A sign hangs from St. James Church in the heart of the Liberties. It proclaims: “The Camino begins here”.
Saint James’s Gate was a traditional starting point for medieval pilgrims commencing their pilgrimages from Dublin to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, pilgrims would have landed in the northern Spanish ports of A Coruña and Ferrol before traveling on horseback to Santiago. For those who traveled from Dublin, Christ Church Cathedral would have seen many medieval pilgrims before they set sail for Spain.
Christ Church Cathedral is Dublin’s oldest building, a leading visitor attraction and a place of pilgrimage for almost 1,000 years. Renowned for its beauty and architecture, it is home to the famous 12th Century crypt, one of the oldest and largest in Britain and Ireland. Located in the heart of Medieval Dublin, it was founded in 1030 by King Sitric, of the Dublin Norsemen and eventually led by the famous Archbishop and patron saint of Dublin, Laurence O’Toole.
Today, it houses the important Treasures of Christ Church which features manuscripts and ancient artifacts as well as a spectacular exhibition of original 16th Century costumes from the historical series ‘The Tudors’.
In early 2017, the Lord Mayor of A Coruña visited Dublin. He explained that the Santiago Cathedral authorities had confirmed that Compostelas would be issued to pilgrims who could prove that they had walked at least 25 km in their own country before starting to walk to Santiago from A Coruña. Camino Society Ireland embraced the idea and have developed what is known as the “Celtic Camino”. Christ Church Cathedral is linked to the Celtic Camino and is once again connected to the Camino de Santiago. A beautiful coastal route from Bray to St. James’s Church was developed and a stamp is now available for pilgrim passports in the Cathedral. On completion of this walk, a Celtic Camino Compostela is provided if you show your stamped Pilgrims Passport at the Camino Society Information Centre for verification.
The Dean of Christ Church, the Reverend Dermot Dunne, was very happy to learn of this news:
It is a good development that we are reconnecting with the old pilgrimage route in Dublin. That would have marked an ancient route, and St. James’s is right on that route. Where Trinity College is now is marsh land and the Port wasn’t too far away from Trinity College. A lot has been built up since then, so the city we have today is quite different to the city of the early ages. But one thing we know is that there are firm markers on the Way and Christ Church was one of those markers for those pilgrims on their journey. The Cathedral’s significance is very strong and very authentic because of it’s age and where it is.
The stamp is in its initial stages at present, but the Dean is delighted with its progress so far:
First of all, we are delighted we are considered a station on the Celtic Camino and we have our very own unique stamp which includes our ancient crest. We also have pilgrim passports so we are all set up.
So before you make your way to Santiago de Compostela and the Camino, we encourage you to do as the medieval pilgrim did and visit Christ Church Cathedral. And while you are there, be sure to stay a while and take in the atmosphere that makes this one of Dublin’s top visitor attractions.