During the first millennium there were three routes that were considered to be sacred. Each of these routes offered a series of blessings and indulgences to those who traveled the entire route. The first led to the tomb of Saint Peter in Rome; and these travelers were called Wanderers and took the cross as their symbol. The second route led to the Holy Sepulcher of Christ in Jerusalem and they were called Palmists and their symbol was the palm branch which was used to greet Jesus as he entered the city. The third road, which I walked led to the mortal remains of the apostle, San Tiago (Saint James) and this symbol was the scallop shell and we were known as Pilgrims.
Saint James was buried at a place on the Iberian peninsula where one night a shepherd saw a brilliant star above a field. The legend goes that not only did San Tiago but also the Virgin Mary went to this place shortly after the death of Christ, carrying the word of the evangelist and urging people to covert. The site came to be known as Compostela - the star field, and there a city was established that drew travelers from every part of the Christian world. These travelers were called pilgrims, and their symbol was the scallop shell.
During the fourteenth century, the Milky Way - another name for the third road was given as the pilgrims plotted their course using the galaxy. Each year more and more traveled the "Way." In 1123, the French priest, Aymeric Picaud walked to Compostela and this is the same route followed by pilgrims today and is the exact same road that Charlemagne, Saint Francis of Assisi and more recently was traveled by Pope John XXIII.
Much has been written about the road and many of the same villages stand along the road today, helping the pilgrims on the route to Santiago.