What is a Compostela?
Gaining a Compostela historically was a very valuable document. The so-called Cartas Probatorias, (probatory letters) were gained as a means of penance. Pilgrims on completion of their Camino returned home with their certificate and be relieved of their sins.
Also believed to be a document proving a virtuous life. Therefore gaining you entry through the gates of heaven. As you could imagine this created quite a lucrative business for false Compostela documents.
The current certificate was created in the 9th and 10th centuries when the tomb of Saint James the Apostle was given official status. From the religious perspective reaching the tomb of St James in Santiago is the purpose of the Pilgrimage. The certificate is issued by the Catholic Church at the Pilgrim’s Office located in Santiago.
How to Achieve your Compostela today.
Today you must walk a minimum of 100 km and complete 200 km on a bike or horseback finishing in Santiago.
During your Camino, you carry a Pilgrims Credential/Passport and have it stamped daily. If you are only walking the last 100km you must have it stamped twice per day. Stamps are available from many different places hotels, hostels, post offices, Churches and even some cafes.
There are two different types of certificate based on your reason for completing Camino de Santiago. When claiming your certificate you will state your motivation for completing Camino de Santiago. Declaring religious or spiritual reasons you receive the Latin Certificate, your name will be written in Latin. When declaring for historical or cultural reasons this one is written in Spanish. Both are a testament that you have done the Camino de Santiago.
Daily at midday during the pilgrim mass, an announcement will be made of countries and the number of arrivals from that country that day. If you were 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 issue these certificates.