El Camino de Santiago - The Way of Saint James 

In a nutshell:

Saint James was one of three disciples who stood apart from the rest in relation to their Master, Jesus; the three were chosen among 12 apostles to be present at the Transfiguration: James, John and Peter. Peter became Bishop of Rome, John had a revelation on Patmos and James went to Spain.

Saint James is Santiago in Spanish. Saint James went to Spain to preach and after little success returned to Jerusalem only to be beheaded by Harod Agrippa in 44 AD. His disciples took his body and sailed to Galicia... there are several versions of how James' body came to be buried in Iria Flavia and later transported to Compostella in fact there are versions that speak of doubt that the bones were Saint James'... in any case some did believe. The Middle Ages were a time when Religious relics were thought to possess great power, instruments to connect directly with God, thus began the first pilgrimages to Spain, el Camino de Santiago.

History tells of wars and settlements along the way; roads and villages rose to accommodate the pilgrims. It is said that during the 12th century there were a half million "Peregrinos" walking the Camino at any given time. The Camino begins outside the pilgrim's door and ends upon their return, while the journey could take several years, many perished along the way due to heat, cold, bandits, illness, dogs... yet over the centuries the pilgrims continued to flock to Santiago; then numbers declined after the discovery of the New World. 

The Camino has seen an increase in pilgrims over recent decades; the reasons people choose to walk the Camino vary; not everyone is pulled by religion. Why did I walk el Camino de Santiago? There is no other way to explain it; I was called....

Note: the cockle shell is the symbol of the Santiago Pilgrim; the origin of this legend varies. One story tells of Saint James once rescuing a knight who had fallen into the sea and when he emerged he was covered in scallops; another version has it that as the remains of Saint James were being transported from Jerusalem to Spain the horse fell into the sea and emerged with scallops. Wearing the symbol, pilgrims who presented themselves at churches, castles and households were provided with food and shelter. To this day shells are sold along the way and in many variations.