This summer the official Pilgrim office in Santiago began updating the process to request the Compostela. The Compostela is the official certificate and accreditation of completing the Camino. It is a beautiful certificate written in Latin (English translation is below) and is a joyous keepsake for many travelers. Before the new system, you would walk into Santiago and line up at the office waiting your turn to show your stamped pilgrim passport. Even though the office is not only staffed with government workers but supplemented with many volunteers from around the world, during the summer months lines were long. It was never really a big problem and most people just accepted it as another part of the journey.
Starting back in August 2019, the process changed. Pilgrims now line up and then get a QR code with their assigned number.
This means you can now get your number and then go wait in a cafe or walk around the city occasionally scanning the code on your phone to see the approximate wait time.
People started complaining immediately about this new system. Some said they had to line up as early as 5am to get a number. Others said that time was being wasted calling numbers of people that weren’t there. Others complained that they arrived in Santiago later in the day when all the numbers had been taken so they weren't able to get the Compostela before their flight on the next day.
I think this new number system, despite its initial kinks, can be great; and with the upcoming Holy Year in 2021 I’m glad they’re rolling it out now and trying to get all the bugs worked out.
I think maybe the complaints are from Camino walkers like myself who remember the shorter wait times when the Camino wasn’t so busy. It makes me nostalgic for the past where there were less people on the trail, but at the same time it's great that more people are discovering this ancient trail and able to enjoy it.
I’ll keep everyone updated on the continued progress of the Compostela appointment system.
In case you are curious, the English translation of the text on the Compostela certificate is as follows:
The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Altar of St. James, to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognizes before all who observe this document that: …………… has devotedly visited this most sacred temple with Christian sentiment (pietatis causa).
In witness whereof I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church.
Issued in Santiago de Compostela on ……… of …………… year of our Lord ……….
Deputy Canon for Pilgrims.