Xacobeo, the holy year

Xacobeo, also known als ‘holy year’ is the name for a special year in Santiago de Compostela and the Camino de Santiago. This jubilee year isn’t celebrated every year. It takes place once in 5, 6 or 11 years. And those special years don’t just pass by. When there’s a Xacobeo it’s busier then ever on the camino and you’ll find big festivities on the route and especially in town, culminating on July 25th, the National day of Galicia and day of Saint James.

The rule to decide if a year is called Xacebeo is simple. It’s a jubilee year when July 25th takes place on a Sunday. This date isn’t chosen by accident. It’s the holy day of the Apostle Saint James and also the National Day of Galicia. It happens once in 5, 6 or 11 years that this date falls on a Sunday.

History and naming

The tradition of the Holy years date back to 1122. That year the last stone of Santiago’s (original) cathedral was placed. An important priest deciced in that year that Santiago and the Apostle James deserved a special feast. It was decided this feast takes place every year the Holy day of the Apostle falls on a Sunday. And like this it happened. The tradition survived the middle ages and is still celebrated.

Xacobeo is the most used name for the special years and. The spelling with an X comes from the Galician language. In Spanish it’s called Jacobeo. The Xacobeo year is often also called Jacobean Year, Holy Year or Jubilee Year.

What makes a Xacobeo year special?

A Xacobeo year is also called a Holy year. One of the special things in this year is that the Puerta Santa (Holy door) of the cathedral will remain open for pilgrims. When the Holy year ends the door will be closed again.

What you especially will notice in a Xacobeo year are the many festivities in Santiago and on the camino. In a Xacobeo year the camino has special attraction to pilgrims and there are many more pilgrims on the road then in normal years.

The last Xacobeo was in 2010. That’s 11 years ago, the longest interval between two Holy years. This means that this year, 2021, is a Xacobeo year as well!

Xacobeo 2021

In 2021 the 25th of July falls on a Sunday. That makes this year an año Xacobeo! Xacobeo 2021 is extra special. Due to the corona pandemic the Pope has decided that this Holy year will last for two years. So 2022 is also a Xacobeo year!
This happened just once before in history. During the Spanish civil was in 1937 the holy year was also prolongated.

When is the next Xacobeo?

The rhythm of the Xacobeo years is 6-5-6-11 years. The upcoming Holy years are:

  • 2021
  • 2027
  • 2032
  • 2038

In honour of the Xacobeo year the Spanish cycle race La Vuelta a España finishes in Santiago de Compostela.

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