Since ancient times religious beliefs and spiritual movements have generated significant architectural and cultural heritage in Catalonia. This includes some of the pilgrimage routes that have connected towns by means of their multiple branches for centuries.
El Camino de Santiago
Two of the most popular pilgrim routes pass through Catalonia. El Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James) has two possible starting points: Port de la Selva has the symbolic value of departing on the seashore and also passes by the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, which was the most important pilgrimage site in the Iberian Peninsula after Santiago in the Middle Ages. The other route departs from Jonquera, on the border with France, and links to one of the main European routes. El Camino de Santiago offers two stretches that are suitable for everyone, with up to 17 accessible kilometres.
El Camino Ignaciano
The other pilgrimage route is El Camino Ignaciano (Ignatian Way), which commemorates the pilgrimage of Saint Ignatius of Loyola on his way to the Holy Land. It begins at the birthplace of St. Ignatius at the Sanctuary of Loyola (Guipúzcoa) and ends at the Cave of Manresa, where the saint had a profound, life-changing spiritual experience. The route passes through five Autonomous Communities, extending 650 kilometres divided into 27 stages, the last seven of which pass through Catalonia.
La Ruta Mariana
Something that El Camino de Santiago and El Camino Ignaciano have in common, is that some of their stages pass by the mountains of Montserrat, as does La Ruta Mariana (The Marian Route). This itinerary of cultural and religious interest links the Catalan Sanctuary of Montserrat to the Spanish sanctuaries of Pilar (Zaragoza) and Torreciudad (Huesca), the Andorran Sanctuary of Meritxell and the French Sanctuary of Lourdes. You can travel the route on foot, or by car, motorcycle or bus.
Today, people go on pilgrimages for reasons other than religious; all kinds of pilgrims travel these routes on foot or by bicycle to enjoy the natural environment and see a different side of day-to-day life around Catalonia.