The Volcanic Way of St. James emerged on the island of Gran Canaria in 1481 when Juan Frías, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Canarias between 1473 and 1485, asked his priests and parishioners to attend mass and celebrate the festival of the Apostle James at the Church of Santiago de los Caballeros in Gáldar (formerly Agaldar), court of the Guanarteme or kings of these lands. This was the start of a Jacobean tradition that would continue for the next 541 years.
Gáldar was joined by the church in Tunte, in the neighbouring council authority area of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, where the figure of Santiago El Chico is venerated alongside maritime legends that tell of the journey taken by the apostle, a martyr by then, from Jaffa in Palestine to the Padrón de la Reina Lupa in Galicia.
Over time, the route between the two temples became the Volcanic Way of St. James and it was given a papal bull on two occasions until, in 1994, Pope John Paul II issued this official charter definitively.
Today, the Volcanic Way of St. James crosses Gran Canaria from south to north between two seas: that of the golden beaches in the south and that of the northern cliffs on the island.
On Holy Jacobean Years, such as 2021 and 2022, the jubilee can be achieved at both temples – Tunte and Gáldar – with the same plenary indulgences as those who arrive to Santiago de Compostela. This is the only Way of St. James outside of the Iberian Peninsula that enjoys such a privilege.
Following a series of investigations, evidence has been discovered of routes on the islands of La Gomera, El Hierro, La Palma, Tenerife and Lanzarote. This evidence continues on Fuerteventura and La Graciosa.
The seventy kilometres that make up the Volcanic Way of St. James are divided into six sections according to the route designed by the Department for General Planning and Tourism Promotion of the Regional Government of the Canary Islands. Setting out from the sand dunes of Maspalomas, pilgrims journey through ravines and along tracks to pass through several towns (Arteara, Fataga, Tunte, Tejeda and Saucillo, among others) and natural areas before reaching Gáldar. They reach an altitude of 1,720 metres above sea level and cross eight municipalities, including a World Heritage site called the Risco Caído and Sacred Mountains and several Heritage of Cultural Interest (BIC) sites where they can admire and enjoy culture, nature, art and gastronomy.
Besides violent conflict as a strategy to conquer and subject the local populations, the arrival of explorers from the Iberian Peninsula to these islands brought new ways to address divinity by adding new forms of worship to those that already existed here. In addition to where food and water supplies were taken on board for his voyages, the archives from the first expedition by Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Christopher Columbus, also document where he prayed – either in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria or in La Gomera. The town of Tecina can be found on the latter island, with its Church of Santiago and Playa de Santiago a short distance away where a port connects this island to Tenerife. Tenerife is another island with deep Jacobean traditions and is home to the town of Santiago del Teide. The church in this town has been given a papal bull for 2022, meaning that those who complete a pilgrimage to this church, pass through its Holy Door and meet the requirements of rigour will receive the Gran Perdonanza (or Great Pardon), just like those who complete these steps in Gran Canaria or Santiago de Compostela. In Valverde, on El Hierro, they have an image of the Apostle whom Jesus called Boanerges, Son of Thunder. This is also the case on La Palma, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. These islands already had a Jacobean tradition that would latter jump to America and Africa, creating religious and cultural ties and surviving into modern day.
For the Jacobean Year 2021-2022 and through the Directorate-General for Planning and Tourism Promotion, the Tourism, Industry and Trade Council of the Regional Government of the Canary Islands organised the I Conference on the Volcanic Way of St. James in December 2020. National, regional and local experts subsequently gathered for debates at the I Symposium on the Volcanic Way of St. James one year later.
Due to the strong interest awoken by this initiative, it has been decided to organise the I International Conference on the Volcanic Way of St. James under a subtitle of “The Way of cultural tourism, spirituality and universal connection”. The event will take place on 16 and 17 June 2022 and this Directorate-General seeks to gather various specialists from a broad range of fields to discuss the pilgrimage phenomenon, hiking, ocean voyages and, through them, the history, sociology, anthropology and nature of an archipelago that can be coincidentally used to help understand the geostrategic and spiritual significance of the Canary Islands as a connecting link between three continents during the Modern Age and one with a global outlook in the era of global communication.
The speakers will discuss and debate the importance and transcendence of this tourism-cultural route from various perspectives, while other acts will be organised to involve civil society in this global project.
The planned activities will include music, local gastronomy, excursions to discover the Sacred Mountains and Risco Caído (a World Heritage site) and a section of the pilgrimage on foot for those wishing to experience a route that is different to those they may have already experienced in Europe or elsewhere around the world. This will conclude the scientific work undertaken at the Conference itself, for which the two days will be split into four thematic clusters:
The goal is to bring us closer to a new way of understanding the reality of the Canary Islands and to provide a vehicle for bringing the Way of St. James closer to humanity.