Egeria House 2020

It’s incredibly difficult, to sum up, the last few months here in Santiago, on the Caminos and in Spain in general. So, please forgive me if this blog post runs a bit long and contains a lot of links to places where you can find more background information. I have also tried to structure it a bit by topics so that you can skip those that don’t interest you …

General Situation here in Spain and Santiago

At the time of writing, beginning of October 2020, we are firmly in the grip of the second wave here in Spain (actual figures >>>here<<< ). Whilst we are not back in full lockdown, mobility for non-essential travel has been restricted in places like Léon, Barcelona, and Madrid. I try my best to keep this page updated with the latest info about how these restrictions affect pilgrims currently on a Camino.

Our main restrictions here in Santiago refer to how many people from different households can meet up, restricted opening hours, restricted number of people allowed inside of shops and restaurants, restricted number of people allowed to gather outside as a group, obligation to wear a mask when outside your own home (the only exception is when you are eating or drinking something), keeping to social distancing at all time, hand sanitizer everywhere and so on.

Sometimes I feel like I live in a hospital for infectious diseases, with all the patients moving around, trying to keep their distance and wearing masks. My ‘social’ life has been pretty much reduced to online and the last time I hugged one of my friends was at the beginning of March. I am fully aware that a lot of people have it far, far worse than I do. I live in a cozy, bright flat with a balcony, I have enough to eat, and so on. All my basic needs are well covered and for that, I am truly thankful. But I still worry about my friends and I worry about where and how this all will end. OK, enough of doom and gloom, back to Chaplaincy and Camino updates!

Anglican Camino Chaplaincy

Beginning of April 2020 we took the planned program online, in a matter of speaking. Apart from providing material, both written and video/audio, for Easter we then also asked the chaplains that were meant to be here in Santiago de Compostela at certain dates, to provide ‘something’ during those dates for me to post here and on Facebook in the hope that it helps pilgrims stuck at home.

The church of Santa Susana might be empty now, but it will be waiting for us …

I love the creativity of the chaplains and how everybody contributed something unique. Many Muchas Gracias to all of you! If you want to have a look, all their contributions can be found here and our Facebook page for the Chaplaincy is here

As for 2021, a few days ago I had a phone conversation with Father Bob Bates, our lead chaplain, about the possible future of the chaplaincy next year. Before I tell you the result, here are some facts you might or might not know:

  • A large number of our volunteers are retired, meaning they are at least in one high-risk group, that of age.
  • Most of our volunteers come from the UK and the USA, both countries with different travel/quarantine restrictions that make it difficult to come over for a two-week volunteering stint and/or traveling back home.

The number of non-Spanish pilgrims, and especially of those that come from English speaking countries, has been very low in the three months since the Camino re-opened in July 2020. Take September, for example, a month that traditionally sees a lot of retired, foreign pilgrims that enjoy the cooler, but not yet cold, weather and the slightly quieter season.

In September 2019, a total of 45,653 pilgrims were registered by the Pilgrim’s Office here, this year the number was 10,441, so less than 25% of last years’ pilgrims. And if we look at the numbers of non-Spaniards, September 2019 saw 29,224 of them, and this year only 3,166, just over 10% compared to 2019. And in October, so far, we have seen between 200-300 pilgrims arriving each day, in 2019 the daily average for October was >1,000 pilgrims.

If you like to do your own number crunching, the Pilgrim’s Office publishes their monthly and yearly statistics here:

If we now look at the possible number of non-Roman Catholic pilgrims like outlined here: with an educated guesstimate of 10-15% of pilgrims coming from a Protestant background of any shape or form then we can ‘assume’ that less than 150 pilgrims MIGHT have been interested in the offerings of an Anglican Camino Chaplaincy here in Santiago de Compostela during the whole month of September 2020.

Experience from our two previous years shows that of those, perhaps 10% (being optimistic here) actually came in the past to one of our services or events. Now comes what I call the >Crystal Ball< bit:

How and What do we Best Plan for 2021?

Bearing all this in mind Father Bob and I have decided to offer some online worship material, reflections, sermons, and the like, for the major feast days like Advent and Christmas during the wintertime. We also think that it would be premature to even contemplate a ‘normal’ in-person chaplaincy for the first half of 2021. Instead, we will invite chaplains to do the same as this year, putting together material for pilgrims to reflect on and putting them up online again. We hope and pray that there is still a chance of some chaplains coming here to Santiago for the second half of 2021, but really, only God knows …

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this, but the combination of all the above plus the complexity of keeping pilgrims and chaplaincy volunteers safe during this pandemic is simply too much. Add to that the problem of how to house the chaplaincy volunteers, which typically come for two weeks, whilst maintaining social distancing if they would stay with me as some have done in the past.

And for those who wonder what happened to the donations / the fundraised money for the Anglican Camino Chaplaincy 2020, it’s sitting safely in the UK account of the Diocese in Europe, waiting to be used when and if an in-person chaplaincy is possible again.

Holy Year 2021

More, general, information about what the Holy Year is can be found here: and here:

As for 2021, the only thing we know for sure is that it will start, as always, with the opening of the Holy Door on 31st December. How many people will be allowed to attend the ceremony, will depend on the pandemic situation on that date.

Also undecided is if the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela will ask the Pope to extend the Holy Year into 2022. This decision will be made ‘closer to the time’ is what I ‘hear’ coming out of the archbishop’s office via our local media. A similar prolongation has been granted in the past, in 1885/86 to celebrate the re-discovery and the confirmation of the authenticity of the relics and in 1937/38 because of the Civil War here in Spain. So, again, we wait and see.

As for expected numbers in 2021, that is another ‘crystal ball topic’ and again, only God knows the answer to that one. BC (Before Covid), the expectation was that at least 500,000 pilgrims would be coming, plus several millions of visitors and tourists to the city. The only sure thing is that this number will be far, far lower. Not only due to travel restrictions, quarantine regulations in some countries, and general uncertainty, but also due to the economic downturn that has affected the livelihood and income of so many. Many that want to come will not be allowed to and many others simply can’t afford it anymore.

Pilgrims and Hospitality

Beginning of July, when the Caminos re-opened, I re-arranged my ‘pilgrim’s room’ to offer emergency accommodation if and when needed. At that moment our Covid numbers here in Santiago were very low and it felt safe to do so. I also made the decision that I only would give hospitality to pilgrims that had absolutely no other place to go, I didn’t want to make any competition to already struggling albergues and the like. That meant only ‘me or under the bridge’ cases.

Also, if somebody would have stayed with me, it would have meant keeping to social distancing and wearing a mask at all times, not easy in a relatively small flat. But nobody needed this kind of hospitality during the summer and so I ‘folded’ the pilgrim’s room together by end of September. Ironically, just the day after, I had a request. But by then our numbers had increased badly again and it didn’t feel safe to do so. But no worries, the pilgrim didn’t need to sleep in the streets, between Pilgrim House and me we found a good, safe place for her to stay.

This was the past, but it will be also the future, somewhere, some when …

Meeting Up with Pilgrims

One of the joys of previous years has always been meeting up with pilgrims and listening to their stories and experiences. This has happened a few times also this year, mainly outdoors and following all the guidelines. I enjoyed every single one of these meetings and if there is one thing I take away from it is that all pilgrims I spoke to said that they felt safer on the Camino in Spain than in their own country of residence.

Praying has been one of the few things that I can still do for pilgrims without any limits, so if you have a prayer request, please send them to me, see: for more information.

Camino Situation

The Camino re-opened beginning of July when travel across international and provincial borders was once again allowed. Sadly, many albergues couldn’t re-open this year, either because of their volunteer situation, again, many retirees there, or because they didn’t survive the lockdown financially and are now up for sale or looking for a new tenant. This made the accommodation situation for pilgrims this, short, season often complicated.

Generally speaking albergues and other hospitality places here in Spain follow the guidelines very strictly and expect the pilgrims to do the same. There have been extremely few cases where that didn’t work out well. So, in general, if following our guidelines, walking a Camino is one of the safest activities we still can do. For a recent blog by two pilgrims that walked the Camino Francés in August/September 2020 for a good cause, have a look >>>here<<<.

Some quick points if you’re planning a Camino in Covid times:

  • Always follow the travel guidelines and advice of your own country.
  • Make sure that your travel and health insurance covers Covid and repatriation.
  • Reserve accommodation and/or make sure to call ahead to see if they are open.
  • Have a plan B in place before you run into difficulties.
  • Budget more money than you would normally do, to pay for unexpected hotel stays, taxi rides, and so on.
  • Keep your eyes and ears on the local news, regarding possible new restrictions.
  • Follow all the guidelines and laws (face masks, social distancing, hand washing, and so on).

Download and use the Covid Radar App, more information about it can be found here:

Winter Camino

Additionally to what I mentioned above, if you plan to walk a Camino this winter, you need also to consider that a lot of albergues will close earlier, open later or not be open at all. The following website shows, from November onwards, which albergues are open on the Camino Francés. The information on it is as accurate as the information given to the people that maintain the website, so if you notice that something needs updating, please email them!

Personal Situation – Or what do I do now here in Santiago?

As I wrote here: the place I am living at now was only meant to be my winter flat for 2019/20. I am still here and will stay here at least until March/April 2021. If and when the FCJ sisters and their volunteers return, I will need to find a new place to live, hopefully with our volunteers.

I am still working as a freelance writer, I have published a new book (fiction and nothing to do with the Camino) and I am working on a new book, this one about the Camino. If you are interested in my writings, my author page can be found here: 

Additionally I have put up old and new designs at and plan to do more of this over the winter/spring.

The Box

The background story can be found here: The box has long moved inside the house entrance, which has advantages and disadvantages, but as spring came and the weather got warmer, it was just too limited what I could put into it. The other advantage is that I can speak with those that ring the doorbell and know now better what they really need, like diapers/nappies for their children or fresh fruit and vegetables. Yes, Spain has a social security net, but some people still fall through it.

Here is a lengthy article, sorry, in Spanish, that explains how this can happen.

I think that covers all for the moment, one last request, as I pray for you here in Santiago, please pray for all of us here in Santiago from wherever you are.

Buen Camino de la Vida and I hope to see you all again here in Santiago or on a Camino,


10 thoughts on “Egeria House 2020”

  1. Dear Sybille
    Thank you so much for this update which is both informative and moving. May God keep you safe and well at this time.

    1. Muchas Gracias +David,

      Keep safe and sane too! Prayers for you and yours from Santiago!

      BC SY

  2. Sybille, Thanks for the comprehensive status report on the Camino. I am waiting for the day when USA based pilgrims are allowed to return safely. Hoping for June 2021, and looking forward to sit a spell with you again. Sending love and blessings.

    1. You are welcome, Miriam, I hope you and yours are well! Looking forward to seeing you again, abrazos y oración desde Santiago.

  3. Thanks so much Sybille for keeping us close to Santiago and the Camino. For me, this is very important. I, like many others who have been blessed to walk several times can appreciate the longing and loss felt by so many whose hopes of walking had to be set aside this year. We keep them especially in our thoughts.
    I pray that you can continue your work as it is important and will be availed of, in person, in the near future. This pandemic will pass!
    Thanks once again and God Bless

    1. Thank you James,
      for your kind words and well wishes. I will stay here, Santiago is now my home since more then three years, and do what I can to help.
      BC and hope to see you soon,

  4. Many thanks for a thorough and informative blog. Its much appreciated.
    Love, Light and nature

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