The big day arrived on Day 7. On this day, we departed on the Camino for the last time as we left lovely Pazo Xan Xordo to enter Santiago de Compostela as many have done over the last 1,000 years on this ancient pilgrimage for the final 2.5 hours of our trek. We were excited but were also on a schedule as we needed to arrive on-time to attend Pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at noon. Since this Mass gets packed, we wanted to be there at minimum 30 minutes in advance. We wanted to sit on the nave on the side of the altar in case they used the “botafumeiro.” They did not, to our great disappointment, but if they had, it would have flown right over us!
Monte de Gozo
But I get ahead of myself. So we left Lavacolla sharp at 8 AM and made one stop at the impressive Monte de Gozo on the outskirts of town. It was from this vantage point that pilgrims would get their first glimpse of the final destination. “Gozo” means happiness which is exactly what the pilgrims would feel at this point after so many months/years of hiking their way across Europe and Spain. I was more impressed by the monument built here and taking pictures of the sun showing through the top of the monument.
The great arrival in Santiago de Compostela
At some point in the walk (I think it was on a big downhill), we stopped being “outside” of Santiago and entered the outlying sectors of the city.
We crossed a long bridge over a highway and we felt like this was the final stretch. OK, it was a long final stretch and we did stop at a café to make a final pit stop and to get a snack (not sitting down). We knew once we hit Santiago, we were likely not going to get a break until noon Mass ended so this was a smart choice!
As we got closer, it seemed the streets got narrower which kept making us more eager to finally get there. I was eager to see the reaction of my fellow trekkers when they first saw the Cathedral (I had been there in 1994 already).
Getting the Compostela and Pilgrim’s Mass
Our plan was to hit town and immediately head to the Pilgrim’s Office (on rua Vilar) to get our “Compostela,” the certificate granted to those who complete the Camino. A nice volunteer from Ireland named (of course) Mary helped English speakers with instructions to be ready to step inside and get the Compostela; a few questions were asked and the credencial (passport) was briefly examined.
It was an exhilarating moment to get the Compostela (after standing in line about 25 minutes) even if I briefly embarrassed myself by telling the lady that she had gotten my first name wrong. She politely told me that they write the first name in Latin not in its regular form… As soon as I got to the hotel later, I took photos of the Compostela just in case something happened to it on the rest of the trip!
We had been told we could not take our backpacks in for Mass so we then proceeded to drop off our backpacks next to the Pilgrim’s Office for 2 euros. We then were free to make our way to the Cathedral but, first, we took quick group and individual photos in the Plaza del Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral.
We then moved in to claim our spots for Mass and we took turns while we waited for the start of Mass to go behind the main altar to see the tomb of Santiago (St. James), after all, all this started because of him!
During Mass, in the part where they greet the pilgrims, they mention groups by name. I had told them at the Pilgrim’s Office that we were a group, Trekking for Kids, from the U.S. and Canada and it was neat to hear us greeted during Mass.
We had heard that because 2014 was the 800th anniversary of St. Francis doing the Camino, the Church of San Francisco (St. Francis), not far from the Cathedral was issuing another certificate to pilgrims (the “Cotolaya“) so we went later that day to claim it (at this point, we would have taken any certificate issued to pilgrims, I think!).
So our week-long trek along this millennial pilgrimage came to a glorious end. It was a unique experience and I loved returning to Santiago de Compostela of which I will write some more in another post. I have some suggestions for those considering the Camino. Keep an eye out for that post!
Read more about my Camino:
– Day 1
– Day 2
– Day 3
– Day 4
– Day 5
– Day 6