Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Don Elias Valiña Sampedro

In one of my photos there is a bust of a man, Don Elias Valiña Sampedro, who was the parish priest at O Cebreiro from 1959 until his death in 1989 who took it upon himself to restore the church and the ancient hospital (now the Hostal San Giraldo de Aurillac). During his studies at la Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca he wrote a thesis on the Camino’s history. He promoted this thesis at various universities across Europe and promoting the Camino de Santiago. Even more remarkable it what he did next. If you were wondering how the signs and markers that point the way on the Camino de Santiago came about then look no further than Don Elias Valiña Sampedro. This amazing man decided to undertake the Camino but found that many of the original paths had virtually disappeared, on his trip he decided to write a book and his Camino guide book was published in 1982. It was then in 1984, along with his nephews, that he started to mark the entire Camino with the big yellow arrows you see today with yellow paint he managed to commandeer from the Spanish department of transport. In 1985 he became a member of the Comisario del Camino de Santiago who were tasked with promoting the Camino and getting others involved and from this came the association known as Amigos del Camino de Santiago (Friends of the Camino). To give you an idea of just how important this man was you just have to look at the numbers who now undertake the Camino. In the early 70’s less than 10 Compostelanas were issued, in 1989 when Pope John Paul II visits Santiago over 5,700 Compostelanas were given out and it is estimated that in the holy year of 2010 over 300,000 pilgrims will have received one of these hard earned certificates.

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