Monday, June 09, 2008


When was the first Santiago Holy Year celebrated?
According to Xacobeo Blog only in the 15th c:    "The alleged grant of a Jubilee to Compostela by Pope Callistus II in the year 1119 and ratified in 1179 by Pope Alexander III to confirm this as a perpetual bull by Regis Aeterni, is a process that has been put in quarantine by some historians. They propose a later origin suggesting that the Jubilee in Santiago did not start until the first half of the fifteenth century. They argue that this Jubilee Holy Year was born imitating the successful Roman Holy Year which was celebrated for first time in 1300 as a response to Pope Boniface VIII spontaneous demand that special thanks be given to the thousands and thousands of pilgrims who visited Rome in that landmark year at the change of the century.
There are essentially two positions on the origin of Compostela Jubilee Years. They are summarized through the work of two of the few experts who have been concerned with this issue, trying to throw light on it, though from differing viewpoints.
  1. Jesus Precedo Lafuente is former Dean of the Cathedral of Santiago, and was responsible for leading the organization of several Holy Years in Compostela in the second half of the twentieth century. He argues that Aeterni Regis, following the Bull (1179) of Pope Alexander III, the first Jubilee was held in Santiago in 1182. He defends well, that which is maintained from the time this celebration in the years that in accordance with the bull, agreed that the Sunday celebrating the martyrdom in Palestine of St. James is 25 Julio, that usually happens every 6,5,6, 11 years (Precedo Lafuente, Jesus, "Origin and Significance of the Year Santae Compostela" pilgrim's Guide Calixtino Salamanca, Fundación Caixa Galicia, A Coruña, 1993, p.20).
  2. Compostela professor, Fernando López Alsina, the historian who has studied this question more thoroughly, suggests a later origin, suggesting that the first Compostela Holy Year was not held until 1428 or 1434.  "Only since 1434, and throughout the rest of the fifteenth century, can we follow the regular celebration of the Compostela Holy Year at planned intervals of 6, 5, 6, 11 years. (Lopez Alsi, Fernando: "Romans and Holy Years Holy Years Compostela in Santigo, Rome, Jerusalem. Proceedings of the Third Congress Jacobean-International Studies Caucci, Paolo, ed. Xunta de Galicia, Santigo de Compostela, 1999, p. 235)
The truth is that only since the fifteenth century can we follow the ceremony of the Jubilees regularly in Compostela. They have occurred since that period with characteristics closeness to the present when the festival the apostle James the Great falls on Sundays. In this case, reference to the Holy Year of 1434, the first of which there is a strong historical record, means that up to the year 2004 there have been a total of 83 Jubilees Compostela.
Those who advocate a previous home based on the bull Aetterni Regis, say at least 118 to 2004.

Is there any evidence for earlier Holy Year celebrations? 
Mary Storrs wrote in her book "Jacobean Pilgrims from England to St James of Compostela from the 12th to late 15th cenury" that 1395 was a Holy Year and that a large number of pilgrims sailed to Spain in that year. (The 25th July 1395 was on a Sunday.) She further writes that 916 pilgrims sailed to Spain as pilgrims in 1428 and that in 1434 the number of pilgrims from England was 2310

Trivial Info:
Catherine Gasquoine Hartley wrote in her book that, "There is still in existence in England a curious law, it never having been repealed, by which the Keeper of the Tower of London can levy a charge of sixpence on each English pilgrim visiting Compostela.

In a 16htc book of verse, Fancisco Molina speaks of the sacred relics, which were shown to the pilgrims, by an officer called el lenguagero, who was specially appointed for his linguistic talents. "The head of the glorious Apostle is carried around the cathedral on all feast-days in solemn procession.
. . . One of the relics is a drop of milk from the breast of the Virgin in a vase as fresh and perfect as if of to-day. There is also a precious lock of her hair, and a thorn from Christ's crown, which turns the colour of blood every Good Friday."

We know that from the early 16th-c pilgrimage became not only unpopular but dangerous and that numbers were affected by the plague, the reformation of the church and religious wars in Europe.  In 1589 the relics of the saint were moved and hidden from a possible attack by Frances Drake – and were then forgotten for almost 300 years! It’s not surprising that the number of pilgrims to Santiago dried up almost completely and it would be almost 400 years before its reanimation.

"In late 17th century, the pilgrimage experienced something of a revival and reached a new (if more modest, honestly religious) peak, but mid-18th century again saw a marked decline. The scientific and industrial revolution in 19th century also rendered the pilgrimage obsolete in the rest of Europe.” Antti Lahelma

"As late as the year 1794, D. Miguel Ferro, the architect of the cathedral, wrote : " The crowd of people on feast-days is so great that only two-thirds of them can get into the cathedral " and we read of altars being temporarily erected in the cloisters and in the plazas adjoining the sacred edifice, at which the priests said Mass." Catherine Gasquoine Hartley

“In the Holy Year of 1867 just 40 pilgrims turned up for the celebrated mass on 25th July.”

A search for the relics was launched in 1879 and they were eventually found between the walls of the apse. “A papal bull from Pope Leo XIII (in 1884) declared them to be genuine in order to silence sceptics.”


What is a Holy (or Jubilee) Year?

The origin of the Christian Jubilee goes back to Biblical times. The Law of Moses prescribed a special year for the Jewish people: "You shall hallow the fiftieth year and proclaim the liberty throughout the land, to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his family. This fiftieth year is to be a jubilee year for you: you will not sow, you will not harvest the un-gathered corn; you will not gather the untrimmed vine. The jubilee is to be a holy thing to you; you will eat what comes from the fields."(The Book of Leviticus 25, 10-14)  The trumpet with which this particular year was announced was a goat's horn called Yobel in Hebrew, and the origin of the word jubilee. The celebration of this year also included the restitution of land to the original owners, the remission of debts, the liberation of slaves and the land was left fallow. In the New Testament, Jesus presents himself as the One who brings the old Jubilee to completion, because he has come to "preach the year of the Lord's favour" (Isaiah 61: 1-2).

ST JAMES’ FEAST DAYS Whenever St James's day - 25th July - falls on a Sunday, the cathedral declares a Holy or Jubilee Year. Due to leap years, Holy Years fall every 6, 5, 6, and 11 years: the most recent ones were 1982, 1993, 1999 and 2004. The next Holy Year will be 2010 and then 11 years later in 2021.

In the early Middle Ages the 30 December was St James’ Feast day, based on the old Hispanic (Mozarabic) rite.
In the 11th century King Alfonso VI abolished the Hispanic rite in favour of the Roman rite and 25 July became the principal feast day to commemorate the martyrdom of St. James.
December 30 was incorporated into the present liturgical calendar as the Feast of the Translation of his relics. And, just to confuse matters more, although we celebrate his Feast Day on 25th July using the Roman Rite calendar, it was formerly on the 5th August on the Tridentine Rite calendar.

Watch a video of the 1915 Holy Year here:

This is thought to be either the 84th or the 119th Jubilee Year.
The Puerta Santa (Holy Door), which gives access to the Cathedral from the Plaza de la Quintana is opened on 31st December on the eve of each Holy Year, and walled up again a year later. As in the past, pilgrims reaching Santiago during a Holy Year, and fulfilling the conditions for it, are granted a plenary indulgence. (This means that you can get remission for all of your worldy sins). The plenary indulgence is given, not only in Holy Years, but also in ordinary years on Easter Sunday; 21st April (the anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral); and on St James's three feast days. (25th July, 30 December and 23 May).
On the eve of St. James' Day (the 24 July) a magnificent firework display is held on the Orbradoiro facade of the cathedral called the "Fuego Del Apostol”. An impressive statue of St. James as a warrior is taken from the cathedral and carried through the streets. Further celebrations are held to commemorate the removal of the remains to Spain on 30 December. You can read accounts of Holy Years in 1951 and 1965 here:

This is a list of Holy Years from 1604 as supplied by the Archdioces in Santiago:

1604 1700 1802 1909 2004 2100 2202
1610 1706 1813 1915 2010 2106 2213
1621 1717 1819 1920 2021 2117 2219
1627 1723 1824 1926 2027 2123 2224
1632 1728 1830 1937 2032 2128 2230
1638 1734 1841 1943 2038 2134 2241
1649 1745 1847 1948 2049 2145 2247
1655 1751 1852 1954 2055 2151 2252
1660 1756 1858 1965 2060 2156 2258
1666 1762 1869 1971 2066 2162 2269
1677 1773 1875 1976 2077 2173 2275
1683 1779 1880 1982 2083 2179 2280
1688 1784 1886 1993 2088 2184 2286
1694 1790 1897 1999 2094 2190 2297

Over 12 million pilgrims are expected to visit Santiago in 2010.

Hundreds of thousands (250 000 has been suggested) of pilgrims are expected to walk to Santiago in 2010 - not only because it is a Holy Year but because the next Holy Year will be eleven years later. 

The relics of St James in the crypt of the cathedral in Santiago.

Hugging the saint after walking to Santiago in the 2004 Holy Year.
This list shows the growth of numbers of pilgrims who received the compostela in Santiago. These numbers do not include pilgrims who walk sections of the various caminos, or who do not apply for the compostela.
1985/6 2.491
1987 2.905
1988 3.501
1989 5.760
1990 4.918
1991 7.274
1992 9.764
1993 99.436
1994 15.863
1995 19.821
1996 23.218
1997 25.179
1998 30.126
1999 154.613
2000 55.004
2001 61.418
2002 68.952
2003 74.614
2004 179.944
2005 93.924
2006 100.377
2007 114.026
2008 125,141
2009 144,812 (to November)

For up-to-date info on preparations and programs for the 2010 Holy Year, visit: 

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