Tracy and I received our Credencials del Peregrino (Pilgrims’ Passports) this week from American Pilgrims on the Camino, a non-profit organization that facilitates and assists North American pilgrims, particularly those in the United States. (http://www.americanpilgrims.com/) Credencials are also available from other authorized organizations, confraternities, and at pilgrims offices on the route.
The credencials are part of the thousand-year old tradition of the Camino de Santiago. The credencial is a modern version of letters of safe-conduct letters or letters of introductions carried by medieval pilgrims. The document shows that you are a bona fide pilgrim and entitled to have access to low-cost albergues and refugios (hostels.) The credencial is also used to authenticate your process by dated sellos (stamps, similar to a passport stamps) being added along the way.
Pilgrims normally need to obtain one sello per day from alburgues, churches, town halls, or police stations to document their progress. To ensure pilgrims are actually walking the route and not making use of motor transportation, over the last 100 kilometers pilgrims are required to get two sellos each day. (Pilgrims using bicycles or horses must obtain two sellos daily from 200 kilometers outside Santiago de Compostela.) We are hoping walk enough miles daily on our 500 mile (800 kilometers) trek as to not run out of room for sellos and require us having to obtain a second credencial to allow for additional sellos.
At the conclusion of the pilgrimage and reaching Santiago de Compostela we will need to present ourselves at the Cathedral’s Pilgrims Office to have our credencials reviewed prior to being awarded a Compostela. The Compostela is a certificate of accomplishment that is presented to pilgrims who complete at least the last 100 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago and have undertaken the pilgrimage for spiritual or religious motivations. The Compostela dates back to the early middle ages and its text is still in the original Latin. There are over 100,000 Compostelas awarded every year to pilgrims from more than 100 countries. For those pilgrims completing the Camino, but not for spiritual or religious reasons, a Certificate of Completion is alternatively issued in Spanish.
We are now about eight weeks out from our departure date and we are getting very anxious to start walking the Camino.