Wave after wave of pilgrims soon appeared. All of Christendom wanted to visit the Apostle’s tomb, especially after the Turkish invasions that interrupted the pilgrimage to Jerusalem just when –it was the year 1078- the construction of Santiago’s Romanesque cathedral had begun. Thus began the golden age of the pilgrimage to Compostela, thereby consolidating the route that was most promoted and best equipped by kings and ecclesiastical authorities: the Way of St. James.
Thus, from early on, the pilgrimage to Santiago became the most outstanding and most profoundly experienced religious and cultural phenomenon of the Middle Ages, a fact that was recently recognised by the European Parliament, which designated the Way the First European Cultural Itinerary, and by UNESCO, which declared it a World Heritage route.
Although the first pilgrims in the 10th century travelled along what is now known as the Northern Way, along the Cantabrian coast, the expansion of the Reconquest soon enabled the kings Sancho the Great of Navarre and Alfonso VI of Leon to plan an itinerary through their recently liberated territory; the new route linked the capitals of the kingdoms of Navarre, Castile and Leon on the way to Santiago. It is known as the French Way and all of its branches are described in the Codex Calixtinus, a work attributed to the monk Aymeric Picaud and commissioned by Pope Callistus around the year 1139. Its fifth book may be considered the first European travel guide, since it indicates the routes followed by pilgrims in the 12th century through France in order to reach the Apostolic City, and describes the resources and impressions awaiting the daring travellers in each region.