What is a Compostela
Historically a Compostela was a very valuable document. The so-called Cartas Probatorias (probatory letters) were gained as a means of penance. A pilgrimage certificate on your return home relieved you of your sins.
A document proving a virtuous life, therefore gaining you entry through the gates of heaven. Of course, a lucrative business of the time was producing false Compostela documents.
The current certificate
During the 9th and 10th centuries James the Apostle was given official status. Reaching the tomb of St James in Santiago became the purpose of the Pilgrimage. Issued by the Catholic Church at the Pilgrim’s Office located in Santiago.
How to Achieve your Compostela.
You carry a Pilgrims Credential/Passport and have it stamped daily. Stamps are available from many different places hotels, hostels, post offices, Churches and even some cafes. Walking a minimum of 100 km you must have it stamped twice per day. When on bike or horseback completing 200 km finishing in Santiago is the criteria.
There are two different types of certificate
Declaring religious or spiritual reasons you receive the Latin Certificate, and your name will be written in Latin. When declaring for historical or cultural reasons this certificate is written in Spanish. Both are a testament that you have done the Camino de Santiago.
Pilgrim mass announcement
When recorded before midday your achievement is announced during the pilgrim mass on that day. A list of countries and the number of arrivals from that country is stated. If not recorded before midday you will be included in the list for the following day.
Other Certificates Available.
Fisterra and Muxia Certificate.
In the same way as the Compostela, you require two stamps per day as evidence of your journey along each stage. The Finisterre hostel or Muxía tourist office issues these certificates.