Nascente do Alviela - Caminho do Tejo
CAMINHOS OF FÁTIMA & SANTIAGO
One of the most important things when it comes to a pilgrimage is choosing which route to take and how to break it up. By following the advice below you will get an idea of how to adapt your Caminho to your capabilities.
CHOICE OF CAMINHO
Once the decision to go on a pilgrimage is made, you must choose the caminho. We suggest you start with the “Caminho Nascente”, which connects Tomar to Fátima. It is a short, but physically demanding caminho, and has been a “school” for many pilgrims. We recommend you divide it in two stages, spending the night in Fulgalvaz. This first caminho will teach you many useful things for future longer caminhos. It is normal to think that 29,5km is a short distance and that you can do more. However, because it is the first time, take it easy. You will pass by many places where it will be worthwhile to stop and enjoy the landscape, for example, the “Aqueduto de Pegões”, as shown in the photo bellow. Once you have walked the “Caminho Nascente”, let the other caminhos call you, based on your availability.
The story of your caminho is yet written. Each pilgrim chooses their caminho. Avoid turning your caminho into a race, “slow and steady wins the caminho”. Open your heart and be attentive to nature. You will discover many paths within your caminho.
"Be attentive, the caminho will teach you."
CHOICE OF STAGES
The same caminho, taken at different times of the year, alone or in the company of others, in different weather, arouses completely different feelings and sensations. Each caminho is a new caminho.
When dividing up the stages, it is essential that you know your capabilities. To determine your physical condition you should start walking without a backpack, then with your backpack full, until you get to a number of kilometres which you feel are appropriate to your condition. You should bear in mind that you will repeat that distance for a few days. To organise the stages, you must take into account the location of the hostels as well as alternative ones.
As a reference, we leave some examples of generic stages: Adult, in good physical shape, with full backpack, 25km to 35km a day. Adult, in weak physical condition with full backpack, 10km to 20km a day. Child, +10 years old, with full backpack, with training and adult supervision, 10km to 15km a day.
These stages are generic references, which may vary a lot or may not be applicable due to the weather conditions, terrain, “albergues”, physical condition and health of each pilgrim. You must evaluate and prepare each stage carefully. For example, an adult in good physical shape organizes a 25km stage, including a mountain crossing. As he gets to the mountain, a thunderstorm sets in. He is unable to move forward and proceed with the planned distance of 25km, due to the dangers of a thunderstorm. How to deal with thunderstorms (+info).
It is normal to feel the call to go on a pilgrimage away from home, because as the old saying goes, “No one is a prophet in his own country”… Over time, we learn that beauty lies in the way we look at things.
My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the hell she is."
Signaling of the Caminho
The arrows on the caminhos helps keep pilgrims on the right track. There are two types of arrows: those that mark direction, usually placed in crossroads and detours, and comfort arrows, that confirm to the pilgrim that he/she is on the right track, typically placed on long straight paths. Initially, pilgrims have to be focused when searching for the arrows. After a few kilometers, you start finding the arrows instinctively. As people say in pilgrim slang "you start smelling the arrows".
Signalling the Caminho through fields is the main mission of the Associação de Amigos dos Caminhos de Fátima. This work is done by experienced volunteers, that chart, signal and create safer alternatives for other pilgrims. Why do they do it? It is an act of reciprocity, helping others, as others have helped us. To open and maintain a Caminho is not the same thing as to leave home with a spray can to "stain" walls.
THE GAME OF ARROWS
To find the Caminho, start by identifying where to find the first arrow. Follow the indicated direction and search for the next arrow of the Caminho you intend to walk.
There are two types of arrows, the one which mark direction and the ones which give comfort. The arrows that indicate direction, as the name says, point the way to follow; the comfort arrows assure that the pilgrim keeps going on the right track, that there are no changes in direction.
If you stopped seeing arrows on your caminho, you should take a deep breath and return to the point where you saw the last arrow. Resume the search for the next arrow, paying extra attention. To avoid getting lost, do not make up caminhos.
"How do I know I am on the right path?
Look back with no regrets."
The mission of signposting the Caminhos is accomplished with the support of donations from the pilgrim community. The decision to signpost the Caminho with paint is both for format and function: it keeps costs low, maintainance is simple, no one steals the arrows, and it can be applied on several surfaces and directions. The white paint underneath helps to make it last and increases visibility of the arrows, creating a pattern that is easily recognisable by pilgrims.
The signposting must be simple to keep the caminho alive. A caminho with interrupted signposting is like a cut vein... Nothing good can happen.
In general, the local population respects the arrows and alert the Association when they notice that pilgrims get lost due to erased arrows. The arrows are usually painted every six years.
Unfortunately, the Portuguese Tourism board has tried to change the Caminhos of Fátima. More detailed information on the bottom of this page. (+info)
Trabalhos de sinalização dos Caminhos
The "Arqueiros" (Archers) are the volunteers who paint the arrows of the Caminhos of Fátima and Santiago. (+info)
"I have two doctors, the left leg and the right leg."
Caminho guides are pdf documents that contain detailed and summarised information. They can be accessed on a smartphone or printed. To download, choose the guide and fill in a form. The guides are free, but we invite all pilgrims to give a donation. By opting for the digital edition you will keep up to date when they are updated, with less environmental impact. As the Camino is a living thing, the guides are periodically updated.
THE CAMINHO ON A SMARTPHONE
Pilgrims don't really need smartphones, they need only to follow the arrows, but... even the most experienced pilgrims may veer off the caminho, unintentionally. Pilgrims get lost because of an exciting conversation, arrows that are covered (by bushes, cars, advertising, weather or Tourism Board markings), etc. Smartphones can be a useful and informative back-up to help pilgrims to get back on track on the caminho. You should prepare your stages in advance, as if you didn't have a smartphone. Your phone should be your backup plan. You should use it sparingly to find the path. You shouldn't use your smartphone as a gps whilst walking, as it will quickly run out of battery, which you may need in case of an emergency to make or receive a call. We recommend you to take a powerbank as a source of alternative energy.
Touch the square to expand and see in a large format as explained in the video above.
For pilgrims that are more advanced in navigating with gps, we provide you with the caminhos' tracks to download. Some information for pilgrims just starting in digital navigation - when entering buildings or places without a clear view to the sky, the gps loses signal, which may add kilometres to the total distance covered, due to its approximate positioning.
THE SANCTUARY OF FÁTIMA
It has been more than a century since Our Lady of Fátima began drawing in devoted pilgrims, after Our Lady made an apparition to a group of children in 1917 (little shepherds, or Pastorinhos, in Portuguese). A great flow of pilgrims, devotees of Our Lady, walking to the Cova da Iria (Grotto of Iria) marked the origin of this sanctuary.
At the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, you will find a large space, (the prayer compound), surrounded by white buildings for worship and other purposes.
With several entry points, the sanctuary can accommodate a large number of devotees. The Prayer Compound accommodates the Chapel of Apparitions, which is the heart of the Sanctuary. A huge porch shelters the Chapel of Apparitions. Seemingly misaligned with the Sanctuary, the porch and little chapel are aligned with the direction of the moon rise on the 13th of May. (light blue line in the photograph below)
In front of the humble Hermitage (the little Chapel, or Capelinha, in Portuguese), is a sculpted Our Lady of Fátima, in a bulletproof pedestal. According to reports, in this spot, Our Lady of Fátima appeared to the Pastorinhos, on top of a holly oak. (+info). On the right side of the pedestal there is a small crack, where pilgrims can leave messages to Our Lady. Your message should be handed to one of the people in charge of the altar. By August 2019, 7.3 million messages had been sent. (+info)
The Chapel of Apparitions never closes. It welcomes pilgrims at any time, in any weather, on foot or in wheelchairs. Animals are not allowed, even as pilgrims’ companions (except for guide dogs for the blind). Cyclists must dismount their bicycle when entering the Prayer Area.
This monumental marian Sancturary is made up of the following worship locations: Chapel of Apparitions (original 1919), Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima (1928), Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity (2007), Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (2007), Chapels of Reconciliation (2007), Chapel of the Death of Jesus (2007), Chapel of the Ressurrection of Jesus (2007) e the Prayer Area. (+info). These locations are open for participation in Masses, prayers and confession (in several languages). We recommend participating in the Prayer of the Rosary which happens daily at 9.30pm in the little Chapel of Apparitions, followed by the candlelight procession through the Prayer Area. Check timetables and information.
Because it is a marian Sanctuary, there is a special devotion to the prayer of the Rosary. The message of Fátima (+info) proposes to the faithful that through prayer (specially the Rosary), sacrifice/offering and penance may lead to the conversion of Humanity and to Peace.
In the Prayer Area, there is a long white walkway, that goes down in direction to the little Chapel of the Apparitions. This is the way used by pilgrims who want to fulfill their promises, on their knees or crawling. You mustn’t disturbs these pilgrims. It is not well-regarded to take photographs or selfies in this location.
The Sanctuary of Fátima is located in the center of Portugal, in the district of Santarém, in the municipality of Ourém, parish of Fátima in the Cova da Iria (Grotto of Iria). The Sanctuary of Fátima received 9.4 million visits, in 2017, from almost all over the world.
Behind the monumental and esthetic sobriety, that characterizes this Sanctuary, there is a great thoughtfulness in the architecture, sculpture, painting, songs, musical instruments, acoustics, illumination and curatorship of the exhibitions.
We recommend a prolonged and thorough visit of the Sanctuary, in order to get to know it deeply. If you have time available, walk the "Via Sacra" to the Valinhos, starting from the "Rotunda dos Pastorinhos".
You may have your credential stamped in three locations: the Rectory, and the Information Office (until 6pm), and at the House of S. Bento de Labre, depending on the good will of the security guards, it is possible to get a stamp after 6pm.
As you approach the Sanctuary on pilgrimage, we recommend that you keep an open spirit without judgment. You will encounter many expressions of faith from: pilgrims, devotees, tourists, groups, curious people, and visitors of other faiths...
There is great interest in the Chapel of the Apparitions. When those responsible for security are distracted, the local dogs and cats also like to come during the night and rest at the feet of "Our Lady".
On the days close to the celebrations of the Apparitions of Our Lady (the 13th of May, 13th of June, 13th of July, 19th of August, 13th of September, and the 13th of October), a pilgrim hospital is created (Lava pés), prepared to care for your feet or other medical needs. We recommend that you visit this area, with or without the need for medical treatment. It is an extraordinary example of how faith and dedication of medical professionals, alongside with the kindness of the Servites, can make small miracles in the body and soul of pilgrims.
Choosing to arrive at Fátima on dates close to those days: 13th of May, 13th of June, 13th of July, 19th of August, 13th of September, and 13th of October, should be a willful decision. These are very special dates regarding celebrations.
For those pilgrims that arrive at Fátima through the fields, participating in celebrations with thousands of pilgrims can be an overwhelmig experience.
These periods make pilgrims’ life complicated in terms of accommodation, meals and tranquility.
The Sanctuary welcomes pilgrims at the Casa S. Bento de Labre. There is still some work to be done on the part of the staff of the Sanctuary regarding the differentiated welcoming between foreign and Portuguese pilgrims. For more detailed information, we recommend visiting the website of the Sanctuary of Fátima: www.fatima.pt.
- The train station of Fatima (Chão de Maças) is located 25km from the Sanctuary.
- The ticket office for busses can be closed, at the end of the day, even though the busses are still running. We recommend that you purchase your tickets in advance.
- Bicycles can be transported in the luggage compartment of the busses if they are disassembled and wrapped in plastic so as not to damage the other luggage. Plastic film can be purchased in the supermarket "Pingo Doce" located at the side of the bus station.
We believe that it can be very enriching to hear other perspectives on the same subject, even when they question the fundamentals on which the whole of this Sanctuary is based: Program of "Cadena SER", Spanish radio, (Cualquier tiempo pasado fue anterior) Nieves Concostrina.
THE SANCTUARY OF SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
According to the legend, the body of the Apostle James the Great was brought by Athanasius and Theodore to the Iberian Peninsula from Jerusalem by sea, in a stone boat. They went up the Ulla river to the town of Padrón, where they entered the Sar river until Iria Flavia. From there, they continued the traverse by land and the body of the Apostle ended up being buried 20km northeast from Padrón, in a field already in Galicia. In the year of 814 AD, the tomb was rediscovered by the hermit Pelagius, who claimed to have seen some strange lights, in the night sky, which marked the spot, later known as "Campus Stellae" (Field of Stars), Compostela.
The Bishop Theodemir of Iria acknowledged the miracle and informed King Afonso II of Asturias and Galicia, who proceeded with the construction works of the first chapel on site. Afterwards, a church was built. In the year of 899 AD, King Afonso III of Leon ordered the construction of a new church, Pre-Romanesque style, which fostered the arrival of even more pilgrims, turning this sanctuary into one of the main places of pilgrimage at that time.
In 997 AC, the church was reduced to ashes, due to the Cordoba Caliphate. After the retake of the Iberian Peninsula by the Christian, in the year of 1075, the construction of what would be the foundations of the existing Cathedral began. It started in Romanesque style and grew and evolved into other styles, according to the eras, until reaching the present time (2020). This monumental religious compound is currently going through a major maintenance and complete restoration work.
In the Middle Ages, the pilgrims that reached Santiago de Compostela obtained the "Compostela", an Indulgence that reduced the time spent in the purgatory by half. In the Jubilee years, when the 25th July matches with a Sunday, the full Indulgences are given to the pilgrims, this means they "avoid" going through purgatory. In Jubilee years (Xacobean), the Holy Door is open to pilgrims.
The Apostle Tiago Mayor (James the Great) turned into Apostle Santiago (Saint James) through the agglutination of "San" (Saint in Spanish) and the name Tiago. He is also known by other names: James, son of Zebedee; Santiago, son of Thunder (Boanerges); Saint James, the Greater; Iacobus; Sanctus Iacopus; Saint James, the Moor-slayer; the Fisherman; Santi Yaguo; Santi Yagüe and Santiaguiño.
In order to enjoy the arrival to Santiago as much as you can, try to eat and go to the toilet in the outskirts of the city. To finish the pilgrimage hungry or in need of a bathroom, near the Cathedral, will pull you away from the peaceful arrival experience. The prices are high in that area.
When arriving in the city of Santiago, the arrows will take you to Plaza del Obradoiro. In the center of the square, there is a shell engraved on the ground. It is there where the Caminhos end: the Francês, Português, Inglês, Primitivo and do Norte; and start the Caminhos to Fisterra and Muxia... In front of you, you'll find Cathedral of Santiago. We recommend looking for a place where you can be comfortable and peacefully in comtemplation. If your arrival is at the end of a summer day with a clear sky, you'll see the transformation of the façade by the golden light of the sunset ("Obra de Ouro" in Portuguese,Work of Gold)
Arriving to Santiago, with your pilgrim passport stamped correctly (2 stamps per day and a minimum of 100km covered), you may request your "Compostela". This document certifies your pilgrimage. Go to the Pilgrim Office early, in order to get the "Compostela". You must take a ticket with a number. And through the QR code in the ticket, you know the approximate time until your turn.
You may enjoy a breakfast of Kings, free for pilgrims. The Parador dos Reis Católicos (Plaza del Obradoiro) offers breakfast to the first 10 pilgrims who show their "Compostela".
Save some time to visit the monumental complex of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. You should take your pilgrim passport and respective "Compostela", so you can buy tickets at pilgrim's price.
Start by attending Pilgrim's Mass, with the thurible (Botafumeiro) which, in the Middle Ages, served to lessen the bad odors of the pilgrims who attended Mass. After the religious celebration, visit the Cathedral rooftops with a detailed explanation on the bells and the "carraca", the place where the pilgrims' clothes were burnt, the organization of the Sanctuary and the several stages of its construction. Coming back in to the Cathedral, visit the Portico of Glory, where many generations of pilgrims left engraved the shape of their hands in a stone column, and finally go down to the Apostle Saint James' tomb. Going out you may hug the Saint's image. You still have 17 chapels left to visit
inside the Cathedral. If you wish for a journey through time inside the Cathedral, we recommend a tour to the Church of Santa Maria da Corticela.
Visit the Museum and Gelmirez Palace to deepen your knowledge of this religious Santiago's complex. You'll come to see the Cathedral in another way.
There is a great offer of places for pilgrims' accommodation, but there are two emblematic spots: the Seminario Mayor, beside the Cathedral, which currently works as a hotel, but has some individual spaces where pilgrims are accommodated at a reasonable price, and Seminario Menor, further away from the Cathedral, with great capacity to accommodate pilgrims at unmatchable prices. Despite the large dimensions, this cold and depleted building gains a special charisma for being the meeting point of many pilgrims.
Gastronomically, Galicia and Santiago are a journey through seafood, dairy and traditional food: Padron peppers, Tetilla cheese, tortilla, galician empanadas, Ribeiro and Alvarinho wines and Tarta de Santiago. Inside the gastronomic pilgrimage in Santiago, there is an uncountable supply of places to eat. We highlight two venues: the tavern “O Gato Negro”, a hidden place, dimly lit, without ventilation, always full of people. The Galicia traditional food, snacks and beverages are worth the effort and tightness. We recommend you to arrive to the tavern at 12 p.m. that it is not lunch time yet in Spain, in order to find a seat. The second venue is "Casa Manolo", where the majority of pilgrims ends up, thus becoming a meeting place.
The city of Santiago de Compostela is a city normally full of turists, pilgrims, students and residents. Therefore, the transition to the urbanity can be a complicated experience for a pilgrim.
For more detailed information, we recommend you to pay a visit to the Sanctuary of Santiago de Compostela website: http://catedraldesantiago.es
We believe it can be very enriching to listen to other perspectives about the same subject, even when questioning the foundations on which the whole of this Sanctuary is based: "Cadena SER programme, Spanish radio (Cualquier tiempo pasado fue anterior) Nieves Concostrina."
“Until you get lost in this arrow maze, you will hardly understand the texts reported below. Time and mistaken pilgrims will spread the word about these traps.”
First episode of RTP's programme, Sexta às 9 (Friday at 9, in English), about the Caminhos of Fátima and the problems created to the pilgrim community by this doubtful iniciatives.
Second episode of RTP's programme, Sexta às 9, about the Caminhos of Fátima.
The political leaders of this project are confronted with the facts.
From 2018 onwards, Turismo de Portugal (Portugal Tourism Office) and its partners started erasing arrows and changing the Caminhos marked for more than two decades, destroying this community patrimony and creating confusion to pilgrims.
According to the availability of EU funds and to the interests of local politicians, Turismo de Portugal decided to divert the Caminhos as create confusion between pilgrims, when it could have used those same resources to consolidate and benefit what was already done. The Association of the Friends of the Caminhos of Fátima (Associação de Amigos dos Caminhos de Fátima) tried, by all means, to collaborate with Turismo de Portugal, without any positive outcome.
A route created for "Tourists" to wander around through the region, in dangerous paths (examples of which are the stretches since leaving Coimbra to arriving in Condeixa). This route that starts in Coimbra and ends in Fátima, comes in and out of the Caminhos of Fátima and of Santiago 12 times, turning it into a true labyrinth (+info), a course which adds 15,2km more.
The name "Rota Carmelita" (Carmelite Route, in English), of sanctified appearance, is the sum of inventions created to appeal to "Tourigrims" (wordplay with the words Tourist and Pilgrim). The Carmelite Sisters of Coimbra live in enclosure, they have never walked to Fatima through this route for tourists. Time will expose the neglect of Turismo de Portugal, which spent millions of euros destroying a patrimony created and used by the pilgrim community for more than two decades in a mission executed without public costs by volunteer groups. Above, there are two episodes of the programme "Sexta às 9", about the Rota Carmelita.
CAMINHO DO CENTENÁRIO
Very dangerous route, through national road, which leaves Vila Nova de Gaia towards Fátima. After the misfortune that are the pilgrims killed in accidents, to whom may interest marking a way through theses unsafe, noisy and polluted paths? Who will be responsible for the pilgrims sent to the national roads? How can Turismo de Portugal and the Association of the Caminhos of Fátima (Associação dos Caminhos de Fátima*) want to sell this obsolete and unsafe image of Portugal? To the pilgrims who come from the North (Santiago) through the fields, we ask reinforced attention when you get to Vila Nova de Gaia, to avoid entering this route.
*The Associação dos Caminhos de Fátima is the association created in 2016 by the municipalities for the project of Caminho do Centenário (Centenary Caminho). Do not confuse it with Associação de Amigos dos Caminhos de Fátima.
The way people treat their culture, tells us more about the people than the culture.
The logo of Caminho of Fátima (below to the left) is part of a pilgrim culture for 22 years (1998). It guided thousands of pilgrims from all over the world towards Fátima.
This logo has become a cultural heritage of the pilgrim community. These graphics were created by Architect Ribeiro Teles and Helena Vaz da Silva, from CNC (National Centre of Culture, in English), as part of the masterful project of Caminho do Tejo (Lisbon-Fátima). Without mercantilistic pretensions, this image reflects a Caminho open to all, regardless of their religious beliefs.
In 2017, Turismo de Portugal and CNC started erasing the Caminhos, the logo created in 1998 and replacing it with a new one. According to these entities, "it is a more appealing product". The new logo lost its characteristics that identified the Caminhos of Fátima as a Caminho open to all. It got a crucifix, which seems to be above some cemetery grave. They did a graphic wordplay merging the "I" and the "M" (easily read as FAT MA, instead of FÁTIMA), which makes foreigners wonder who is the fat mother (fat ma) and confuses older pilgrims, not used to these modern graphic nonsense.
WHAT CAN THE "ASSOCIAÇÃO DE AMIGOS DOS CAMINHOS DE FÁTIMA" DO?
Continue its mission, signalizing the Caminhos and helping pilgrims, because it believes that these will keep walking the Caminhos of Fátima and Santiago, as they have done for centuries, without needing Turismo de Portugal. Despite everything, we are completely against the destruction of the signalization of Turismo de Portugal. We believe that informing pilgrims is the best way to clarify who wants to walk the Caminho.
To the pilgrim community, we ask that you walk the Caminho and report the confusion created by these entities. We suggest that you send an e-mail telling your experience to Turismo de Portugal firstname.lastname@example.org and to the President of the Republic email@example.com with a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.