How to get a Compostela after walking the Camino de Santiago

Every year, thousands of pilgrims from around the world embark on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route leading to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. 

For many, completing the journey is not only a physical challenge but also a deeply spiritual experience. The ultimate reward for completing the pilgrimage is receiving the completion certificate, the Compostela certificate, a revered symbol of accomplishment and devotion. 

In this article, we will guide you through the process of obtaining your Compostela and help you prepare for this life-changing journey.

Pilgrim family picture of their feet

Table of Contents

What is the Compostela

The Compostela is a certificate issued by the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela to pilgrims who have completed a significant portion of the Camino. 

It serves as an official acknowledgment of the pilgrim’s dedication and effort in completing the pilgrimage of St James.

History of the Compostela

The Compostela, a revered certificate given to pilgrims who complete the Camino de Santiago, has a rich history dating back centuries. 

It is a testament to the enduring tradition and significance of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and one that has been awarded for centuries.

Let’s delve into the fascinating history of this cherished document.

Origins and St James

The origins of the Compostela can be traced back to the 9th century when the tomb of Saint James the Apostle was discovered in the region of Galicia, Spain. 

Saint James, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, was believed to have preached the Gospel in the Iberian Peninsula before returning to Jerusalem, where he was martyred.

According to legend, the body of Saint James was carried by boat from Jerusalem to the coast of Galicia and buried in what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. 

The location of the tomb was lost for several centuries until its miraculous rediscovery in the early 9th century.

The Camino de Santiago and Pilgrimage Culture

As news of the discovery of Saint James’s tomb spread, pilgrims from all over Europe began to make their way to Santiago de Compostela, establishing what would later become known as the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James. 

The pilgrimage became one of the most significant religious journeys of the Middle Ages, rivaling even the pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem.

Throughout the medieval period, the Camino de Santiago flourished, attracting pilgrims from various walks of life, including nobility, clergy, and commoners. 

The pilgrimage became not only a religious undertaking but also a cultural and social phenomenon that transcended national boundaries.

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Compostela as a Symbol of Completion

As the number of pilgrims increased, there arose a need to identify and reward those who completed the journey. Thus, the Compostela certificate was established. 

Early Compostelas were handwritten Latin documents that acknowledged the pilgrim’s devotion and dedication to Saint James.

Over the centuries, the Compostela’s format and design evolved, incorporating decorative elements and images related to Saint James. 

Despite these changes, the certificate’s significance as a symbol of pilgrimage completion remained steadfast.

Preservation and Modernization

Throughout history, the Compostela faced challenges, including periods of decline and attempts at abolition. However, its enduring importance to the pilgrim’s experience and the spiritual significance of the Camino ensured its survival.

In recent times, the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela has modernized the Compostela issuance process, introducing the new QR code system for verification. 

This innovative approach has made obtaining the Compostela more efficient and environmentally friendly, without diminishing its traditional value.

Continuing Legacy

Today, the Camino de Santiago continues to captivate the hearts of pilgrims worldwide. 

The Compostela remains a tangible testament to the enduring legacy of the pilgrimage and the transformative power it holds over those who embark on this extraordinary journey. 

The history of the Compostela serves as a reminder of the countless pilgrims who have walked these ancient paths, seeking spiritual growth, introspection, and a profound connection to the past and the divine.

Preparing for your Pilgrimage

Choosing the right Camino route is crucial, as it will determine the distance, terrain, and overall experience of your journey. 

Popular routes like the Camino Francés, Camino Portuguese, Camino Ingles and Camino del Norte offer diverse landscapes and rich cultural experiences. 

Plan your journey carefully, considering what to pack and carry, as well as the different accommodation options available along the way.

The duration of the pilgrimage varies depending on the route, but most pilgrims complete it in about one to four weeks.

Walking the Camino de Santiago

Once you begin your pilgrimage, you will collect sellos (stamps) in your Camino Pilgrims passport (Credencial del Peregrino).  

Read all about the Credential and where to get your Camino Passport: How to Get a Camino Pilgrims Passport

These stamps are essential for Compostela certification, as they serve as proof of your journey. You can obtain sellos at churches, hostels, restaurants and other designated places along the route. 

Every pilgrim should aim to collect at least two sellos per day during the final 100 kilometers (or 200 kilometers for cyclists) to satisfy the Compostela requirements.

The Camino presents its challenges, both physical and mental. Prepare yourself for long days of walking or cycling, unpredictable weather, and the need to push through fatigue. 

Remember to listen to your body and take breaks when necessary. The Camino is not a race but a personal journey and each step holds significance.

Arriving in Santiago de Compostela

The final stretch of your Camino journey takes you through picturesque landscapes and traditional villages. 

When you finally reach the city, the iconic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela will come into view, signalling the end of your pilgrimage.

As you approach Santiago de Compostela, a mix of excitement and anticipation will fill the air and when you walk the final few steps down through the small tunnel into the Cathedral square you will be totally elated. Heres my arrival video after 28 days of walking the Camino Frances route.

Where is the Pilgrims Office in Santiago

The Pilgrim’s Office is located at the following address:

  • Rúa Carretas, 33, 15705, Santiago de Compostela. 

It’s only 5 minutes away from the central square in front of the Cathedral and easy to find.

Pilgrims office Opening times

The Pilgrim’s Office is open every day between 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM except Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Should your pilgrimage finish on either of these 2 days you can get your Compostela in the Cathedral.

Pilgrims arriving into Santiago de Compostela
Pilgrims arriving into Santiago de Compostela

What is the Compostela Process ?

In recent years, the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela has introduced a new QR code system to streamline the Compostela certification process. 

Now, pilgrims can link their digital pilgrim’s passport (Credencial del Peregrino) to the official Camino website and receive a unique QR code upon completing their pilgrimage. 

This digital innovation expedites the verification process, allowing for a more efficient and eco-friendly experience.

The basic process of getting your Compostela is as follows;

  • Register yourself with the Pilgrim office when you arrive in Santiago. ps this may be after you finish celebrating.
  • When you get to the Pilgrim office you will get allocated a number.
  • Check the QR code on your ticket which will tell you the approximate time you can attend to get your Compostela.
  • I recommend arriving at the Pilgrim office at least 30 mins before your appointment as there will still be a queue.
  • Present yourself at the counter for your Compostela. You will be asked some questions to ensure you are a Pilgrim.
  • Pick up your Compostela and celebrate again.
Instructions from the Pilgrim Office on how to pick up your Compostela
Instructions from the Pilgrim Office on how to pick up your Compostela

Can children be award a Compostela

The Compostela certificate is not limited to adults; children can also receive it if they meet the eligibility criteria. 

To obtain a Compostela, children must have completed at least the required distance on foot or by bicycle, just like adult pilgrims. 

Encourage children to collect sellos along the way and involve them in the spiritual and cultural aspects of the journey.

If you complete your Camino Pilgrimage with a baby, they are included on the Compostela you receive.

How much does the Compostela Cost ?

The Compostela certificate is provided free of charge but the Pilgrims passport office. 

The Distance Certificate

Apart from the Compostela, the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago can also provide a Distance Certificate to any Pilgrim that wants to buy one. They are €3. 

This document details the number of km you have walked, cycled or rode, wherever your pilgrimage began. 

It shows the date and point you started, the km covered, the date you arrived in Santiago and the route taken.

Pilgrim Distance Certificate

What does the Compostela look like

The Compostela certificate is a beautifully designed document, traditionally written in Latin. 

It includes decorative elements and features the image of the Apostle Saint James. It is a meaningful memento of your pilgrimage and a symbol of your dedication to the Camino.

You will also have the option to buy a tube to keep your Compostela safe. I would recommend this as you do not want to ruin it in your backpack in the last few days you have in Spain.

What to do when you get your Compostela

Once you have you Completion certificate, the Camino Compostela, most Pilgrims find a bar near the cathedral and celebrate.  We went with other Pilgrims  we had met along the way and celebrated over a few beers. 

As you sit and celebrate you see other Pilgrims you have met along the way. The atmosphere is really amazing.

Here’s a picture of our UK/Dutch pilgrim family celebrating at the O Bandulla do Lambon Cafe Bar just off the main cathedral square.

Pilgrims celebrating in Santiago de Compostela
Pilgrims celebrating in Santiago de Compostela


Completing the Camino de Santiago and receiving the Compostela certificate is a remarkable achievement. It certainly was for me.

It is a testament to your perseverance, devotion, and willingness to step out of your comfort zone. The Camino journey is not just about reaching a destination but also about the transformative power of the path itself. 

Remember that the memories, friendships and lessons learned along the way are the true treasures of the pilgrimage. 

May your Camino adventure inspire and enrich your life for years to come. 

If you are in the planning stages of the Camino and need to know how to get a Camino passport its really easy. 

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