2021: Holy Jubilee Year for the Camino de Santiago
Following a year which saw the fewest pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela in more than a decade due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, many are preparing to walk the Way in what will be a very special and important year: the 2021 Holy Year (Jubilee Year) for the Camino de Santiago.
WHAT IS THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO HOLY YEAR OR JUBILEE YEAR?
In the years in which the Feast of St. James (25th July) falls on a Sunday, that year is celebrated as a Holy Year. Holy Years in Santiago may also be called a Jacobian or Xacobeo Year.
Following the Gregorian calendar, the Holy Year in Santiago will be every 6, 5, 6, and 11 years. The last Holy Year was in 2010 and the next is in 2021. Future Holy Years on the Camino de Santiago will be 2027, 2032, 2038, and 2049.
HOW IS THE HOLY YEAR OR JUBILEE YEAR SPECIAL FOR THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO?
In 1122 Pope Calixtus II gave the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral the privilege of granting a plenary indulgence to those who visited the shrine of the Apostle during the Holy Year. This is recorded in the Bull, Regis Aeterni, issued by Pope Alexander III in 1179.
During Holy Years, pilgrims completing the Camino de Santiago may enter the Cathedral through the “Holy Door”, which is opened only during those years.
With the promise of plenary indulgence and the opening of the Holy Door, the number of pilgrims walking the Camino during the Holy Year is quite high – often twice or more greater than in other years.
WHAT IS THE HOLY DOOR AT THE SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA CATHEDRAL?
Opened only during Holy Years, the Holy Door at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is a small entrance opening into the rear of the Cathedral, almost directly before the tomb of St. James.
According to the Gospel, Jesus said, “I am the door; he who enters through me shall be saved.” (John 10:9) Pilgrims who pass through the Holy Door – regardless of their faith or backgrounds – receive the plenary indulgence, absolved of all sin, and forgiven in the eyes of God.
HOW IS THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO DIFFERENT DURING A HOLY YEAR?
The number of pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago during a Holy Year is generally much greater than in other years. Often there are twice as many pilgrims or more making the Camino pilgrimage.
The volume of pilgrims may create unique opportunities for brotherhood as well as infrastructure challenges to support the increased number of pilgrims, such as finding sufficient accommodations during the Holy Year.
HOW IS THE HOLY YEAR DIFFERENT DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC ?
The Holy Year has been extended (now Holy Years) through 2022 to allow pilgrims who may not be able to safely travel to Santiago de Compostela in 2021 to arrive through 2022 to celebrate the Holy Year.
WHICH ROUTES MAY HAVE THE MOST PILGRIMS DURING A HOLY YEAR?
The most popular pilgrimage routes to Santiago during the Holy Year are:
- Camino Frances – entire route but particularly the last 100km from Sarria
- Camino Portugues – the last 100km from Tui
- Camino de Norte – the last 100km from Vilalba
Especially during a Holy Year, Santiago de Compostela is busiest on July 25th – the Feast Day of St. James. The number of pilgrims walking the Camino is usually greatest around this time and lesser after July.
WHICH ROUTES MAY HAVE FEWER PILGRIMS DURING A HOLY YEAR?
While greater than in other years, relatively fewer pilgrims may walk the Camino de Santiago along these routes:
- Camino Primitivo – the “original” route from Oviedo to Santiago
- Camino Ingles – the English Route to Santiago
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
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Husband. Father. Backpacker. Pilgrim. Author.
My recent treks include the Camino de Santiago through Portugal and Spain as well as section hiking along the Florida Trail and the Appalachian Trail. In 2021 I began walking the California Missions Trail in the United States and – once it is safe to do so – I will complete England’s ancient Pilgrims’ Way from London to Canterbury. Afterward, I’ll begin the Via Francigena, the historic way in Europe connecting Canterbury to Rome.