The Compostela or Compostelana is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completing the Way. To earn the Compostela one needs to walk the last 100km of Camino de Santiago (cyclists must cycle at least the last 200 km to Santiago).
For walkers, it is most practical to start in the small city of Sarria, as it has good bus and rail connections. Pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela who have walked the required distance (as indicated on their credential), are eligible for the Compostela from the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago. Note that within Galicia two stamps per day are necessary.
In medieval Catholicism, the Compostela counted as an act of indulgence. Pilgrims were entitled to a partial indulgence, or, if the Compostela was obtained in a Holy Year, a plenary indulgence.
The Credential or pilgrim passport is examined carefully for stamps and dates. If a key stamp is missing, or if the pilgrim does not claim a religious purpose for their pilgrimage, the Compostela may be refused. The Pilgrim Office of Santiago awards more than 100,000 Compostelas per year to pilgrims from over 100 countries.
The full text of the certificate is in Latin and reads:
” CAPITULUM hujus Almae Apostolicae et Metropolitanae Ecclesiae Compostellanae sigilli Altaris Beati Jacobi Apostoli custos, ut omnibus Fidelibus et Perigrinis ex toto terrarum Orbe, devotionis affectu vel voti cosa, ad limina Apostoli Nostri Hispaniarum Patroni ac Tutelaris SANCTI JACOBI convenientibus, authenticas visitationis litteras expediat, omnibus et singulis praesentes inspecturis, notum facit : (Latin version of name of recipient) Hoc sacratissimum Templum pietatis causa devote visitasse. In quorum fidem praesentes litteras, sigillo ejusdem Sanctae Ecclesiae munitas, ei confero. Datum Compostellae die (day) mensis (month) anno Dni (year) Canonicus Deputatus pro Peregrinis”