In the early 9th century, Alfonso II the Chaste reigned over the Spanish area with capital in Oviedo. It was in 813 that, after the Mass at San Fiz Church, the anchoret Pelagio watched the glitters of a field of stars fallen down from the sky.

He told it to Teodomiro, his bishop, in Iria Flavia and concluded there lay the sepulchre of St James, buried by his disciples. He made it known to Alfonso II, King of Asturias and Galicia, who confirmed the remains found in San Fiz de Solovio belonged to Apostle St James. In 814, he raised the first church, allowed worship and promoted the first pilgrimage flowing from Oviedo to the still born city the King wanted to be a faithful and exact replica of Oviedo.
The King spread the good news all over Europe, which soon made pilgrims arrive in Compostela, becoming the third saint city of Christendom.
The pilgrimage (the King himself was the first that went on the pilgrimage) followed a short, fast and rectilinear way. It was a way known since the beginning of history that is supposed to be the same the King used to arrive in Lugo and Compostela, which would be later known as the inner Asturian Way. It started precisely in the capital of the Kingdom, Oviedo, where the relics of Jesus Christ lay. The King had asked to fetch them from Jerusalem. So, there was a historic communication between the three great cities of the peninsular Northwest at the beginning of the Reconquest: Oviedo, first capital of the Christian kingdom; Lugo, first Galician city and Compostela, destiny of the pilgrimages of the Atlantic Fisterra.
In the “Partidas” by Alfonso the Wise King, pilgrims are defined as those who ‘andan en pelerinaje a Santiago, a San Salvador de Oviedo o a otros lugares de luenga e de extraña tierra’, letting hear the statement ‘Quien va a Santiago y no a San Salvador visita al criado y deja al Señor’. In fact, the support between San Salvador de Oviedo Way with the traditional pilgrimage to the Holy Chamber and the primitive way of St James, used both as a going and return itinerary to Compostela, is important and ancestral.
Pilgrims from the North of Spain and all over Europe arrived here, but the Primitive Way cannot be understood as a continuation. The first of the ways starts here.
Mayerne Tourquet talks about the kingdom of Ramiro I from 842 to 850 in his ‘Historia General de España’, published in 1635, stating that during the period of that king, the fame of the wonders worked by St James de Compostela began to spread all over Europe, making many pilgrims from all corners of Christendom arrive by land or by sea.
When the capital was displaced to León in the 10th century (910), the way known today as the French Way gained importance owing to the new political situation, consolidated in the 11th century, thanks to the actions of Sancho el Mayor and Alfonso VI in their respective areas.
Anyway, the name of the French Way is not exclusive to the one that holds the name today and the French Way has been known as ‘Camiño Francisco’, ‘Camiño de Ovedo’, ‘Camiño Francés de Oviedo’ or ‘Camiño Francés de Asturias’, trunk and matrix of the way of the meseta that is the main branch of that initial itinerary. Xosé Sesto has pointed out that ‘all the ways that led to the Apostle’s sepulchre were known in Europe as the Camino de Santiago and as the French Way in Spain.
Once the South route was open, the Primitive Way would no longer be the most visited although it went on being used during centuries. Oviedo (with the relics of the Holy Chamber) went on being a very important pilgrimage place. The historical extension of the Primitive Way through the Strata Santi Salvatoris or Asturian Way from León to Oviedo had a great relevance as well as the dilemma medieval pilgrimages found when arriving in León: Either follow the old way to Oviedo or the new one along Cebreiro. We have the popular saying ‘Estar entre San Marcos y La Ponte’.
So, we go through the 343 km of the Primitive Way from Oviedo to Compostela.
This Primitive Way had hospitals, ‘milladoiros’, holy fountains and chapels, and if there is some hard section in the French Way, which makes the route worthier, the Primitive Way is still harder as it goes through the difficult mountainous geography between Galicia and Asturias and called for the construction of many hospitals for pilgrims, always needing help. There was a constant support on the part of the different Kings, promoting pilgrimages on this route and consolidating the relation between Oviedo’s Court and Compostela.