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Access to the Holy Door in the Cathedral of Santiago during the Holy Year.

The Compostelan Holy Year

The Diocese of Santiago de Compostela received in 1122 the privilege of granting the Plenary Indulgence. Pope Callistus II bestowed this power to pardon all those pilgrims who visite the tomb of the apostle Saint James during the Holy Year.

The Holy Year or Jubilee is celebrated every time that 25 July, the Apostle’s Day, falls on Sunday. This event occurs every six, five, six and eleven years.

For 365 days, pilgrims who come to Santiago Cathedral can be forgiven for the sins they have committed. To do so, they must visit the temple, say a prayer, and receive the sacraments of penance and Communion.

As a symbol of the Compostela Jubilee, every 31st December before the beginning of the Holy period, the Cathedral opens its Holy Door. It is accessed through Quintana Square, and its opening is preceded by a ritual inspired by the Church of Rome. All pilgrims who cross the Holy Door during the Jubilee will attain forgiveness through humility and penance.

It is a tradition, for all those who come to the church, to attend the pilgrim’s mass. After the Eucharist, the parishioners embrace the seated sculpture of the apostle Saint James, located on the High Altar, and go down to the crypt to say a prayer in front of the tomb of the Apostle.

The origin of the Holy Year

The Holy Year is directly inspired by a Jewish tradition described in the Old Testament. That celebration was understood as a period of sanctification and regeneration of the believer. The sound of an “íobel”, an instrument made from the ram’s horns, herald the beginning of the period.

It was the origin that inspired the Church in the Middle Ages to grant indulgence to the causes of Christianity. From one-off events, they went on to establish stable periods of forgiveness, inspired by the Old Testament. This is how the Jubilee years came into being.

The first references to the Holy Year are recorded in a document of King John II of Castile. In it, the Jubilee Year of 1434 is mentioned. In relation to the pardon that was granted, these periods are also known as “yeas of forgiveness”.

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