the vatican in rome

The 2016 Holy Year of Mercy



Written by Gail Delahunt

2016 was an extra special year for Pilgrims walking the Camino and Catholics everywhere because Pope Francis declared that 2016 was the Holy Year of Mercy.

What are Holy Years?

During a Holy Year or Jubilee Year, people can ask for remission of sins and universal pardon. In essence, they can wipe away their sins with God’s mercy. This process is also called an indulgence.

There are Jacobean, or Camino Holy Years when the Feast of St James (25th July) falls on a Sunday. Regular Holy Years fall every 25 years. Alternatively, the Pope can call an Extraordinary Jubilee, such as the one in 2016.

A number of very special events and celebrations take place on the Camino de Santiago and all across the world during Holy Years. Many churches and cathedrals put on extra services to celebrate the forgiveness of sins and universal pardon. They will also open their Holy Doors (if they have one), which are part of the indulgence process.

What is a Holy Door?

the holy door on the cathedral in Santiago

A Holy Door is a special door found on some major churches and basilicas. The cathedral in Santiago has a Holy Door, as do many prominent churches in Rome. The doors are normally sealed by stone or mortar from the inside so that they cannot be opened.

During Jubilee years the seal will be ceremonially broken and the door opened. Pilgrims who enter through those doors can receive the indulgences attached with the Jubilee year celebrations.

Usually, there are only a small number of Holy Doors around the world, mostly in Rome. One of the special things that happened for the 2016 Holy Year is that other doors (one in every Roman Catholic diocese) were declared to be ‘Doors of Mercy’. Walking through these doors also granted the indulgence.

Opening the Holy Year of Mercy 2016

On 8th December 2015, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St Peter’s basilica.

This important symbolic act is part of the opening of the Holy Year. Christ identifies himself as “the door” and Pope John Paul II stated that the holy door “evokes the passage from sin to grace. It was opened to remind us to retain humility. He then declared 2016 to be the Holy Year of Mercy 2016.

In Rome, many doors to cathedrals, shrines, and churches were opened. They all had a special meaning at this sacred time.

On 13th of December, the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was opened for 2016 for all those travellers and pilgrims who come to the Apostle Saint James seeking his intercession.

Thousands of extra pilgrims chose to walk during the Holy Year

Walking the Camino de Santiago during a Holy year undoubtedly adds something extra special to an already truly unique experience. The energy is different, you’ll meet more people, and there are loads of things to do and see. You have a number of different paths to choose from that all lead to Santiago, where a Holy Door waits for you at the Cathedral. The French Way, The Portuguese Way, The Original Way, The English Way, and the Via Francigena Way, are all incredible journeys filled with extra energy during special religious times.

Via Francigena is another ancient pilgrimage route. It travels from the English cathedral city of Canterbury to Rome. People often walk the last 150 km from Acquapendente to the eternal city of Rome, and these numbers also peak during Holy Years.

the Vatican in Rome

The next Camino Holy Year is in 2021

2021 is expected to be an even bigger year for the Camino de Santiago. The statistics all show an increasing number of people walking the Camino each year, with additional surges on people using Jacobean Years.

When you arrive at La Plaza de Obradoiro in Santiago, you can walk through the Holy Door to the glorious Santiago de Compostela and seek your indulgence.

Planning for your Camino de Santiago Holy Year walk

During Camino Holy Years it is more important than ever to plan your Camino with local knowledge and book ahead.

Our friendly experts are here to answer any questions you might have about walking during a Holy Year. All of our bookings include guaranteed, high-quality accommodation and full support through your planning process.

You will be well-fed and well-rested, allowing you to concentrate on your journey. Meet fellow travellers from all around the world and enjoy the natural beauty of the routes.

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 27th March 2020

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