There a several items typical for pilgrims to have. To be well prepared for your Camino you should read about their meanings and backgrounds. Lust-4-Life provides insight to the mysterious shell, the pilgrim pass, the credencial – your chance for absolution and the walking staff.
The Shell of St. James
Since the middle ages the shell (zool. scallop) is a sign of recognition and protection. This symbolic meaning has got an antique heritage. One christian legend tells the Story of St. James, who saved a drowning, noble pilgrim. This noble man rose from the water totally covered with shells.
A medieval custom was that pilgrims had to bring home one shell from Fisterra, considered at that age as the end of the world, to prove their succesful pilgrimage.
Another visual symbolism are the lines on the shell which all converge at one single point – just like all the different Caminos who all meet in Santiago de Compostela.
As a sign of recognition pilgrims carry or wear the shell on their hats, backpacks, walking sticks or clothes. One can buy them in several souvenir Shops on the way already in the beginning.
We find it very appealing to find a personal shell at the beaches of Fisterra. Once the tide is low it is a lot of fun to discover the ocean’s treasures.
The Pilgrim Pass: Credencial de Peregrino
The pilgrim pass, which is called “Credencial de Peregrino” in Spanish, serves as the official pass since the middle ages and was used to be certificated by the home churches of the pilgrims. This pass will be stamped at various stations on the way, like chuches, bars, albergues, shops etc. The stamps (span. “sellos”) are the proof of the covered distance. Nowadays this procedures ensures that only not cheating pilgrims (taking a cab or a bus) can get a place in the cheap albergues. So always make sure to have your stamped pilgrim pass to show at the accomodations reception.
All those stamps are not only a necessary part of the pilgrimage, but also an additional challenge and a chance to discover more hidden corners of the Camino. Some pilgrims get very fanatic about the stamp hunting. Some take it easy and only get the necessary amount of stamps, which is one per day in the beginning. On the last 100 kilometers in Galicia every pilgrim has to get two stamps a day ( – because it is more commercialized in Galicia and they want the bars and shops to be filled with stamp hunting pilgrims).
In Santiago the Credencial and the covered disctance stamped within gives you the chance to get the Compostela!
How to get the Credencial?
Wherever you start, there will be a church or an albergue which provides and sells these pilgrim passes. It costs about 1-4 euro. It is also possible to order a pilgrim pass including material in the internet in advance. The responsible institution is related to your place of living. Since Google knows anyway where you are, just type in: “order pilgrim pass way of saint james/ camino de santiago”
In St. Jean Pied-de-Port the Pilgrim Office hands out not only the credencial but also very helpful material for you journey!
The Compostela is the final document and the certification of your absolution – so don’t miss to get it in the Pilgrim Office in Santiago de Compostela!
Since 2011 it is requested for pilgrims to walk only the last 100 kilometers from Sarria to Santiago to get the Compostela. For this regulation there is no real reason except – again – the more economical thinking of Galicia. The Church of Galicia itself is responsible for this questionable rule.
Remember to get two stamps per day on the last 100 kilometers and spend a lot of money in Galicia or there will be no absolution for you!
The Walking Staff
The walking staff is another typical symbol of the pilgrims. Every step it helps the pilgrims to transmit some of their weight to the staff. This practical use is very helpful for the modern pilgrim. In the middle ages the staff also enabled the pilgrims to cross rivers or to protect themselves from wild animals or thieves along the way.
Although times are not that rough anymore on the Camino, a staff can give you a secure feeling when it gets dark or some watchdogs come along your way.