The Jacobean Route.(Part I) The Primitive Way

Camino de Santiago is the denomination that has a series of Christian pilgrimage routes of medieval origin that go to the tomb of the Apostle Santiago el Mayor, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain).
In a stricter sense, it has historically been known as «Camino de Santiago» (today called «Camino de Santiago French») to an itinerary that, starting from the western Pyrenees, travels the north of Spain until reaching the Galician city and on which ends up converging almost all other existing Jacobean routes. It is a «road sown with numerous manifestations of fervor, regret, hospitality, art and culture, which speaks eloquently of the spiritual roots of the Old Continent»

The Camino de Santiago and the Jacobean pilgrimage that has been carried out, has been, since its emergence in the Middle Ages, a remarkable place of encounter and cultural exchange among the population of Europe. It is estimated, also, that it has helped to generate what It could be referred to as “common European conscience.” These immaterial aspects together with the set of historical constructions related to it – churches, lodges, monasteries, bridges, etc. – that has been preserved, have made it receive important international recognition since its recovery in the 1980s.

Already in the 1980s, it was sought to adapt it to be able to be traveled on foot and for this purpose, paths were sought to avoid the dangerous use of the road. Likewise, a shelter infrastructure was provided to provide accommodation for pilgrims during their trip.
The success experienced since the 1990s has also led to the recovery of a large number of historical routes through volunteer associations, both in Spain and in other European countries. Thus, by the end of the 2010s, an extensive network of 286 roads is cataloged and covers a total of 80,000 km in 28 countries.

Non-believers, on the other hand, are also attracted by the spiritual experience of «doing the Way» and not a few recognize in it an ability to «communicate with a transcendent reality even if they have no face or name» .

Apart from the previous spiritual aspects, the Jacobean pilgrimage is also the object of tourist and sports use.

There are several routes that originate in different countries of Europe and different Spanish locations, to reach the end of the stage in Santiago de Compostela, although in this article we will refer, as the first tasting to what is called :

«The Primitive Way».

The Primitive Way is one of the paths of the Camino de Santiago. It begins in the old Asturian capital of Oviedo and runs west to Lugo and then south to Santiago de Compostela joining the more popular French Way in Melide for the last two hiking days. According to the Confraternity of St James, the Primitive Way is approximately 370 km (230 miles) in length.

Middle Ages Origins.-The Primitive Way is thought of as the «Original Way» because it is reportedly the path taken by the first reported pilgrim, Alfonso II of Asturias (c. 760-842), nicknamed the Chaste. The King left his capital, Oviedo, in the year 814 to travel to the present location of the city of Santiago de Compostela, known as Mount Libredón, on those days. Alfonso built the original shrine to Saint James on the spot of the discovery. Until the city of León was established as both the capital of the Kingdom of Leon and the nexus of a safe route – the French Way – for pilgrims traveling across the Meseta, the Camino Primitivo remained the most frequented route for those going to Santiago for religious reasons.
The Camino Primitivo remains as a popular alternative path, which avoids most of the much heavier-traveled French Way and the crowds of pilgrims there. Though incorporating significant vertical components, it allows hikers to enjoy a more stimulating journey with better views.

Modern times.-The route has been growing rapidly in popularity in recent years, with corresponding improvements to waymarking and to the provision of hostel accommodation for pilgrims (the so-called hostels). In 2016, 12,089 pilgrims, representing 4.35% of the total completing the Camino de Santiago in that year, walked the Camino Primitivo. Most commenced their journey at Oviedo, with smaller numbers joining the trail at Lugo and at Grandas de Salime. The Primitivo is now the fourth most popular Camino route, behind the French, Central Portuguese, and North.

On its way you can still visit the ruins of the last pilgrim hospital, that of Montouto. In A Fonsagrada the Primitive Way has two variants. One passes through the municipal capital – an oasis of services after the stretch of Asturian mountain – and the other visits the historic, decrepit and very interesting Pobra do Burón. Both converge in the aforementioned Montouto Hospital before crossing the Baleira and Castroverde towns to reach Lugo and its great culinary offer.

The pilgrim crosses the Roman wall of this city located 100 kilometers from Santiago (the minimum to get the Compostela, the popular pilgrimage certificate) before continuing west along a road that runs through a handful of villages with hardly any services from the councils of Guntín, Friol, Palas de Rei and Toques (it crosses the soft Serra do Careón). Then it connects in Melide with the French.

The pilgrims enjoy beautiful landscapes, without crowds or races; they visit three monumental cities that deserve a long visit (Oviedo, Lugo and Compostela itself); and they walk relatively little asphalt on this route recommended especially for walkers, something inhospitable by the weather when it snows – it affects a good part of the route – or when it rains, but inhabited by hospital people and who, after years with problems at certain stages, but nowadays it has a sufficient network of public and private shelters in Galicia.

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