2016 will be an important year for pilgrims to Rome and also Santiago de Compostela, as the year has been declared a 'Holy Year of Mercy' by Pope Francis; and special events will be taking place in both cities. Santiago Cathedral officials have also confirmed the Holy Door of the cathedral (Porta Santa) will be open for the Year of Mercy.
So what the Holy Year means for pilgrims planning a Camino to Rome (Via Francigena) or Camino de Santiago trip for 2016:
What is a Holy Year?
Holy years, or Jubilee years, only take place every 25 years, unless the Pope requests an extraordinary Holy Year to highlight a specific topic. In this case, Pope Francis has declared 2016 a Holy Year of Mercy.
In Santiago de Compostela, a year is considered holy or Jacobean if 25th July, Saint James Day, falls on a Sunday. The next Jacobean Holy Year will take place in 2021. On such years a special door to the cathedral: the Holy Door (Porta Santa) is opened to pilgrims arriving in Santiago.
The 2016 Holy Year of Mercy will be officially starting on 8th December 2015 and finishing on 20th November 2016.
What happens during a Holy Year?
During the Holy Year the Vatican will be hosting special celebrations and millions of pilgrims will be arriving in Rome. The number of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago are also expected to increase.
The entrance to St Peter's Basilica known as the 'Holy Door', as well as 'Holy Doors' to other cathedrals in Rome, will be opened for pilgrims for the year. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral has also confirmed the Porta Santa will be open for pilgrims, not due to reopen again until 2021.
If you are planning on travelling to Rome or Santiago de Compostela for special dates such as Easter and other important religious events during the Holy Year of Mercy, you should plan your trip well in advance to secure accommodation.
Self-guided tours depart at any time during the year and guided tours depart on selected dates. FrancigenaWays.com has a guided tour to Rome departing on 19th March (Easter time) and CaminoWays.com has many departure dates for guided tours, from March all the way to the end of October.