The arrival at Monte del Gozo continues to be full of meaning for the pilgrim but can hardly have the significance that it had in former times. The arrival at the top of the hill meant for the pilgrims a moment as crucial as the entrance to the cathedral and tomb of Santiago, for on seeing the city the pilgrim had, for the first time, the certainty of having reached his goal. Today the situation is partly the same, the same emotion of arrival, but the dangers and difficulties left behind are not of the same proportions and, therefore, do not allow the experience to have the same meaning.
In other centuries, on seeing the cathedral from Monte del Gozo, the pilgrim left behind him months of hardship and dangers- such great dangers that before setting off from his home he had made dictated his will, in case he never returned. We do not exaggerate: the snow left stages isolated for months, bandits lurked in many spots and the plague and other pestilences could be contracted along the roads. Just remember the number of hospitals and pilgrims’ cemeteries that mark the Camino.
Among all the historical accounts we would like to recall here the arrival of the Italian Laffi, who made the pilgrimage several times to Santiago in the 17th century. Laffi remembers that after washing in the source of Lavacolla, he ascended for half league to the top of Monte Gaudio, from where finally he could contemplate the “so sighed for and acclaimed" Santiago. He tells us that at the sight of the city he knelt down and began to cry with joy, that his companions did the same and, shortly afterwards, all together they began to sing a Te Deum, although soon they had to be silent because the emotion and the weeping their drowned his words.
The same ritual, the same emotion, took place thousands and thousands of times among pilgrims of all nationalities. We also remember another story, that of the German Hermann Künig von Vach, a pilgrim in 1495: "many hard-working companions are happy, to enjoy the vision of this city (Santiago) safe and sound, for this they have had to climb to a Mountain next to a cross, next to which there is a great pile of stones ".
Although the height of the mountain is only 379 meters, still today pilgrims can see from it the towers of the cathedral of Compostela, with a privileged viewpoint located about 300 meters from the chapel of San Marcos. Of course, since 1993 the vision is always shared, because since that date two sculptures of pilgrims occupy part of the viewpoint. There is also a large service complex created in the foothills of the emblematic mountain that has made it possible for many pilgrims to rest there one night, leaving for the last stage simply the 8 kilometers of joyous descent that separate them from the cathedral.