Compostelas, Credencials, and Certificates


In the beginning, Camino pilgrims brought back a scallop shell back from Santiago as proof of their pilgrimage. Once people started scalping (scalloping?) them, though, more authoritative means were required for proof. This began as letters of authentication which eventually evolved to certificates of completion of which there are now many.

To make things more confusing for us English types, many Camino documents are in Spanish and start with the letter “C”. Here’s a quick rundown.



The credencial is also known as the “Pilgrim’s Passport.” It identifies legitimate Camino walkers and is required to get into many albergues and receive benefits from other venues along the way. Walkers collect stamps from everywhere they stop and show it to officials in Santiago to receive their compostela (see below). It also makes an excellent souvenir of the journey.



The Compostela (which refers to the “starry field” where St. James’s relics were found) refers to the city of Santiago de Compostela and is a certificate of completion of the Camino de Santiago. It is issued for those pilgrims doing the Camino for religious or spiritual purposes. (A different document is available for those who walked for non-spiritual reasons – see below). Here is a n interesting history of the Compostela with several rare images.

Certificate of Welcome

For those who walk the Camino for non-spiritual reasons, a non-religious version of the Compostela is available called a Certificate of Welcome. It’s basically the same (as near as I can tell) but in Spanish instead of Latin.

Certificate of Distance

A recent addition to the Camino certificate family is the Certificate of Distance. This records information like one’s Camino starting point and total distance covered. I have a sneaking suspicion that this certificate was created so that “real” Camino walkers could retain bragging rights over those who walk only the bare minimum of 100km. This seems both petty and prideful and I will definitely be getting one.

Cotolaya, etc.

Other more obscure certificates are out there in case your wall has too much negative space. One is called the Cotolaya for those walking “under the protection of St. Francis of Assisi.” There are also additional certificates that do not begin with “C” (and so will not be listed here) for continuing one’s Camino to Finisterre, Muxia, or Padron.


I hope that clears up some of the “C” certificate confusion. Buen Camino!

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