the Santiago Cathedral at sunset golden hour

The 2021 Camino Holy Year – What is it?



Written by Caitlin
the cathedral in santiago de compostela

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. Especially on the Camino Frances.

This is because 2021 is a Camino de Santiago Holy Year; a Jacobean Year, or Holy Year of Compostela. You may also hear this one 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?

A Holy Year on the Camino is a year when the feast of St James (25 July) falls on a Sunday. Because St James is the patron saint of the Camino and pilgrims, this is cause for celebration.

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.

This is called a plenary indulgence and was started by Pope Calixto II.

You will also experience plenty of extra events and a whole crowd of new people. Read more about walking during a Holy Year.

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.

There are also other types of Holy Years that are not related to the Camino de Santiago. Normal Jubilee Holy Years occur every 25 years. The Pope of the day may also declare special Holy Years in between Jacobean and other Holy Years. This is what happened in 2016 when Pope Francis has declared it the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

How often are Camino Holy Years?

Camino Holy Years happen when the 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.

pilgrims on the camino

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.

Which routes should I walk during the Holy Year?

That depends on what you are looking for in your Camino de Santiago walk or pilgrimage. If you want to join the energy of the crowds, pick one of the busy routes. The Camino Frances (French Way), Camino del Norte (Northern Way), and Camino Portuguese (Portuguese Way) are the most popular and will be even more alive with walkers in 2021. The Via de la Plata (Silver Way or Camino Mozárabe or Mozarabic Way), the Camino Ingles (English Way), and the Le Puy Camino are likely to be more quiet, with more time for thinking and meditating.

Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela

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.

Walk the Camino in 2021!


Join the flow of pilgrims walking the Camino De Santiago in the 2021 Holy Year.

You’ve never seen anything like it!

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Originally published on 11th March 2020, updated on

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