Along this new route that we begin in the lands of the Baixo Miño, we will discover, in a very special manner, the close relationship that Galician people have with death. The sanctuaries on this route conceal disturbing and surprising legends, as well as unusual rituals and religious pilgrimages.

Sanctuary of Our Lady of A Franqueira.
Dialogue between the jailer and the prisoner:

-    Christian, are there cowbells in your land?
-    Yes, there are.
-    Then get up Christian, for we are in your land, and you must not treat me in your land as I treated you in mine.

Dates of the religious pilgrimages:
- Santa Marta de Ribarteme: : 29th July
- Nuestra Señora de la Franqueira: Pentecost Monday or 8th September.
- Santa Marina de Aguas Santas: 18th July.
- Nuestra Señora de Monte Medo:7th-8th September.

Other important information:
- Museo de Arte Sacra de Allariz: Closes on Tuesdays. Contact: 988 440 702

Day 1

We begin the first day in the council of As Neves, in Pontevedra. Here you will discover an unforgettable way of living a truly authentic experience by visiting the sanctuary of Santa Marta de Ribarteme (Saint Martha of Ribaterme). Thanks to the fervour of the devotees, one of the most astonishing traditions of our culture is maintained, a procession of open coffins carrying those whom the saint has spared from Death. Every 29th July, the devotees of Saint Martha offer to carry a candle as tall as they are, and circle the church's portico on their knees, some even wearing a shroud. It is amazing to witness for the first time the line of coffins accompanied by cantareiras (singing women) and family members.

Even though some coffins are empty in this unique procession, others carry the offered persons inside. Sometimes the heat, the devotion, or the terrifying impression of being carried alive inside a coffin causes the offered ones to portray an even more unusual image when their arms stick out of the boxes to fan themselves or to seek refreshment during such a stifling penitence.

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Convent of the Order of Saint Clare
The acolytes that wait at the top of the bell tower start sounding the death bells as soon as they see the funeral procession. The excitement, the atmosphere of devotion can be felt everywhere, the smell of incense and the burnt wax of the torches becomes stronger, and people begin to elbow their way towards the image of the saint to touch it. No doubt, something magical overcomes those present. After the mass, together with the rest of the procession, the saved person enjoys the feast that takes place under the oak trees where the lovely scent of octopus, bread and melindres (typical pastries) mixes with the crowd's haste. Even the British newspaper The Guardian mentions this religious pilgrimage, declaring it to be among the top five most unique traditional festivals in the world.

Following the route through the province of Pontevedra, we reach the municipality of A Cañiza. In these beautiful lands we visit the Gothic style sanctuary of Nosa Señora da Franqueira (Our Lady of A Franqueira). According to the legend, an old woman found the image of the Virgin in a steep area of the mountain. The unevenness of the land made it impossible to build a church in that area, which gave way to a controversy among the neighbours. To settle the matter, they decided to place the image of the Virgin on a cart pulled by unguided and blindfolded oxen, so that the location of the chapel would be decided based on the direction the oxen took. So, in commemoration of this act, the image of Our Lady of A Franqueira leaves the church, every 8th September, on board a cart pulled by oxen. Throughout the whole journey three pairs of dancers weave and unweave ribbons that are tied to a pole, while they dance in front of the cart, and two characters, one Moslem and the other Christian, perform a dialogue in verse before of the image. One unusual tradition stands out: the girls who are seeking a partner and are able to make a knot on a Broom shoot using just one finger, will be married in one year thanks to the intervention of Our Lady.

We continue our journey towards the municipality of Allariz, in Ourense, one of Galicia's best preserved towns, so we recommend that you keep your eyes wide open to take in all of its charm. Some of the flagstone streets will lead us to the convent of the Order of Saint Clare, founded in 1268 by Queen Violant, wife of Alfonso X of Castile. Inside you will find the marble image of Our Lady of Abrideira, from the end of the 13th century, which shows the saint sitting with the Child in her arms. When it is opened it is like an altarpiece that narrates the life of the Virgin Mary. Allariz provides the ideal place to eat at one of its riverfront restaurants while observing the beauty of the landscape. Oh! And don't forget to taste the amendoados (typical almond pastries), that without a doubt make a delicious souvenir from this journey.

A few kilometres from the town, hidden in an idyllic landscape, the sanctuary of Santa Mariña de Augas Santas (Saint Mary of the Holy Waters) awaits us. It is one of the best examples of Galician architecture from the 12th and 13th centuries. Its legend tells the story of the places where this Virgin was mercilessly tortured for not corresponding to the love of the Roman Governor Olybrius. The saint miraculously saved herself from all the punishments and, in the end, her torturer ordered that she be decapitated. It is said that the places where the head bounced three times against the ground when it was severed from the body, were the origin of the three fountains of Augasantas (holy waters), located at the back of the church where the image of the martyr is kept. Just like the religious pilgrims that come here, follow the rituals to become imbued with the spirituality that this place offers. Take advantage to ask favours of the saint and visit her fountains, while you feel how the legend of the place cools your skin

After exiting the sanctuary, take a relaxing walk along the ancient Roman road covered by a vault of lush vegetation, with the silence broken by the sound of the crushing of the leaves under your feet. Follow the route that the procession takes on the main day to the ruins of the basílica da Ascensión (basilica of the Ascent), from the 12th century that was never finished. In the crypt you will find the Forno da Santa (Saint's Oven), where it is said that the Olybrius tried to incinerate her, but that she was saved by the intercession of Saint Peter. A few metres away is the Piouca da Santa, or fonte de Augas Negras (fountain of black waters), which, according to the legend, owes its dark colour to the saint having apparently bathed there after coming out of the oven covered in ashes. As you can see, magic and legend are present in every corner of this place, which will surely not fail to impress you.

Day 2

On the way to the sanctuary of Nosa Señora do Monte Medo take advantage and stop briefly at Xunqueira de Ambía to visit its coleggiate church and its beautiful Gothic-style cloister. Later, at the thermal springs town of Baños de Molgas, you will be overcome by the calm and seclusion of a true interior Galician town. Here you will become aware of the power that the vital liquid has in the area. They have spent more than one hundred years making good use of the thermal springs water that rise here, and that are considered to be medicinal since 1873. In order to feel the affectionate warmth of Galicia, there is nothing better than to soak in these waters.

When arriving at the Baroque-style sanctuary, one of the most visited of the Diocese of Ourense, we will take a journey back in time to the battle between the Counts of Caldelas and of Pena, at the beginning of the 9th century, to better understand the legend. According to the legend, after a hard battle at the Monte Medo, the lord of Caldelas, seeing he was about to lose, managed to turn the battle around after asking the Virgin to intervene. In gratitude for his victory, he ordered the chapel of Our Lady of Defence to be built, but it disappeared with the passing of time. Years later, a little girl found the image of the saint inside an oak tree and the Virgin informed her of her desire that a new church be built there. The neighbours decided to take the image to the parish church, but before they arrived, they realised that the carving had returned to the place where it had been discovered, so they resolved not to contradict her. Today, thousands of believers visit the church, many on foot from their places of residence. They arrive mostly on the main days of the religious pilgrimage, on 7th and 8th September, and also during the novena, when the devotion is such that some pilgrims spend the nine days at the local inns.

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