The Way of Saint James

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The English Way

The English Way has two alternatives in Galicia. The route from A Coruña is shorter – 74 km – than the one departing from Ferrol – 118 km. Both have much to offer and a long history. They converge at the town of Bruma, following the last 48 km to Compostela together.

The history of these pilgrimages began in the 12th century. In 1147, a troop of English, German and Flemish Crusaders visited the tomb of St. James. They were travelling to the Holy Land. Part of that expedition also took part in the Siege of Lisbon, where they helped the first king of Portugal to take the city that would become capital of the kingdom.

There is evidence of a number of important historic pilgrimages along the English Way. Icelandic monk Nicolás Bergsson has left us a written description of his journey on foot from Iceland to Rome via Santiago. Such a feat would take him five years, from 1154 to 1159. Two centuries later, during what is known as the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, the English would come to Santiago by sea. English ceramics and coins from the 14th and 15th centuries found in cathedral excavations, provide proof of the presence of these pilgrims. Offerings to the apostle have also left evidence of this route.

The break between King Henry VIII (1509–1547) and the Catholic Church over his divorce from Catherine of Aragon – leading to the creation of the Church of England and Anglicanism – brought an end to English pilgrimage, condemning this route to ostracism for centuries. Until today, a period of revitalization and new forms of pilgrimage. The many attractions of Ferrol and A Coruña are the gateway to this route. Along the way, Pontedeume and Betanzos are two key locations that allow us to gain an understanding of the ‘English’ history of the Way of St. James.