Not every year is created equal. Some years, at least in Spain, are Xacobeo Holy years – which are more special because they have many events through the year dedicated to St Jacob.

Praza de Praterias, Santiago de Compostela

The Xacobeo (called also Jubilee Year, Holy Year, or Jacobean Year), is celebrated when the festival of St Jacob (25th July) falls on a Sunday. That usually happens every 5, 6, or 11 years. The last Xacobeo was in 2010, and the last was in 2021. However, because of the pandemic, the Catholic church extended the celebration of the Holy Year in 2022 as well. So it’s the first time in history when the Holy Year is actually… 2 years in a row!

With very rare exceptions, it is only on Xacobeo Holy Years when the Holy Door (Porta Santa) is open to the public.

This means that pilgrims who visit the Cathedral during this time are granted a plenary indulgence. A plenary indulgence in the Catholic faith is complete remission of the sins, basically any barriers between the soul and God. The pilgrim can apply this plenary indulgence for oneself and be fully forgiven until that moment or can give it to someone else who went left this physical world. 

Just for the sake of the details, for the curious people, I’ll explain how one can get the plenary indulgence by visiting the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral on a holy year. One should follow those steps:

  1. Visit the Cathedral and the Tomb of the Apostle. You can also enter via the Holy Door.
  2. Confess your sins and receive the communion(symbolised by a round piece of bread given during the Mass) within 15 days after the visit.

Very specific, isn’t it?

Well, at least you know a bit more about those things.

Side note: Without knowing, in 2016, when I did the El Camino the Holy Door was also open because Pope Francis surprised the world when he announced the Jubilee de Misericordia or the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Thus, although not a Holy Yearthe Holy Door was opened. 

Other side notes:

  • The next Holy Years after will be 2027, 2032, and 2038.
  • On 25th July is also Galicia day, so more galicians will be outside, attending the High Mass at the Cathedral, and on the evening admiring the impressing firework display.