Santiago de Compostela
For centuries it marked the end of known land,
the gates to the Afterlife, that is, the End of the World.
The rock-bound peninsula rises up from the feared small islands of O Petonciño and A Centola to the O Facho (242 m) mountain, location of the Ara Solis of antiquity where rites in honour of the sun were carried out. Traditionally, it is regarded as the continent’s most western point, although strictly speaking this is not so. The Way of Saint James extends to here, where, according to tradition, pilgrims burnt their clothes on the seashore before beginning their homeward journey.
Since the beginning of time Fisterra has evoked a profound sense of mystery in the souls of mankind. The roots of the legendary aura of this site, open to the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean, can be found in the mythology of the first European inhabitants. They believed that, after death, the earthly life was replaced by another existence on an island situated to the west, where the sun set. In Celtic legends it is frequent to find images of heroes making their final journey to this paradise in a stone vessel. This merging of stone, sea and spiritual life is still present in different forms along the Costa da Morte.
When the Romans came, they contemplated, for the first time, the imposing spectacle of the sun disappearing into the ocean waters. They found an altar dedicated to the Sun, the Ara Solis, built by Celtic tribes in the area. Various sources see a direct parallelism between the image of the sun setting into the sea and the host and chalice on Galicia's coat of arms. Today there is still a square in the village that carries the name Ara Solis.
Before the arrival of Christianity, the Europeans already treated Fisterra as a mandatory place of pilgrimage. However, it was following the discovery of the tomb of the Apostle when the western Atlantic route reached its maximum splendour. The Road to Santiago, guided by the stars of the Milky Way, finishes here, in front of the Ocean. Thus, the visitor who looks out from this promontory will not only contemplate the beauty of the magnificent views, but will also be participating in a myth that has both terrified and drawn mankind for thousands of years.
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