The Credential and Compostela


                                             Confraternity of Saint James of South Africa


  Is it an organised tour?


- There are organized tours available, but the majority walk the various routes without guides or back-up.

- If you are with a tour group or have vehicle back-up, you are not allowed to stay in the pilgrim refuges.

- The Camino routes themselves are organised in the sense that they are generally signposted and there is official accommodation available in most places on the more popular routes.

- It is, however, an individual journey, so getting to the starting point, registering and organising an itinerary are your own responsibility.


- On arrival at the starting point of your choice on the Camino, the first requirement is to equip yourself with a pilgrim passport (credencial del peregrino).

- This is obtainable from specific places in each town and the local refugio or albergue (pilgrim dormitory) will be able to tell you where to get one.

- You can also research this beforehand in the official guidebooks, depending on your route.

- South African members can obtain their credencials from the Confraternity. The current price is R50 plus R5 for postage. To become a member/obtain a credencial contact us by email. At present membership is only available to South Africans or residents of South Africa.


- The credencial needs to be stamped at an official venue with a rubber stamp (sello) at each of your stopovers, and it has to be presented in order to qualify for accommodation in the refugios.

- Stamps can also be obtained from the local mayor (alcalde), parish priest (cura), tourist offices, museums and even from some bars.

- Some obtain the sellos as proof of walking, but many also treasure them as 'souvenirs' of their journey.

- When you reach Santiago, the credencial becomes your proof of having walked the Camino, and on presentation to the cathedral authorities, they will issue the certificate of pilgrimage (compostela).

- To qualify for the compostela you have to have walked at least the last 100km, cycled or gone on horseback for 200km from Santiago.

- It is recommended that you obtain at least two stamps per day during this section.

- While it is not compulsory to apply for the compostela, most pilgrims appreciate the receipt as part of the closing ritual on arrival in Santiago.


                                                     American Pilgrims FAQs       


  What is a credential or pilgrim's passport?

- While walking the Camino de Santiago, pilgrims carry a credential (credencial), a small, folded document in which the pilgrim authenticates his or her progress by obtaining stamps (sellos) along the way.

- Sellos can be obtained from many sources including many bars, hotels, town halls, museums and churches and from all albergues.


- The credential or 'passport', as it is sometimes called, is not to be confused with an official, government-issued passport. The former is strictly a record of passage along the Camino; the latter is a required document for international travel.


- When registering at an albergue, you will be asked to present your credential to verify that you are walking or cycling the Road.

- In addition, upon reaching Santiago de Compostela, at the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos (Pilgrims' Office, Rúa do Vilar 1), you can present your stamped credential to confirm that you have walked at least the last 100 kilometers or cycled at least the last 200 kilometers, whereupon you will receive a compostela, a wonderful document that certifies your pilgrimage. See the entry immediately below for more about the compostela.


- Pilgrim credentials can be obtained from numerous sources before setting out on the Camino, or from locations actually on the Camino.


  What is the compostela?

-  In most cases peregrinos will be interested in obtaining the 'official' documentation for having completed the Camino whether or not they are walking the Camino for out and out religious reasons.

- The words used on the Archdiocese’s website are: "devotionis affectu, voti vel pietatis causa" - “the motivation being devotion, vow or piety”.

- This document is called the compostela and is a form in Latin issued by the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos (Pilgrims' Office, Rúa do Vilar 1) in Santiago, near the southeast corner of the cathedral).

- You can obtain your compostela by presenting yourself, some form of official identification (like your government-issued travel passport) and your completed pilgrim's credential.

- You must have documentation showing that you have walked at least the last contiguous 100 km (or cycled the last 200 km).


- At the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos you will be asked your motivation for walking.

- Those who do not include "spiritual" in their reason for making the pilgrimage will be offered another document, a certificado, to commemorate their having completed the Camino.


  Where can I get stamps (sellos) for my credential?

- Sellos can be obtained at most hotels and inns, restaurants and bars, churches, museums, city halls, police stations and at all albergues.

- If you're wondering what the sellos look like, you might check out the site Los Sellos del Camino (Spanish).


- A note about sellos: Generally one sello per day is sufficient, but the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago advises that all pilgrims should obtain two per day during the final 100 km if on foot or the last 200 km if on bicycle.

- On the francés this would be Sarria (112 km) or Ponferrada (205 km) respectively. Please note that this applies even to pilgrims who have started outside the 100 and 200 km limits.


                                    Planning your pilgrimage: some practical tips

                                                 Confraternity of St James


  What about my pilgrim passport ?

- Click here for more information about the pilgrim passport itself:

- Remember that the Confraternity issues passports only to members.  If you want a CSJ passport, please apply first for membership, wait to receive your Membership Number (2-3 weeks) and then apply separately for your pilgrim record at another address which will be sent to you. We try to deal with requests promptly, but help us to help you by giving us some notice!

- Remember if you live in the USA, Canada, Norway, or Ireland you can obtain pilgrim records from your home organisations.

- For more general advice on getting a credencial, click here:


                                              Frequently Asked Questions  

                                               Confraternity of St James


  What is the Pilgrim Record or credencial?

- The Pilgrim Record (credencial in Spanish) is a certificate of bona fide pilgrim status, and is required for access to the refugios along all the routes in Spain. It is stamped at the beginning, and daily at churches, refugios, town halls (Ayuntamiento),bars etc along the way. Pilgrims present the completed card at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago, fill in a questionnaire about why they have made the pilgrimage and may then qualify for a Compostela certificate.

- The Confraternity issues Pilgrim Records free to members - but NOT to non-members. To find out more, go to our How and where to get a credencial page:

- Pilgrim records/credenciales are made available only to walkers, cyclists, and pilgrims on horseback who are travelling without vehicular backup.

- More about the Pilgrim Record:

and about the Compostela:


                                                 Pilgrim Documents

                                            Richard W. Tripp, Jr. 2011


- There are two key documents that all pilgrims need to be concerned with. One is the Pilgrim’s Passport, which certifies and documents your pilgrimage. The other is the Compostela, received in Santiago to indicate completion of the pilgrimage.


  Pilgrims Passport

- The Credencial del Peregrino (Pilgrim Credential), commonly referred to as the Pilgrim’s Passport, can be obtained in several ways. One is to obtain a letter of recommendation in your home parish, bishopric, etc. certifying that you leave as a pilgrim. You can also obtain one in a church, certain albergues or some other location such as a local office of the Friends of the Camino, in the starting point of the pilgrimage. If you are uncertain go to the Gronce web site. Look at the albergues for the route and place you wish to start. Under Basic Datos, there is an item, Expide la credencial. If it indicates Si, you can get one there. There is usually a small fee, about 3€, for obtaining one. This certifies that the bearer is traveling as a pilgrim. It permits the bearer to use facilities reserved for pilgrims. When it is initially prepared, it states whether the pilgrim is traveling “a pie” by foot, “a caballo” by horse, or “en bicicleta” by bicycle.

- Once the pilgrimage commences, it is necessary once a day (more or less) to have the Pilgrim’s Passport sealed (stamped, signed and dated) at one of the parishes, albergues or other establishments en-route. This is easily done and is usually part of the check-in procedure at an albergue.

- Some people become so enamored with the seals that they go out of their way to have them stamped at churches, monasteries, etc. throughout the day and even run out of room, requiring an additional credential to include them all!


  The “Compostela”

- The “Compostela” is the certificate awarded to those who can prove that they have covered the requisite number of kilometers of the pilgrims way. They are issued by the Oficina de Acogida del Peregrino attached to Santiago cathedral at Rúa do Vilar 1, 1º in Santiago de Compostela. Its hours are 10:00-14:00 and 16:30-19:00 (10-2 and 4:30 to 7). To qualify for the Compostela, a pilgrim must complete at least the last 100 kilometers to Santiago if traveling by foot or horse or 200 km if traveling by bicycle. Below is an example of the Compostela.



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