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St James Trail

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The most common pilgrimage trail in Europe leads to the grave of one of the twelve apostles. It is over 3000km-long and leads from the east to the west of Europe. It begins in Estonia, by the Baltic Sea and lads through Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, France and ends in the north-west of Spain, 35km from the Atlantic coast.

The history of the James’ pilgrimage movement

Pilgrimage movement via this route began in the Middle Ages. The numerous pilgrims’ destination was Santiago de Compostela – a city in Galicia, which is the third most attended by Christians place, after Rome and Jerusalem. This is because the remains of St James the Greater rest here. He was the first of the apostles to become a martyr. His tomb was discovered in the 9th century. This resulted in a quick development of the cult of this saint. From the 11th century – after the beginning of the construction of the cathedral in which St James’ tomb is located – the pilgrimage movement became more intense and it has remained so up until now. Even over 100,000 pilgrims annually take place in the pilgrimage. Nowadays, the pilgrimage is the symbol of the united Europe and of its pervading cultures.

The Olsztyn part of the Polish Way

Just as in all the countries along the route, throughout the years, there developed several pilgrim routes in Poland. After the EU accession, on European Council initiative, these routes began to be renovated and promoted. The longest and the most important of them is the 500km-long Camino Polaco. It leads from the Lithuanian border up to the German one. One of the most important places along the route is Olsztyn., via Olecko and Kętrzyn. From the capital of Warmia and Mazury onwards, the route is precisely marked.

The first part of the Polish Way, between Olsztyn and Toruń, was opened in 2006. The oldest temple in Olsztyn – St. James the Apostle Co-cathedral Basilica – is the starting point and St James Church in Toruń is the final point. This stage of the rout is 240km-long. One can cover its distance within 10 days via Gietrzwał, Ostróda, Iława, Nowe Miasto Lubawskie and Brodnica. Past Toruń, Camino Polaco leads through Mogilno, Ostrów Lednicki, Gniezno, Poznań, Murowana Goślina, Sulęcin and Słubice.

Through Olsztyn with St James

Along the route from the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, the marking of the route remains similar. Characteristic yellow arrows constitute route marks and St James crosses are placed on important objects. The route can be recognised thanks to a symbolic shell with which St James is pictured. All these elements are visible in Olsztyn, for St James is not only the patron saint of the church, but of the whole city.

The image of the apostle is presented on Olsztyn coat of arms, on the flag and on numerous decorative elements of the buildings around the city. The stain’s monument was placed on the Fish Market (Targ Rybny), the bridge over Łyna bears his name, as well as one of the urban parks. To honour the patron saint about his name’s day, there are held St James’ Days – the city’s fest.

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