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Decision 39 COM 8B.36
Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern Spain, Spain

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC-15/39.COM/8B and WHC-15/39.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Approves the extension of the Route of Santiago de Compostela to include the Routes of Santiago in Northern Spain, which becomes Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern Spain, Spain, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The Route of Santiago de Compostela is an extensive interconnected network of pilgrimage routes in Spain whose ultimate destination is the tomb of the Apostle James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia. According to Saint Jerome, the apostles were to be interred in the province where each had preached the gospel. The tomb believed to be that of James the Greater was discovered in Galicia in the 9th century, a period when Spain was dominated by Muslims. Its discovery was of immense importance for the Christian world, and Compostela soon became a place of Christian pilgrimage comparable in importance to Jerusalem and Rome.

    The almost 1500-km-long network of four Northern Routes (Primitive, Coastal, Interior of the Basque Country-La Rioja, and Liébana) are at the origin of the Jacobean pilgrimage. They are directly linked to the discovery of the Apostle’s tomb, and to its promotion by the Kingdom of Asturias. It was not until the 11th century that the Northern Routes were surpassed by the 738-km-long French Route, which was less difficult to traverse and became the primary Way of Saint James across the Iberian peninsula to Compostela.

    The Route of Santiago has been a meeting place for its pilgrims ever since it emerged some eleven centuries ago. It has facilitated a constant cultural dialogue between the pilgrims and the communities through which they pass. It was also an important commercial axis and conduit for the dissemination of knowledge, supporting economic and social development along its itineraries. Constantly evolving, this serial property includes a magnificent ensemble of built heritage of historical importance created to fill the needs of pilgrims, including churches, hospitals, hostels, monasteries, calvaries, bridges, and other structures, many of which testify to the artistic and architectural evolution that occurred between the Romanesque and Baroque periods. Outstanding natural landscapes as well as a rich intangible cultural heritage also survive to the present day.

    Criterion (ii): The Route of Santiago de Compostela played a crucial role in the two-way exchange of cultural advances between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe, especially during the Middle Ages, but also in subsequent centuries. The wealth of cultural heritage that has emerged in association with the Camino is vast, marking the birth of Romanesque art and featuring extraordinary examples of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque art. Moreover, in contrast with the waning of urban life in the rest of the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages, the reception and commercial activities emanating from the Camino de Santiago led to the growth of cities in the north of the Peninsula and gave rise to the founding of new ones.

    Criterion (iv): The Route of Santiago de Compostela has preserved the most complete material registry of all Christian pilgrimage routes, featuring ecclesiastical and secular buildings, large and small enclaves, and civil engineering structures.

    Criterion (vi): The Route of Santiago de Compostela bears outstanding witness to the power and influence of faith among people of all social classes and origins in medieval Europe and later.


    The property contains all the key elements necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of Route of Santiago de Compostela: French Route and Routes of Northern Spain, including the routes themselves and the ecclesiastical and secular buildings, large and small enclaves, and civil engineering structures necessary to sustain the act of pilgrimage. The serial property is of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of the features and processes that convey the property’s significance, and it does not suffer unduly from adverse effects of development or neglect. An added layer of protection for this extensive serial property is provided by buffer zones.


    Route of Santiago de Compostela: French Route and Routes of Northern Spain is substantially authentic in its forms and designs, materials and substances, and use and function. The majority of the routes themselves follow their historic trajectories, and many retain their historical characteristics; along the five itineraries, the various built components included in this serial property are characterized by a high level of conservation. The property’s function and use as a pilgrimage route has continued for more than a millennium. The links between the Outstanding Universal Value of the routes and their attributes are therefore truthfully expressed, and the attributes fully convey the value of the property.

    Protection and management requirements

    Pursuant to the First Additional Provision of the Spanish Historical Heritage Act, Law 16/1985 of 25 June 1985, the Camino de Santiago was registered in the category of Historical Complex as a Property of Cultural Interest (Bien de Interés Cultural), the highest level of cultural heritage protection in Spain. In exercise of their competences, the Autonomous Communities through which the routes pass have each defined the protection of this serial property in their respective territories. The routes are Crown property, and the built components are under a mixture of private, institutional, and public sector ownership, as are the buffer zones. The serial property is managed by the Jacobean Council (Consejo Jacobeo), which was created for the purpose of collaborating on programmes and actions to protect and conserve it; to further its promotion and cultural dissemination; to conserve and restore its historical-artistic heritage; to regulate and promote tourism; and to assist pilgrims.

    Notwithstanding these arrangements, systematic actions will be needed to address the potential threats posed by industrial and urban growth and development, new transportation infrastructure such as motorways and railways, pressure from increased tourism and the number of pilgrims, and rural depopulation. Enforcement of regulatory measures and legislation will be crucial, as well as the development of environmental and heritage impact studies for new construction. In addition, urban development schemes of the municipalities along the routes will need to ensure protection of the attributes that sustain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Fully documenting the management system for the serial extension and for the already inscribed property, particularly concerning how it preserves the Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property and ensures its effective protection for present and future generations;
    2. Revising and augmenting the key monitoring indicators to relate more directly to the proposed Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, and adding specific indicators, periodicity, and institutional responsibilities;
    3. Carrying out heritage impact assessments in accordance with ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties before any developments such as renewals, demolitions, new infrastructure, land-use policy changes, or large-scale urban frameworks are approved and implemented.
Decision Code
39 COM 8B.36
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List, Outstanding Universal Value
States Parties 1
Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015)
Context of Decision