Xacobeo 2021 — A Holy Year for the Camino de Santiago

If you’ve ever considered a pilgrimage to the Camino, this may be your year (or two!).

Xacobeo 2021 (pronounced “shak-o-bay-o”) is an exciting year on the Camino de Santiago. 

Filled with festivities, special activities, and a plenary indulgence called a Jubilee, it’s an exciting time to visit the storied route. It’s all done to carry on a nearly 900-year-old tradition!

Called a Holy Year or Jacobean Year, a Xacobeo is celebrated only on years when the feast day of St. James (July 25th) falls on a Sunday. The last time this happened? 2010, the year the first iPad came out and the Lost series finale disappointed fans everywhere. The next one won’t be until 2027, making this year the perfect opportunity. 


Xacobeo? Jubilee? Here’s the story of this special celebration. 

The Camino de Santiago is named for St. James, one the twelve apostles of Jesus. Though it has many routes, they all end or pass through the shrine of St. James in the magnificent cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. 

When the cathedral’s last stone was laid in 116, Pope Calixtus established the Jacobean Year (Año Xacobeo in Spanish). Ever since, it’s been celebrated each year that the feast day of St. James lands on a Sunday. Because of leap years this happens on a cadence of 6, 5, 6, and 11 years. 

In these years, the Holy Door is opened in a special ceremony and kept open all year. Pilgrims enter through this special door and have an opportunity to earn their Jubilee, a plenary indulgence for the forgiveness of all past sins. 

This year is even more unique. Pope Francis announced that Xacobeo 2021 will extend through the end of 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This gives people time to travel safely and for less crowding along the Camino — especially at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. 


The Opening of the Holy Door

On December 31, 2020, a special ritual was held at the Cathedral to open the Holy Door and officially begin the Jacobean Year. 

It began with Bishop Julián Barrio knocking three times on the Holy Door with a silver hammer, done as a symbol of the long, sometimes difficult, journey along the Camino. The bishop then used a silver key to open the large bronze door, only used during a Xacobeo. The door will remain open through December 31, 2022, for pilgrims to enter the cathedral. 

Another special event happened that day as well — the rite of “Botafumeiro,” an extraordinary incense burner weighing 136 lbs and measuring almost five feet high. Taking seven or eight people to operate it by a large rope, it can reach 42 miles per hour and be lifted up to 213 feet in the air.


Earn Your Jubilee

Fun fact: a Jubilee can only be earned in five cities around the world — Santiago de Compostela, Rome, Jerusalem, Santo Toribio, and Caravaca de la Cruz. And even then, only at certain times. 

To earn yours during the Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela, you must do three things: 

  1. Visit the tomb of the Apostle in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela any day of the year.
  2. Say a prayer and pray for the Pope’s intentions.
  3. Confess and take communion in the two weeks before or after your visit to the Cathedral.


Join Verso Ministries for Xacobeo 2021!

The Camino is always worth a visit, even when it’s not the 120th Holy Year being celebrated. Verso hikes the last 100 km of the Camino Francés, a gorgeous route that winds through the small towns and countryside of Northern Spain that ends (this year) by walking through the Holy Door. 

As you walk, either alone or with fellow pilgrims, you’ll get the opportunity to do some reflection, some sharing, and some prayer. It’s a chance to discover God’s voice within the nature around you, and the hearts of those beside you. 

With three departures in 2021, and more coming in 2022, you have options when it comes to taking part in the Holy Year. If you’d like to know more about the Camino, head to our destination page. If you’re ready to register, choose which departure is right for you




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