You’ll remember that a few weeks ago we posted a few tips on some utensils, garments and food that you must have in your backpack. Well we must admit our memory failed us, since there’s something essential we didn’t talk about and that should go with us along all the trip, the pilgrim credential or pilgrim passport.
The credential is some kind of passport containing your personal data and identifying you throughout the Camino. It’s composed of blank cells that you’ll have to fill daily with the stamps of the places you pass by with its corresponding date. Once arrived in Santiago you’ll be able to apply for the Compostela certificate (a centennial document certifying that you’ve completed successfully the pilgrimage) provided that the credential is correctly sealed and dated. Keep in mind that you must start your walk at least 100 kilometres before Santiago (200 if you do it by bike or horse). That’s why from Sarria, 114 kilometres from the Praza do Obradoiro, you start to see much more pilgrims on the Camino.
Beyond using the credential to obtain the Compostela, it’s essential if you sleep in the public hostels. Imagine how important it is to keep space for it in your backpack! You’ll easily find the credential before you start your route: you can request it beforehand to any association of friends of the Camino and it’s also distributed at the hostels of the starting points of the Camino, churches and many refuges, it usually costs 1,50€. You’ll have no difficulties to fill in your credential. Usually you can seal it where you sleep. If the hostel is closed you can do it at many coffee shops, shops, hotels and also post offices.
Following these basic tips you’ll be able get the Compostela certificate. We hope we haven’t forgot any advice! We must only tell you a few more things about it. First, a curiosity; the credential is not a recent invention but the inheriting safe-conduct of actual provisions given to pilgrims already in the 12th century so as to protect them from bandits, thefts and landlord and merchant abuses. Its incompletion implied heavy punishments, including gibbet. Over time the conditions of the Camino changed and the requirement of certificates widespread in order to distinguish real pilgrims. That’s the role the credential plays nowadays.
Finally, the last warning: you may know that once you pick up the credential you commit as pilgrims to behave morally during all the Camino. If you don’t keep your promise those responsible for the hostels may take the credential back…
So be good!