The Original Way was used by the first devout pilgrims from the newly-formed kingdom of Asturias. It was, therefore, the very first of the pilgrimage routes along the Camino de Santiago, as its current name indicates. It stretches from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela which is 328 kilometres.
This might very well have been the route taken by King Alphonse II, the Chaste, from Oviedo, the capital of the kingdom of Asturias to the tomb of Saint James, during the first third of the 9th century. This monarch played a decisive role in confirming that the remains unearthed in Compostela belonged to the Apostle Saint James. King Alphonse II also sponsored the founding of the first basilica of the budding metropolis and collaborated in organising the early cult of Saint James. He also made donations and promoted the establishment of the first monastic community devoted to services of worship at the altar of Saint James. The city of Oviedo marked the main starting point of the Original Way. However, it was also followed by pilgrims arriving from other parts of Northern Spain and Europe.
It was probably a safe and most travelled route until the present-day French Way from Leon, the new capital of the kingdom, consolidated its position as the major route in the late 10th century. Nonetheless, the Oviedo route to Santiago remained a popular alternative. This was due particularly to the spiritual value of the magnificent collection of relics at the cathedral of San Salvador de Oviedo and basilica of Lugo with its permanent exhibition of the Holy Sacrament.
The many hospitals set up along the way bear witness to the importance of this route. Especially those in remote spots ensconced high up in the mountains. They served a fundamental purpose – attending to the pilgrim, who, in the region of A Fonsagrada, was forced to cross areas of breathtaking beauty yet which also represented an arduous challenge for most of the year, with snowstorms, strong winds and treacherous paths.
Thankfully today the roads are better paved and signposted which makes navigating this route very easy and most people tend to follow this Camino in Spring, Summer and Autumn months which means snow is never an issue. The rolling hills make for picturesque walking outdoors with breath-taking views from the top yet it is never mountainous so regular light walking shoes are appropriate.
Hotels along this route range from 4 star to welcoming traditional guesthouses.
Check out a Brief History of the Camino de Santiago here
Originally published on 27th June 2015