The Camino de Santiago: Europe's Longest Pilgrimage Route

The Camino de Santiago: Europe's Longest Pilgrimage Route

Back in 2022, the artists and illustrators of Anderson Design Group produced a mini-series of posters depicting the most popular and longest backpacking and hiking trails in the United States, called American Hiking Trails. We at ADG love a good hike, and these trails inspire us to get out and see the beauty of American nature up close and in-person.

Before the last illustration in that mini-series was fully complete, our team was already zooming the camera lens out and looking for not just the best hiking trails in America, but the best hiking trails in the world. That's how we found the Camino de Santiago, Europe's longest and most popular pilgrimage route.

What is a Pilgrimage?

A pilgrimage is both the act of taking a sacred journey to a special place of religious or spiritual significance, and it is the trail network or travel route one uses to reach that place. Pilgrimages provide a powerful analogy for religious devotion because as one physically travels the route towards their destination, it is also believed one is taking a spiritual trip that will bring them closer to God.

A pilgrimage isn’t just a physical journey; it is also a deeply significant process, involving traveling to sacred centers where one engages in symbolic articulations of deep religious messages. 

What is The Camino de Santiago?

There are many pilgrimage routes on the planet, but only some are as famous or well-traveled as the Camino de Santiago.  

The Camino de Santiago is more than just one of the longest hiking trails in the world; it attracts people from all over the planet to hike it. The Camino (“path” in Spanish) is also an incredibly meaningful religious pilgrimage.

The paths on the Camino (it isn’t just one trail, more on that soon) have also been called the Way of St. James, as they are a network of pilgrimage paths that all lead to the tomb of the apostle James in Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. 

The Camino comprises several paths, many traveling across Spain and some beginning in France. The most frequently traveled route is the Camino Francés, which stretches 774 km (nearly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago in Spain. 

It’s best to use an analogy when describing the Camino because this is no ordinary hiking trail. Because the trail is a huge network of paths that all lead to one central point, it’s easily imagined as a network of creeks that lead into streams, which lead into rivers, which eventually all come together in one large canal that empties into a huge lake or ocean (Santiago, in this case). 

Another aspect that makes the Camino unique is its age. Unlike modern hiking trails that may be just a few decades old, the Camino has been used since the Middle Ages. Young and old, from backgrounds, ethnicities, and faiths across the planet, many travelers come to the Camino and have spiritual experiences along the way as they meet other pilgrims, attend masses in churches, monasteries, and cathedrals, and enjoy the hospitality and infrastructure provided along the trail.

Art of Camino de Santiago

To celebrate the natural beauty and spiritual significance of the Camino de Santiago, Anderson Design Group Creative Director and Founder Joel Anderson collaborated with Europe-based Steven Garcia, a superbly talented poster artist and illustrator who has worked on hundreds of original illustrations and designs with ADG. The pair worked together to create 12 original illustrations of the Camino, depicted and described below:

1). Saint Jean De Pont

This first illustration depicts Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a commune in southwestern France close to Ostabat in the Pyrenean foothills. The town is one of the most significant towns on the Camino de Santiago because it marks the start of the famous Camino Frances.

2). Vierge d’Orisson

This second poster in the series depicts La Vierge d'Orisson, a statue of the Virgin Mary looking out over the French route of the Camino.

3). Santa Maria Eunate

This third poster in the series depicts the Church of Saint Mary of Eunate, a 12th-century Catholic church of Romanesque construction located about 2 km southeast of Muruzábal, Navarre, Spain, on the Way of Saint James.

4). Monasterio Irache

This fourth poster in the series depicts Monasterio Irache. Santa María la Real de Irache is a former Benedictine monastery located in the town of Ayegui, Navarre, Spain.

5). Torres del Río

This fifth poster in the series depicts Torres del Río, a small village of fewer than 200 inhabitants. It is one of the tiny settlements that are full of history and closely linked to the pilgrimage to Compostela. It is also internationally known for its majestic Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

6). San Juan de Ortega

This sixth poster in the series depicts the old monastery of San Juan de Ortega, a Romanesque monument in Barrios de Colina in Burgos, Spain. It gets its name from a saint who collaborated closely with his friend and fellow saint, Domingo de la Calzada, in opening up routes that would help pilgrims on their pilgrimage through the region.

7). Burgos

This seventh poster in the series depicts Burgos, a provincial capital in Spain’s autonomous community of Castile and León, marked by its intact medieval architecture. Its most recognizable landmark is the French Gothic Cathedral of St. Mary, whose three main doorways are flanked by ornamented bell towers.

8). Pulchra Leonina

This eighth poster in the series depicts Santa María de León Cathedral, also called The House of Light or the Pulchra Leonina. This Catholic temple is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was the first Spanish monument to be designated as such in 1844.

9). Sahagún

This ninth poster in the series depicts Sahagún, a small town located in the province of León in northwest Spain. It is famous for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and its role in the Christian reconquest of the region. The town is known for its well-preserved Romanesque architecture, including the Church of San Tirso, the Monastery of San Benito, and the Palace of San Agustín.


10). Hospital de Orbigo

This tenth poster in the series depicts Hospital de Órbigo, a municipality located in the province of León, Castile and León, Spain. It is a stopping point along the Camino de Santiago and has a long, stone medieval bridge, which was recently restored.

11). Molinaseca

This eleventh poster in this series depicts Molinaseca, a village and municipality located in the region of El Bierzo. Molinaseca is one of the most popular and beautiful villages on the Camino de Santiago. Located in Bierzo (León), 6 kilometers from Ponferrada, pilgrims reach it after crossing a segment of the French Way that crosses part of Rabanal. Pilgrims arrive at Molinaseca by passing the Sanctuary of the Anguish and then crossing the Meruelo River by way of its great medieval bridge. 

12). Santiago Compostela

This twelfth poster in the series depicts Santiago de Compostela, the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. It’s known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. His remains are believed to lie within the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, consecrated in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town. For more than a thousand years, Christian pilgrims have traveled the trail across the north of Spain to peer up at the facade of this glorious cathedral.

Happy Trails!

So many trails, so little time! That's been our sentiment since creating art of American Hiking Trails and Camino de Santiago art. Thankfully, summer is here, and our hiking boots and backpacks are calling our names!

See you on the trail,

-Ren Brabenec
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer

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