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2021 will be a huge year for the Camino de Santiago. There will be a plethora of events, extra church services, and thousands more people flocking to the pilgrimage trails than in a normal year.
This is because 2021 is a Camino de Santiago Holy Year; a Jacobean Year, or Holy Year of Compostela. You may also hear it referred to as Xacobeo 2021.
Many people walk the Camino de Santiago for many reasons. For those who are walking with spirituality or religion in mind, Holy Years can hold special significance.
There is so much fascinating history and ceremony around Holy Years. Here are a few basic facts about them:
What makes a year a Holy Year?
Why walk the Camino in a Holy Year?
According to Jacobean tradition, pilgrims who walk to Santiago de Compostela during a Holy Year and Pass through the Holy Door of the Santiago Cathedral are forgiven all their sins.
You will also experience plenty of extra events and a whole crowd of new people.
When was the last Holy Year?
The last Camino Holy Year was in 2010, and before that in 2004. The first Holy Year was in 1122, so it is a very long tradition.
How often are Holy Years?
Therefore there is a Holy Year every 6, 5, 6 and 11 years because those years are when the feast of St James will fall on a Sunday.
The next Holy Years are 2021, 2027, 2032, 2038, 2049, and many after that.
The Pope of the day may also declare special Holy Years in between Jacobean Holy Years. This is what happened in 2016 when Pope Francis has declared it the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
When does a Holy Year start?
Holy Years are started with the opening of the Holy Door at the Cathedral, located in the Quintana Square. This happens on the 31st of December in a ritual that will be attended by thousands. The archbishop of Santiago knocks the wall that covers the Holy Door with a silver hammer. The wall will then be fully knocked down and removed to allow pilgrims to enter.
Once the door is open it will be available for pilgrims for one year before being walled closed again.
How do I have my sins forgiven?
To receive the plenary indulgence pilgrims must walk through the Holy Door in Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral to the Apostle’s tomb and seek forgiveness for their sins. They must confess their sins (usually during a confession), pray for the Pope, attend Mass, and take communion.
The Holy Door
The Holy Door of the Santiago Cathedral (also known as the Door of Mercy or the Porta Santa) is fascinating in itself. Often unnoticed, it is around the back of the Cathedral and is accessed from the Plaza de la Quintana. When it is not open for a Holy Year, the Door is protected with metal bars.
The outer door surround is beautifully carved. An Image of Santiago with his disciples stands over the top of the door, and many smaller carved figures are to either side of the door. It is worth a visit in any year.
We will be publishing more stories and information about the 2021 Camino Holy Year throughout 2020 and 2021, so check back in regularly for more information.