The Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela has been extended to take place through both 2021 and 2022, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
What is a Holy Year?
The tradition of the Holy Year on the Camino de Santiago dates back to 1122, when Pope Calixtus II allowed a ‘plenary indulgence’ or the absolution of all sins to those who visit the city’s shrine of St. James the Apostle in a year when the 25th of July, the saint’s day, falls on a Sunday.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which was completed in 1211 after over 135 years of construction, houses the relics of St. James in its crypt. It is the end point of the Camino de Santiago, often called ‘the Way of St. James’.
St James the Apostle
The feast of St. James falls on a Sunday in a rotation of every six, then five, then six, then 11 years. 1126 was the first year in which the Holy Year was celebrated, making Santiago de Compostela the third jubilee city in the world, just behind Rome and Jerusalem. Since then, there have been 120 Holy Years.
The last Holy Year took place in 2010 when 272,000 pilgrims arrived in Santiago. There has been a long eleven year wait for this event of spiritual importance for many and of economic importance for many others… and it coincides with the worst pandemic of the century.
Fortunately, the Pope has responded to the requests of the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela (and all of Galicia) and as an exception (which is not unique in history, it already occurred in 1937-38) the Holy Year of 2021 will last until 2022, in response to the difficulties that the travel restrictions imposed by Covid-19 will pose for pilgrims around the world.
So, if you were thinking of doing a Camino de Santiago in Holy Year, Congratulations. You have 24 months to do it!
Recently renovated interior of the Cathedral de Santiago
31 Dec 2020 – The opening of the Holy Door
Calixtus II was a supporter of the pilgrimage and sought to promote it through his institution of the Holy Years, during which pilgrims are allowed to walk through the Cathedral’s Holy Door.
The Holy Door was officially reopened on the 31st December 2020, at the inauguration of the 2021 and 2022 Holy Year by the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, Julián Barrio Barrio. He said that the Holy Year “is a time when the Church grants unique spiritual graces to the faithful’.
This ancient ritual consists of striking the Holy Door three times with a silver hammer. The Archbishop cleanses the perimeters of the Door with holy water and olive branches. It is he who first crosses through the Holy Door. This ritual takes place every 31 December of the year preceding the Holy Year and is performed every 31 December of the Holy Year itself to close the Door.
Holy Door, Santiago Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela
The plenary indulgence associated with the Holy Year was recorded in the bull Regis Aeterni issued by Pope Alexander III in 1179. Receiving this indulgence requires that you walk to Santiago, pass through the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Santiago, confess your sins, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Pope and for your intentions, during a Holy Year.
For more information about walking the Camino in the Holy Years 2021/2022, or to receive our Free Camino Guide ebook, email us at email@example.com.