The yellow arrows that guide pilgrims along their journey, along with the scallops, are one of the most recognized symbols of the Way of Saint James. They mark the way to follow through different routes to the Cathedral of Santiago. However, few know the story behind their origin and, even less, the man who made them possible.

Elías Valiña Sampedro, known as ‘O Cura do Cebreiro‘, was a fervent defender and promoter of the Way of Saint James. His connection with this route was such that he dedicated a large part of his life to revitalizing this tradition, which was in full decline.

This commitment takes us back to his university years. Valiña, with a degree in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of Comillas and a doctorate from the University of Salamanca, marked a milestone by writing the first doctoral thesis on the Ways of Saint James.

This work, entitled “The Way of Saint James: Historical-legal study”, made him a pioneer and visionary in the study of this route. His work did not end there, since together with this thesis he also wrote the first cartographies and promoted the first Jacobean associations independent of the administrations.

In 1984, Valiña undertook an ambitious project: the signaling of the Way with yellow arrows. Thus, he traveled from France to Compostela and, with the help of his nephew, painted these marks with the intention of helping pilgrims and guiding them on the right path.

In addition to these arrows, ‘O Cura do Cebreiro’ also carried out several cleaning works along the Way and recovered stretches that had been lost. His dedication contributed to the safety of the original sections of the Jacobean route. For all these efforts, during the I Encuentro Xacobeo in 1985, he was unanimously appointed commissioner of the Way of Saint James.


Elías Valiña died in 1989 at the age of 60 due to cancer, so he could not see his efforts rewarded. Before he died, he asked that the yellow arrows on the Camino not be discontinued. Today, the Associations of Friends of the Way of Saint James follow this request rigorously and his arrows have become a symbol.

In 2023, more than 446,000 people walked the different routes of the Way, surpassing the figures of the Holy Year. Valiña’s dream of reviving this tradition has become a reality and his legacy lives on through the yellow arrows that continue to guide pilgrims on their journey.