French Way of St. James

Climb the Escalinata Maior and enter the historical area of Sarria: Neo-Gothic church of Santa Mariña (1885), church of San Salvador (13th century), Torre da Fortaleza (13th century), A Madalena Monastery (12th century), the old pilgrims’ hospital of San Antón (16th century) or the chapel of San Lázaro (15th-17th century).

Leave the village by Ponte da Áspera (rebuilt in the 18th century on a medieval bridge) and start to climb up to the Romanesque Church of Santiago de Barbadelo (12th century), declared a Site of Cultural Interest.

Iglesia Románica de Santiago de Barbadelo (12th century).

We encourage you to walk the 114 kilometres that separate you from Santiago and the Compostela or to do the Sarria – Portomarín stage of the French Way of 21.6 kilometres. Shall we walk?


The route of the Way of Saint James in the municipality of Sarria.

The “Strata publica peregrinorum” or “Corga Francesa”, runs through the municipality of Sarria for 19 km. (the variant of Samos that passes through Perros adds 2 km more).
It enters the Concello de Sarria through A Furela (Concello de Samos), continuing through Pintín and A Pedra de Calvor (where there is currently a pilgrims’ hostel of the public network), in this place joins the variant of Samos, where the stop before Calvor would be Perros; it continues to Aguiada and from there continues through San Mamede do Camiño, San Pedro do Camiño, O Pividal, Vigo de Sarria and O Campo do Rolo reaches Ponte Ribeira; to cross the town of Sarria along Rúa do Peregrino, Escaleira da Fonte or Escalinata Maior, Rúa Maior, Rúa da Mercede, where the former kilometre point 111 was located (where the former Prisión Preventiva, nowadays the Tourist Office, is located), until reaching the Mosteiro da Magdalena (Convento de la Merced).

From A Ponte da Áspera, via San Miguel, O Castro and As Paredes, it reaches Vilei, continuing via Mosteiro de Barbadelo, San Silvestre, Rente, Mercado da Serra, and via the real Muiño de Marzán, O Sistelo, A Olga, Novelle, Peruscallo, Cortiñas, Lavandeira, O Casal, A Brea and finally Morgade.

The Camino de Santiago was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, First European Cultural Itinerary by the European Parliament and received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.

All this highlights the importance of the cultural, religious, ideological and coexistence exchange generated by the pilgrimages and how every year more and more pilgrims of all languages, nationalities and cultures make this secular route on foot, by bicycle, on horseback or by other means, for a wide variety of reasons.

Most of these pilgrims choose Sarria, the place where the king Alfonso IX finished his pilgrimage, to begin theirs, as Sarria is 114 km from Santiago de Compostela, within the minimum distance necessary to obtain the Compostela; as well as being well communicated and being the town with the greatest number of services on the French Way and having a great infrastructure.

In the current boom in pilgrimages, the Sarrian don Elías Valiña Sampedro, “O Cura do Cebreiro”, inventor of the universal yellow arrow of the Camino, played a very important role.

The octocentenary town of Sarria has been a place of passage for pilgrims since the Middle Ages, its history is linked to the pilgrimages. As a result of this cultural and artistic flourishing, several monasteries were founded throughout the region, such as Santo Estevo de Calvor (785), Santa María de Corvelle (857) or San Mateo de Vilapedre (second half of the 10th century), San Martiño and Santiago de Barbadelo, San Paio de Piñeira, Santiago de Mortoláns, San Paio de Cesar, San Salvador de Barxa, San Salvador de Rosende, San Mamede de Pinza, San Pedro de Taíde…

The Monastery of Magdalena, founded at the beginning of the 13th century as a hospital and hostel for the rest and shelter of pilgrims, by two Italian monks of the Order of the Blessed Martyrs of Christ, deserves special mention.

There were other hospitals in Sarria: Santo Antón (16th century), now a courthouse, founded by Don Dinís de Castro, which served pilgrims returning from Santiago, and San Lázaro (for lepers), of which only a beautiful chapel remains, the Hospital Vello, on the site at number 18 of Rúa Maior, as well as those of A Aguiada, O Carballal, Santa Marta, Barbadelo, Morgade and Goián.

Sarria is also home to the hospitals of A Aguiada, O Carballal, Santa Marta, Barbadelo, Morgade and Goián.

The Jacobean presence of which the nine hospitals established in the area were proof, is currently active in the hostels of the town and rural areas.

Fotografía de Elías Valiña SampedroIn fact, don Elías Valiña Sampedro, is the best known Sarrian among the illustrious sons of the 20th century. Without his effective work, it would be impossible to understand the current success of the millenary pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

He was born in Mondín, in the parish of Santa María de Lier (02/02/1929). He studied at the Lugo Seminary and was ordained a priest. He holds a degree in Canon Law from the University of Comillas and a PhD from the University of Salamanca.

Known as “O cura do Cebreiro” (the priest of Cebreiro), for carrying out his apostolic work in several parishes in the Concello de Pedrafita, from 1967, and for his active participation in the restoration of the village and its significance as a Jacobean landmark, as he was the driving force behind the restoration of the temple, the hostelry of the village of O Cebreiro, which was in danger of extinction. Work began in 1962 and in 1971 an Ethnographic Museum was inaugurated in the restored pallozas.

His work “El Camino de Santiago. Estudio histórico-jurídico”, was awarded the “Antonio Nebrija” Prize (1967) and published in 1971 by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.

He was a corresponding member of the Academy of Doctors of Madrid (law section) and a member of the Commission of Cultural Heritage of the Church in Galicia and of the Council of Culture of the Provincial Council of Lugo.

He actively participated in the “Inventario histórico-artístico de Lugo y su provincia” (Madrid 1975-1983), collaborated with the Pontifical University of Salamanca in the elaboration of the first volume of the “Synodicon Hispanum” (Madrid 1981), dedicated to Galicia and was commissioned by the secretary of Tourism to write the “Guía del Peregrino. Camino de Santiago” (Madrid 1982). In 1971 he published in the Faro de Vigo the work “Caminos de Compostela”.

In 1986 he published the work “Catálogo de los archivos parroquiales de la diócesis de Lugo”. For which the CSIC awarded him the “José María Cuadrado” prize. Other publications: “Galicia y el actual resurgimiento del Camino de Santiago”.

Actively dedicated to the revitalisation of the Camino de Santiago, in 1984 he undertook the signposting of the different stages with the yellow arrow, which distinguishes it, from Valcarlos to Compostela, and within the Galician section he carried out cleaning work, fixing alternatives, etc.

He published several guides to the Camino de Santiago, promoted by tourist publishers, which stand out for being practical and well-founded. His intense Jacobean work led to his appointment as Commissioner of the Way of St. James at the “I Encuentro Jacobeo” (Santiago 1985). Promoter and inspirer of Associations of Friends of the Way of St. James, both in Spain and abroad, and of their federation, he published an interesting “Bulletin of the Way of St. James” and participated in conferences, informative cycles, congresses, etc. in a work of authentic Jacobean apostolate.

His death surprised him on 11/12/1989, when his work was bearing its first fruits and pilgrimages were once again becoming a mass event. He was buried in the Church of Santa María A Real do Cebreiro, in the atrium of the temple. There are many signs of homage and admiration left in heartfelt inscriptions dedicated to his figure, by associations, institutions and individuals from different countries, placed next to a memorial bust.

Honouring his memory there is a street named after him in the town, this street joins the historic route of the Camino and the road that connects O Cebreiro with Portomarín, just at the entrance of Sarria; it serves to remember and pay tribute to a unique character who devoted all his efforts to revive and enhance the pilgrimages to Compostela. In the Church of Santa Mariña is installed an inscription in his memory as “constructor do Camiño das modernas peregrinacións” dedicated by Curso de Historia Comarcal of the now defunct Centro de Estudios para Adultos.

In 2015 he was posthumously named Favourite Son of Sarria and his portrait was added to the Gallery of Illustrious Sarrians.

Source: Seminario de Estudos Sarriaos.