostela if you like.
For those who would like to know what the English translation of the Compostela is, we found a good translation on the Pilgrim’s Office Website:
“The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Altar of St. James, to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognises before all who observe this document that: …………… has devotedly visited this most sacred temple with Christian sentiment (pietatis causa).
In witness whereof I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church.
Issued in Santiago de Compostela on ……… of …………… year of our Lord ……….
Deputy Canon for Pilgrims.”
How did the Compostela originate?
We found some great info about the origins of the Compostela Certificate on the Pilgrim’s Office Website. In short, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage came about in the Middle Ages, roughly dated around the 9th or 10th centuries. Originally the pilgrimage was undertaken for religious purposes, and it was necessary to acknowledge its completion. The first ‘Compostela’ accreditation was a scallop shell that was obtained in Santiago de Compostela. Due to easy counterfeiting (the shells began to be sold at the city gates rather than be obtained through pilgrimage), the Pope enforced penalties for duplicators. Letters of completion were issued as early as the 13th century as a way to counteract this counterfeiting, and these letters paved the way for the Compostela in its current form.
We both treasure our Compostela Certificates from when we walked the Camino in 2018. They were something we greatly looked forward to receiving upon completing our pilgrimage. While the Compostela served as physical proof of our journey, our most prized possessions are the memories we made along the way.