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El CAMINO DE SANTIAGO "Hospitaleros Welcome"

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Published on May 27, 2007

Refuge, refugio, albergue (del peregrino), pilgrim hostel these are all terms for the pilgrim shelters along The Way of St James. What are they? Where are they? What are they like? Are they all huge, noisy, crammed dormitories with snoring, snuffling pilgrims? What are the beds like, and the showers? Do they give you meals?

"Welcome", you will get a sense of what the volunteer hospitalero service and the pilgrim albergues are all about.
This film directed by Jose Alvarez is the second documentary in the series about this popular Northern Spanish route.

Pilgrim shelters - albergues - are places for pilgrims (not tourists) to sleep overnight while on their pilgrimage. Found in almost every town and village, they follow in the thousand year tradition of providing shelter to pilgrims on their way to the tomb of Saint James in Compostela.

They are found in restored churches, halls, renovated barns, private homes and many other structures. In Hospital de San Nicolas, 10 people sleep on mattresses in the loft of a restored hermitage church. The monks wash the pilgrims' feet - following the tradition of Maundy Thursday when Christ washed the feet of his disciples - you have a pilgrim blessing and sing pilgrim songs at dinner by lamplight.

In Manjarin, a donativo albergue, 10 people sleep in a small stone barn on mattresses laid out on a wooden platform. There is no running water, toilet or electricity. Tomas Le Paz is a Knight Templar who conducts a Templarios ceremony every morning at 11am (when it is 12pm in Jersualem). He provides an evening meal -cooked on a gas stove - and a breakfast. He also provides tea or coffee to passing and visiting pilgrims throughout the day.

Some modern albergues are like university campus digs with all mod-cons including vending machines, cafeteria, bar and computer room for internet. Not much atmosphere and little camaraderie with other pilgrims. There are over 120 pilgrim albergues (refuges) on the Camino Frances.

Some are provided by the church, some by the local government or municipality; others are owned and run by volunteers from different Confraternities of St James around the world such as the 'donativo' Gaucelmo albergue in Rabanal which is owned and run by the CSJ - UK.

There are albergues that are owned by individuals or families who have devoted their lives to providing shelter to pilgrims, such as the refuge -Ave Fenix- at Villafranca del Bierzo which is run by Jesus Jato and his family for the last 50 years. Most of the church, municipal and confraternity owned albergues are donativo donation.
(Text by Amawalker)

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