The Primitive Way gets its name from the fact that it is considered the oldest pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Its origin is so remote that it is within a period in which legend and history merge being practically impossible to distinguish them.
The history of this primitive route begins with the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle Santiago, in the year 830. At that time, King Alfonso II, nicknamed the Chaste, reigned in Asturias. Asturias was unbreakable by the Muslim invaders thanks to the important war victories, extending its territorial domain to the current Galicia and Castile and Leon. On hearing the news from Compostela, the monarch left immediately from his seat in Oviedo to venerate the remains of the saint. In the 9th century, King Alfonso II was declared the first pilgrim in the history of the Way of St. James.
After this first pilgrimage, successors such as King Alfonso III the Great took the example and came to Santiago de Compostela granting new privileges to the sanctuary.
In 910, the capital of the Kingdom was moved from Oviedo to León. The cathedral of Oviedo suffers a hard setback that is accentuated with the consolidation of the French Way through Leonese lands. But the pilgrims arriving from the Pyrenees, discover the detour of the French Way to the cathedral of Oviedo. At that time the Cathedral of the Saviour and the Cathedral of Lugo granted a great spiritual value, so many pilgrims opted for a detour. Among the pilgrims the saying “He who goes to Santiago and not to the Saviour, visits the servant but not the Lord” was very famous.
With the passing of the centuries, the Primitive Way lost its presence, but it never stopped having pilgrims. In the 19th century, the decadence was almost total, as in the rest of the Jacobean routes.
But from the 20th century onwards, there was a great revival of the Camino de Santiago and all the routes began to come to life again. Thanks to a new interest of the administrations and associations, a great work was started to promote and condition the Asturian routes, the routes were signposted and guides were published, hostels were built and the services for pilgrims increased considerably.
More than a millennium after the first journey of the King of Asturias, the primitive itinerary is a great option for all those pilgrims looking for an alternative away from the overcrowding and the tourist atmosphere of other routes.