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Belgian Royal Family spent Holy Week walking Camino de Santiago

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MaxMaximovPhotography | Shutterstock

Three pilgrims walking to Santa Catalina de Somoza along the French Way of St. James

Merche Crespo - published on 04/13/23

Philip I and Matilda of Belgium and their four children started the Camino in 2017 in Roncesvalles; this year they walked through the Spanish province of León.

The Belgian monarchs and their children Elisabeth, Gabriel, Emmanuel, and Eleonore once again chose a segment of the pilgrimage to Santiago of Compostela as the way to spend their Easter vacation.

On route to Santiago

The Belgian royal family, who are Catholics, chose this particular route to the tomb of the Apostle Santiago six years ago when they started it in Navarra (northern Spain), specifically in Roncesvalles.

The following year they continued through La Rioja, then in 2019 they walked between Burgos and Palencia. After a forced break due to the pandemic, last year they continued their pilgrimage through Tierra de Campos.

The path through El Bierzo

This time the family, accompanied by a group of friends, chose El Bierzo and started in the town of Villafranca del Bierzo, a very representative place on the Camino de Santiago. 

In this town, under special conditions the indulgences for the pilgrimage to Santiago can be won by entering through the Door of Forgiveness of the Church of Santiago, located at the entrance of the town.

This is the only door of the entire Camino de Santiago, along with the Holy Door of the Cathedral de Santiago, where you can gain the Jubilee graces when it is a Compostelan Holy Year and you meet the requirements to gain the plenary Indulgence.

This has been the case since the beginning of the route to Santiago, when many sick or tired pilgrims could no longer continue to the shrine in Galicia.

Pilgrims like the rest

The Belgian kings and their children often make this type of trip because of their Catholic faith. 

And in this case, despite the large security detail that accompanied them, they were provided with the typical supplies and clothing of a pilgrim: a backpack, a hat, a walking stick, and a water bottle. They went just like the other pilgrims, walking towards Santiago to venerate the Apostle in the Cathedral. 

King of the Belgians

Philippe was proclaimed king on Belgium’s National Day, July 21, 2013, when his father, Albert II, abdicated the throne for health reasons after 20 years as head of state of his country.

As protocol dictates, the ceremony was characterized by sobriety and no royal house or international leader was invited. However, the streets of Brussels and the whole country were decorated with flowers and national flags to celebrate the event.

Philip is the nephew of King Baudouin and his wife Fabiola de Mora y Aragon, a Spanish aristocrat who was queen consort of Belgium from 1960 until King Baudouin’s death in 1993. As this marriage had no descendants, the throne passed to Albert, Baudouin’s brother and Philip’s father.

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BelgiumPilgrimagesRoyals
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