El French Camino de Santiago It has a total route of 790 kilometers, and the entry into Spain is through the town of Roncesvalles, ending the route at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
It was considered the "Main Street of Europe" and it is stated that Europe was "forged" along it, motivated by the cultural, social and artistic diversity that pilgrims from all corners of Europe who made pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela contributed.
Since then, thousands of walkers start the Camino de Santiago Frances every year, driven by faith, in some cases, or by culture, gastronomy and sports, among others, with as many reasons to do it as people undertake it.
This Way is undoubtedly the most popular, the one with the greatest Jacobean tradition and the most influx of pilgrims of all nationalities. It is followed in importance and volume of pilgrims by Portuguese Way.
What is the origin and history of the Camino Frances de Santiago?
In 1987 it was declared the First European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe.
Recognized by UNESCO, in 1993, as a World Heritage Site.
Prince of Asturias Award for Concord in the Year 2004 and that same year, the Council of Europe awarded him the title of “Great European Cultural Itinerary”
In 2009 he was appointed Treasure of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Spain.
It all started around the year 813, when the remains of the Apostle Santiago on a mountain near Iria Flavia, a place to which they were transferred from Palestine through the Mediterranean Sea, in a rudderless stone boat, by their disciples Theodore and Athanasius. The discovery in Compostela of the tomb of the Apostle turned Santiago into a point of reference for Christianity, similar to Rome and Jerusalem.
From that moment on, news of the discovery spread like wildfire throughout the continent, beginning a pilgrimage that, after some 1200 years and, despite passing through times of greater or lesser splendor over the years, due to political, religious, social and health events of all kinds, has established itself as a social phenomenon of the first order, worldwide, as evidenced by the approximately 350.000 pilgrims who obtained in 2019, "The Compostela”, at the end of his Pilgrimage Route.
The Camino had its greatest boom between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, when there was an economic and cultural flourishing of great magnitude, largely generated by the religious orders that established themselves on the different routes that headed for Santiago.
Although there are many Paths, the French Way It is considered the "genuine" Camino de Santiago, although not the first, which is the Primitive Way, starting in Oviedo, since it was King Astur, Alfonso II el Casto, who first visited the tomb of the Saint and consolidated this route.
Where does the Camino Frances de Santiago begin?
The journey from France runs through 4 main roads, 3 of which enter Spain through Roncesvalles:
- Via Turonensis or Way of Tours, starting at the Torre de Santiago, in Paris, passing through Orleans, Tours, Poitiers and Bordeaux.
- Via Lemovicensis, starting in Vezelay and passing through Limoges
- Via Podiensis starting at Le Puy.
These three routes converged in Ostabat and later headed to Saint Jean Pied de Port, or Donibane Garazi, a city located at the foot of the Pyrenees, since then it has been the main gateway from France to Spain, crossing the Pyrenees through the Napoleon's Route"The cize ports, to Roncesvalles.
The other main route of entry from France, although much less important, in terms of influx of pilgrims, is the Via Toulouse, starting in Arles and that through the port of Somport "Summus Portus" or "the highest port", located in the province of Huesca, enters Spain, giving its name to the "Aragonese Road”, which through Jaca and Sanguesa, converges with the route from Roncesvalles in the Navarran town of Puente la Reina, becoming, from it, a single “The Unity Way French” to Santiago de Compostela.
Best time to do the Camino Frances
The Camino de Santiago can be done at any time of the year, everything will depend on the availability and free time that each person has. However, if we take into account the weather, a fundamental aspect when it comes to an activity of a certain duration and carried out outdoors, we can say that, in principle, spring and until mid-autumn would be the best months to carry it out.
If we refine this statement even more, the months of July and August are usually the hottest of the year, although this is in theory, especially when lately, due to "climate change", there is so much uncertainty regarding the weather and many times not the weather stations in which we are are identified very well.
For people who want to do the Camino in winter, they must take the weather into account, not only because of the cold and rain as well as the snow in mountain areas, such as the Pyrenees and in areas of the mountains of Lugo and León in the French way. They should also take into account that from November to the beginning of March, many small towns through which the Way runs lack both accommodation and restaurant services.
Why is it called the French Way?
It is called "French" because, initially, the vast majority of pilgrims from the European continent who went to Santiago did so on foot through France. Even today it is, by far, the route that most pilgrims use to complete their Camino.
Itinerary of the Camino de Santiago Frances
It runs through the North of Spain, from east to west, through 790 km, ending in Santiago de Compostela. However, many pilgrims, once their pilgrimage is over, go to Finisterre or Finisterrae ("End of the World") as the Romans called it, which was the end of the world known until then, where they followed a series of rites and traditions, such as burning their clothes as an element of purification and the beginning of a new life.
The itinerary of the French Way is without a doubt the most popular, with more Jacobean tradition and more traveled by pilgrims from one end of the world to the other.
The start of the route in Spanish territory is from the town of Roncesvalles, crosses Pamplona and joins the Aragonese Way in Puente la Reina (Navarra). Area characterized by its beech and pine forests, its aromas of grapes, as well as its wide and dense plains, reaching the mountains of Galician oak and chestnut trees.
Galicia and the Camino Frances de Santiago
The entrance to Galicia is through the mountain pass of O Cebreiro (cradle of the legend of the Galician Holy Grail), where its views will captivate us, despite being one of the hardest stages of the Camino Frances from Villafranca del Bierzo to Or Cebreiro.
From the heights we have "only" 152 Kms to our desired goal, Santiago de Compostela and its Cathedral impatiently await us to welcome us and the long-awaited hug to the Apostle Santiago.
My first time on the Camino Frances
If you are going to do your first Camino, through organizing agencies of the Camino de Santiago, and you want to have a first contact with the route, not having much time, there is a great majority of pilgrims who finish in Santiago de Compostela, start their journey in Sarria (Last 100 km of the French side) u Or Cebreiro. In these initiatory Paths, their duration is approximately one week. After a first experience, it is very likely that the Camino will "hook you" as well as thousands and thousands of people from all over the world who, year after year, are waiting for the date to return, since it is already part of their way of life.
We believe that one of the most important factors to take into account when facing this exciting experience that, without a doubt, we will not forget, is that each person has to follow "their own Way", not that of others and at the rhythm and that you think appropriate, because remember that, We believe that the most important thing about the Camino is not the destination, but the Camino itself, therefore, enjoy it minute by minute.
If you carry out, on foot, any of the Paths mentioned above, you will obtain "The Compostela”, which is the Certificate that will be given to you at the Pilgrim Service Office in Santiago de Compostela and that certifies that you have carried out, at least, the last 100 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago, which would be to carry out, for example, the route of the Way of Saint James from Sarria to Santiago.
If you do the Camino by bicycle, you will have to have covered at least the last 200 km of any Camino de Santiago, which would coincide with the city of Ponferrada, if we do the French Way.
The most usual thing, after this first experience and depending on the time you have available, is to start other Paths or start them from the beginning to complete the entire route. If you opt for the French Way, the start would be in Saint. Jean Pied de Port or Roncesvalles.
How many kilometers are walked per day on the Camino?
The "usual" stages that most pilgrims usually travel on foot, are usually about 20-22 km, although it will depend on multiple factors, such as physical preparation, accommodation that can be found in each location, and how you want to face your Way, with more or less tranquility.
If you are going to walk the Bike pathLikewise, the considerations that we have cited in the previous paragraph are valid, meaning that it is usually traveled, per stage, between 40/70 km, on average.
Main cities and sections through which the French Way passes
You can start the Camino anywhere you decide on the route. The sections outlined below are for informational purposes only, and any stage or section can be modified as you wish, adapting them to personal needs or requests.
👣 Saint section. Jean de Pied de Port / Roncesvalles – Logroño (164 Kms / 139 Kms) 👣
Roncesvalles: Declared Historic Site of National Interest.
Pamplona: Famous worldwide, for being celebrated in it from July 7 to 14 the San Fermines and for being the most populated city on the Camino.
Puente la Reina: City where the French and Aragonese Ways converge, unifying up to Santiago.
Estella: City with an extensive architectural wealth, where the Relics of Saint Andrew deserve special mention and obligatory stop
Logroño: Monumental city with a great Jacobean tradition.
👣 Section Logroño – Burgos (125, 86 Kms) 👣
Najera: Where we highlight the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Royal, with its history and "legend" about its construction and its Pantheon of the Navarrese Kings.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada: Famous city named after the Holy Protector of Pilgrims (Sunday) and for the famous Miracle of the "Rooster and the Hen"".
Saint John of Ortega: Noted for the Monastery of its name and the famous Capital of the Annunciation, which is illuminated by a ray of sunlight on the equinoxes (Mar and September 21), called "Miracle of light"
Burgos: Monumental city, known worldwide for its fabulous Gothic Cathedral.
👣 Section Burgos – León (181 Kms) 👣
Castrojeriz: Example of itinerary Villa.
Fromista: It contains one of the Romanesque jewels, the Church of San Martin.
Villalcázar de Sirga: Very small city, but it deserves its mention for being in it the Church of Santa Maria la Blanca, a must see.
Carrión de los Condes: Its main attraction is the San Zoilo Monastery (which houses the best Gothic cloister in the world) and the Romanesque Church of Santa María
Sahagun, with its vivid Cluniac history where we highlight the Mudejar church of San Tirso.
Lion: Cathedral Gothic of León and Collegiate Church of San Isidoro, are the jewels of the city.
👣 Section León – O Cebreiro (151 Kms) 👣
Astorga (Capital of the Maragateria) where the French Way meets the Vía de la Plata. We highlight its Cathedral and the Gaudi Palace.
Ponferrada: Capital of Bierzo, on the banks of the River Sil, with its impressive Castle of the Templars of Ponferrada.
Villafranca del Bierzo (known as the little Compostela): Beautiful city, bordering with Galicia. The Romanesque Church of Santiago has the privilege of having a "Holy Door or Forgiveness”, which only opens in Holy Years, such as the Xacobeo year 2021-2022 (which for the first time in history and as an exception will be two consecutive Holy years, motivated by the Covid 19 pandemic)
If forces prevent us from continuing our pilgrimage, in Villafranca del Bierzo we will be able to request the indulgence and the Jubilee in the Church of Santiago, since it has enjoyed that privilege since long ago.
Or Cebreiro: Small and emblematic mountain village, with a great Jacobean tradition.
👣 Section O Cebreiro – Santiago de Compostela (153 Kms) 👣
Samos. Impressive Benedictine Monastery of Samos, an almost obligatory visit.
Sarria: City from which more pilgrims start their Camino de Santiago, since it is the closest city to Santiago, in the French Way, from where you can get “the Compostela", if you wish.
Melide: An obligatory stop for pilgrims, to taste its famous octopus.