The first pilgrim known was Godescalc, bishop of Puy, in 950, together with an important retinue. The Duke IX of Aquitaine began the way in 1137; in 1154 Louis VII, King of France, went on the pilgrimage to Santiago and a century later the archbishop of Lyon visited the apostle’ shrine. It is also known that other personalities went on a pilgrimage, like St Francis of Assisi, St Dominic de Guzman, Joanna the Mad and Philip the Handsome in 1506; Charles I and Philip II. The Catholic Monarchs made the pilgrimage in 1486. Their great work favoring the Way was the construction of the hospital of the Catholic Monarchs, started in 1501. And together with these distinguished pilgrims, walked believers of all social positions, increasing the number each time. Mixed with the crowd of peasants, rascals, bourgeoisies and noblemen, then arrived through the Way of St James craftsmen, stonemasons, painters, sculptors and religious orders. That cornerstone of the Reconquest soon became the conduit through which slipped into the Peninsula the aesthetic and cultural vanguards which ruled the Occident world. It was the great contribution of the apostle to the artistic and humanistic development of Spain.
The Credencial or Pilgrim’s Passport
The Credencial is a kind of Pilgrim license, which has its origins in the introduction letters that Kings, clerics and authorities granted as an accreditation or safe-conduct to those who made the pilgrimage to Compostela from all parts of Europe. Having this, the pilgrim was under protection and was exempted from paying taxes. The Credencial is delivered exclusively (personally) to those who made the way on foot, by bike or horse. This document is accomplished instantaneously through the Association of Friends of the St James’ Way, Parishes or Brotherhood or in the place where the pilgrimage begins. It allows, although not entitle, the access to hostels, where the pilgrims have to seal the credencial as an evidence of their stay. It also offers special discounts at certain museums, leisure centers and monasteries along the Way. All those pilgrims who have completed at least 100 kilometers on foot or by horse, or 200 by bike, will be granted with a document that certifies the pilgrimage made in the Cathedral of Santiago, on behalf of the Cathedral Chapter and the Pilgrim Office, called “Compostela” (located near the Cathedral of Santiago, at the junction of Rúa del Villar with Plaza de Platerías).