Pilgrimage and Religious Tourism on the Way of St. James – the First European Cultural Route

Since last two decades we notice an intensive growth of the pilgrimage movement along the Way os St. James. This route connecting furthests places in Europe and ending in Santiago de Compostela is based on a medieval transportation route called The Royal Route – Via Regia. The route exists for over 1000 years and is constantly developed thanks to actions taken by the authorities of the Catholic Church, governments and non-government organizations, as well as numerous enthusiastics of the Way of St. James. Since 1987, when the Council of Europe declared the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela the first European Cultural Route we notice re-creation of former pilgrimage routes accros all european countries. The Way of St. James, marked on its whole lenght with the motif of the scallop shell, leads from Poland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy and ends in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain at the tomb of St. James the Apostle. It is estimated that over 5 million people a year visit the sanctuary of St. James in Santiago de Compostela. Since the early '80s the Pilgrims' Office of Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela analyze the pilgrimage movement to the tomb of St. James. Basing on its research we should pointed out that vast majority of pilgrims who received the "Compostela" in 2010 (document confirming the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela) came on foot. There are also pilgrims coming to the tomb of the first marthyr by bike, on horseback or even in a wheelchair. Although the Spanish are still the largest group of pilgrims, the Pilgrims' Office noticed a significant growth of foreign pilgrims. People undertake the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela for various reasons: pure religious, cultural-religious or cultural motives. Currently, there is more than 3200 km of Camino de Santiago in Poland and they are divided into 16 sections. Polish part of the route meets Via Regia in Germany in Görlitz. The opening of the Way of St. James Via Regia from Korczowa (located on Polish-Ukrainian border) - hopefully will become a strong impulse to develop religious tourism on the medieval route to Kiev.
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