‘Santiago: The Camino Within’: Inner Journeys of the Heart as Pilgrims Walk in the Steps of St. James

The film will be released in theaters nationwide for one night on Tuesday, March 28.

Shown L to R: still image and movie poster from ‘Santiago: The Camino Within’
Shown L to R: still image and movie poster from ‘Santiago: The Camino Within’ (photo: Courtesy of Ahava Productions)

Have you ever wanted to make a pilgrimage along what is perhaps the most famous pilgrim trail in the world? Santiago: The Camino Within brings an intimate look into what it is like for pilgrims to walk the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James.

The film will be released in theaters for one night: Tuesday, March 28. Fathom Events is distributing the documentary.

Narrated by Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, Santiago: The Camino Within is directed by Erin Berghouse of Ahava Productions. Berghouse, who also composed the musical score, previously directed the biographical documentary Deo Gratias: The Life of Father Solanus Casey.

“Deeply contemplative, the film projects in color and sound the inner dynamic of transformation which occurs in the soul of every person who undertakes this epic journey of the heart,” Bishop Hying remarks. “Of course, this narration is ultimately about God and the human quest for him, but lavishly shows how delightfully varied that universal search is.”

The title reflects the theme of the film: less a traditional documentary than it is a contemplative experience intended to capture the interior journey of the pilgrim. This is done by largely using extensive drone photography of the wondrous, eye-popping Spanish landscape and on-the-ground firsthand testimony of pilgrims from around the world. Bishop Hying’s spiritual reflections anchor the film’s soundly Catholic tone.

Given this approach, it might benefit viewers to have some grasp on the significance of the Camino de Santiago before viewing the film. To its credit, the film opens with a brief overview of the pilgrim trail’s namesake, St. James (Santiago in Spanish), son of Zebedee and the first of the apostles to be martyred. This was at the hand of Herod in A.D. 44. Tradition holds that his mission took him to Spain, then part of the Roman Empire. After James was executed in Judea, his body was miraculously translated to Compostela in northwest Spain. The Cathedral of St. James in Compostela, where the saint is buried, is the ultimate destination for those traversing the Camino.

The pilgrim route of St. James exploded in the Middle Ages. It is impossible to overestimate its popularity. So popular was the notion of pilgrimages that orders of knights — such as the Knights Templar — were created to guard the pilgrims from thieves and bandits. Pope Callixtus II instituted the Compostela Holy Years in the early 12th century, celebrated whenever the feast of St. James (July 25) fell on a Sunday.

It is said the length of the Camino spans 500 miles, but there are many ancillary paths from Germany and France that lead toward the Camino itself. Other trails led to Rome and even the Holy Land. The film shows the presence of station churches populating the trails toward Compostela. Such holy sites have remarkable stories of their own, containing sacred relics, colorful history and stunning architecture.

For instance, the Church of St. Lazarus in the Burgundian village of Avallon brought pilgrims eager to glimpse the relic of Lazarus while bound for Vézelay, the launch point of the Via Lemovicensis, with the Cathedral of St. James nearly 900 miles away. Vézelay was the location sought by jacquets (French pilgrims of the Camino) coming from Flanders, Champagne and Alsace. Another example, between Lyon and Valence off the Rhône, is the Plan de l’Aiguille, the Pyramid, a remnant from the Roman occupation. In the 1200s, a story circulated that the pyramid marked the tomb of Pontius Pilate, exiled in disgrace for his involvement with the death of the Messiah. Second-century Church Father Tertullian implied Pilate ultimately converted to Christianity “in conscience.”

The Catholic tradition of symbols and imagery make for perfect visual sequences, which Santiago: The Camino Within does not hesitate to capture. For instance, images of a scallop shell are everywhere along the Way of St. James, marking “the way” towards the pilgrim’s final destination. Pilgrims prominently wear the shell as an outward sign of undergoing a spiritual and physical journey.

Santiago: The Camino Within demonstrates how modern pilgrims — secular and believer alike — continue that medieval tradition of pilgrimage. In observing those undertaking the journey, viewers see how such an experience is at once both personal and communal, both physical and deeply interior.


For tickets, visit FathomEvents.com/events/Santiago-The-Camino-Within.