Walking in Spain ~ the Pilgrim Passport
The “Credencial del Peregrino”
The credencial is the primary document used to authenticate your pilgrimage on any of the many routes of the Camino de Santiago. Although the the Saint James Way was established by medieval Catholic believers, there is no religious requirement to qualify for a credencial; it is equally valid whether used in an act of faith, religious commitment, cultural curiosity, or purely athletic endeavor. The only real moral component is that it is for pilgrims, and not ordinary tourists looking for bargain lodgings.
Besides being a unique souvenir of your walk, it serves two main purposes:
First, it establishes your status as a “pilgrim”, an individual undertaking a journey to Santiago de Compostela along any of the classic routes. (Actually, there is no requirement about your actual route, although it would be somewhat problematic to simply wander your own way to Galicia, because many areas lack hospitality services). It’s required for staying at a pilgrim hostel (albuerge) or refuge (refugio), especially during the busy summer (although the hosts may not ask to see it). It may also entitle you to special prices or discounts at restaurants, hotels, or pensiones along the path of your walk.
The second purpose of the credencial is to document your pilgrimage, providing proof to the archbishop’s office near the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela that you actually made the journey. After climbing the stairs to the second floor office, an attendant will study the stamps and dates on your credencial, before adding one final stamp of completion, and awarding you one of two Compostelas, the official certficates of completion. There is one for religious pilgrims, and another for personal/cultural peregrinos.