Sarria is the most common starting point for the vast number of pilgrims who walk to Santiago de Compostela each year. This is because it is the shortest distance to Santiago de Compostela that qualifies a person for the certificate, the Compostela, is 100 kilometers. This is the distance from Sarria to Saint James’s tomb. In times past, and for today’s devout, this certificate is as good as an entry ticket to heaven.
For pilgrims who begin their walk farther away, arriving to the sudden bottleneck in Sarria can be pretty overhwhelming. But this town has been housing pilgrims for a long time and has its act together. (Unlike many other places, they anticipate the swell.)
Relax and know somehow somewhere you too will find a place to sleep and good food to eat. While here, also consider just how ancient this place is.
Archaeologists identified Sarria’s earliest human presence through surrounding Celtic castro settlements and dolmens, Celtic Iron Age and earlier, Bronze Age and Neolithic.
Romans built their penetrating roads into the region to control the area’s people and their natural resources. One of these roads passed near Sarria and is still a part of the Camino (including the Roman bridge, Ponte Aspera, that crosses the Celeiro River after leaving Sarria on the Camino heading west). Excavations uncovered two Roman villas in the town’s vicinity.
Later, medieval Sarria thrived under the patronage of Alfonso IX, the king of León and Galicia, in the early 13th century. Here, the most charming church is the Iglesia de San Salvador and it delivers another small detail with a big impact.
Its tympanum depicts Christ in an appealing, primitive, or early Romanesque style, standing and greeting the passerby or visitor. On each side of him are primitive and elegant trees, each with three tiers. This is one way the Tree of Jesse was depicted, Jesus’ ancestral tree from King David forward.
Typically they are vertical, usually seven tiers with Jesus at the top. Here Jesus is in the middle between two trees, unifying them. In both forms though he still forms the seventh unifying point. Both are like Solomon’s Seal, with the seventh point, the heart, at the perfect center. This alignment takes away the linear nature of time, making everything of this time.
The Camino continues through green mountain valleys and forest to Portomarín.