It all goes back about 2000 years, to the Holy Land. After the violent death of Jesus Christ, his disciples - the 12 apostles - started their journeys around the Mediterranean and Black Sea, to Ethiopia and all the way to India, to spread the Gospel as promised to Jesus. James had left for the Iberian Peninsula where he supposedly stayed for 2 years, or so. In the year 44AD he returned to Jerusalem only to be beheaded by order of King Herod.
According to the legend, Angels shipped the body of James back to the shores of Iria Flavia, a seaport then in western Galicia. His remains were buried nearby and there the grave remained undiscovered for almost 800 years, well into the 9th century. That's when a hermit called Pelayo suddenly was struck by a vision up in the sky ... he saw a huge and bright star encircled by many smaller stars, somewhere right above Mt. Libradón. This celestial event was reported immediately to the Bishop Theodomir of Iria Flavia, and a search was started to find out what these heavenly phenomina were all about. And when the Bishop's men found the lost tomb with the bones of St. James and his disciples ( 814 ), such was the joy about this miraculous discovery that King Alfonso II of Asturias ( "el casto", 759 - 842 ) decided that a church was to be built over the tomb of St James. The place where it all happened was called Campus Stellae ( "field of stars" ), the name eventually changed to Compostela, i.e. to Santiago de Compostela. The news about St. James spread quickly and soon the first pilgrims arrived in Galicia - the Camino de Santiago was born!
Historical background. The legend about St James and the discovery of his tomb in NW Spain did't just happen by chance. In the 7th century a new and powerful religion emerged from the Arabian peninsula ... Islam! Within a few decades the Islamic empire expanded like wildfire in different directions, and during the years from 711 - 718 almost all of Iberia was conquered by Moorish armies and put under control of the Umayyad Caliphate. Only some areas in northern Spain ( like Asturias ) managed to escape from the Islamic invasion, and it is in this area where Christians start to lauch a counter offensive of truly historical dimensions, the "reconquista". Discoverig the tomb place of St. James created a new momentum amongst Christians in view of so far victorous Muslim warriors. The Camino de Santiago with its growing traffic between Galicia and France helped to consolidate the Christian control over the entire area of northern Spain, creating the basis from where all of the Iberian peninsula would be recaptured, a struggle - the reconquista - which took altogether about 770 years and which came to an end in Granada in the year 1492, the year Columbus discovered America!