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El Camino Primitivo (Original Way)

Asturias, Original Way, Cathedral of Oviedo. ©Dirección General de Patrimonio Cultural del Principado de Asturias

The Camino Primitivo (Original Way), added to the list of World heritage sites in 2015, is the original Camino de Santiago, the first of this network of pilgrimage routes to be known and documented. The first itinerary dates from the early 11th century, when King Alfonso II "the Chaste" (791-842) of Asturias set off from Oviedo, then the seat of his court, towards the “Campus Stellae” to visit the recently discovered tomb of the Apostle James. The route took shape making use of the old roads built by the Romans, along which pilgrims would travel to visit the relics of the saint, although there were risks, given that most of the Iberian Peninsula was occupied by the Moors.

Through the construction of the Cathedral of San Salvador, Alfonso II wanted the world to know about the wonders contained in the Holy Ark, relics from the passion and death of Christ, of the Virgin Mary, saints and martyrs. The first pilgrimage route was thus given a second holy place, and gave legitimacy to the capital of his realm, Oviedo.

Although Oviedo initially rivalled Santiago, this route was later seen as an alternative stage along the way. This itinerary was also used by pilgrims who came along the Camino Francés (French Way), taking the road to Oviedo from León in order to visit the relics in its cathedral: ‘Who has been to Santiago and not to the cathedral of San Salvador visits the servant and neglects the master’, was a saying used in the Middle Ages.