This route along the Costa da Morte invites us to discover the great legends, beliefs, rites and popular marine pilgrimages that take place along a coastline that is crammed with sanctuaries that overlook the sea from privileged locations

"Holy Christ of Fisterra,
Christ with the golden beard,
I come from a faraway land,
Oh Saint, to see your face.
I come from Our Lady of the Boat,
I come from rocking the stone,
I also come from visiting you,
Holy Christ of Fisterra".

Dates of the religious pilgrimages:
- Milagros de Caión: : 8th, 9th and 10th September.
- San Hadrián do Mar: Sunday after 16th June.
- Nuestra Señora de la Barca: Sunday after 8th September.
- Santo Cristo de Fisterra: Easter Sunday.

 

Day 1

We begin our first day at the ancient whaling town of Caión, where we find the sanctuary of Nosa Señora dos Milagres (Our Lady of Miracles). The hill on which it stands offers a superb panoramic view. The town is surrounded by a fierce sea that seems to take a bite out of the small peninsula with each storm. It is easy to imagine what life was like for fishermen so many years ago, fighting against the force of the sea and the wind, in their attempt to capture a great whale

The popular pilgrimage of Nosa Señora dos Milagres begins on the Sunday prior to 8th September. For one week, thousands of people arrive at the sanctuary from all over the region to ask the Virgin to heal them or to give thanks for her divine intervention in the favours asked. Hundreds go on foot and some even continue to make their offerings by circling the 19th century church several time on their knees. The tradition says that the holy fountain is miraculous for skin problems, so, since you are here, soak a handkerchief in its water and then let it dry with the wind, so that when it has dried all the ailments will disappear. If you happen to be here on the pilgrimage days, you will see a large white cloak around the spring, and on any other day of the year, go down to the town a push open the door to the parish church to visit the altar where the Virgin stands for the rest of the year.

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Our trip continues to Malpica de Bergantiños. In fact, washing with the holy water is a rite that is also carried out by the devotees at the 16th century sanctuary of Santo Hadrián do Mar (Saint Adrian of the Sea). The church stands solitary and simple at the cape of the same name, closely linked to the sea, with the Sisargas Islands next to it. On the day of the festivity, the procession departs at daybreak from Malpica carrying the image of the saint. The three kilometre stretch of the ancient trail is filled with pilgrims who accompany the image along the sand and by the coast. Saint Adrian's owes his fame as miracle worker to having freed the area from a plague of snakes. The legend says that since he exterminated the last one, the only reptile that can be seen anywhere on the cape is on the silhouette of one of the rocks on the cliffs located at the foot of the chapel

Leaving behind the peninsula of Malpica, and before arriving at the next magical sanctuary, we fortunately come across typical places such as the original and modern lighthouse of Punta Nariga. It was designed by the architect from Pontevedra, César Portela, and reproduces the image of an impressive stone ship with the prow facing the sea. Also do not miss the rock formations that you see around you. The wind and nitre salt carve the huge granite masses into spectacular natural sculptures shaped like witches, bears or turtles. From here you can catch sight of the Sisarga Islands and, towards the south, cape Roncudo where the barnacle gatherers from Corme risk their lives among rocks and threatening waves to find this precious seafood. If you visit Corme, do leave without tasting, at one of the local taverns, this treasure from Roncudo, considered by many to be the best barnacles in Galicia. No doubt this will be the best way to savour a mouthful of sea. Take advantage also of seeing the Pedra da Serpe (snake rock), for Saint Adrian also passed through here to free the region from a plague of these reptiles. One them remained petrified and, as a result of its Christianisation, a stone cross was placed there

Following our route towards the south, and before reaching Muxía, the “land of monks”, we stop to discover the Romanesque monastery of San Xián de Moraime (Saint Julian of Moraime). It is an ancient Benedictine monastery, of great beauty, which has been standing since the 12th century. A work by Master Mateo, famous sculptor of the Pórtico da Gloria, its gateway reflects the influence of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Arriving at Muxía, and to end the day, we suggest a lovely walk along the port area, while the sun sets over the sea of the Costa da Morte. There you can have dinner at one of the port's restaurants: bream, sea bass baked in salt, or razor clams are only some of the local delicacies.

 

Day 2

On the second day of our itinerary we begin to understand why Muxía is known as the “bride of the wind and the sea”.  Visiting the Sanctuary of A Virxe da Barca (Our Lady of the Boat) will deeply impress you. Imposing and majestic, its architecture rises over the very rocks that are licked by the sea. Before heading towards the church, enjoy the panoramic view and recall the stories that surround the amazing ensemble of huge masses. Tradition tells that the Virgin Mary arrived in a boat to Muxía to encourage the Apostle Saint James in his efforts to evangelise Galicia.

 We can see the “Pedra de Abalar” (Balancing Rock), which would be the hull of the Virgin's boat; the “Pedra dos Cadrís” (Rock of Hips), which are its sails; and the “Pedra do Timón” (Rudder Rock).  Curious rituals surround these magical rocks: traditionally the pilgrims made the great stone rock back and forth, by jumping on both ends until it moved, and the “Pedra dos Cadrís” healed kidney and back ailments, if you crawled under it nine times. If you suffer from any of these ailments, try this curious ritual, for your ailment is sure to disappear thanks to the healing powers of this rock

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Soaked in the spirituality that emanates from these huge and powerful rocks, it is time to cross the sanctuary's doorway. You can already breathe in the typical smell of incense and wax that is so characteristic of these places. From the entrance gates we can see the Virgin's shrine at the end, surrounded by dozens of small boats. These are all offers that were left as an expression of the gratitude by the countless seamen who returned safe and sound from the sea after conquering tides and thunderstorms, thanks to the protection granted by their patron.

After feeling the devotion and religiosity of this magical place, we head towards the westernmost point of mainland Spain: cape Touriñán. Here, at the edge of the isthmus you feel the roaring wind beat at your face while your skin tingles, and you experience the peace and solitude of this remote corner of the world. Between you and the lands of the American continent there is only the immense ocean. The waves beat forcefully against the rocks. You  feel small living this intimate and astounding experience.

Leaving behind Touriñán, we head towards the Finis Terrae of the Greco-Roman world to live more experiences related to myths and legends by the sea. Our next stop is at the church of Santa María das Areas (Saint Mary of the Sands), a 12th century Romanesque church located on the road that leads to the Fisterra Lighthouse. In one of the chapels we see the Cristo da Barba Dourada (Christ of the Golden Beard), who according to the legend, arrived at the town brought in by the sea. We cannot miss the opportunity of looking closely at this image to verify if what the legend says about it is true: it maintains that the hair and nails of this Christ grow… Could it be true?

After the intrigue and mystery of the Christ of the Golden Beard, on our way to “end of the world”, we visit the ruins of the chapel of San Guillerme (Saint William), another place imbued with magical powers related to fertility. Of pre-Romanesque origin, the chapel was built over an ancient Iron Age fort, where some locate the mythical Ara Solis, the altar to worship the sun. Another element of great ethnographic interest is the so called “cama de pedra” (stone bed) the place where until not too long ago couples hoped to receive the miracle to conceive a much sought after child. From this chapel, the landscape will captivate you with a striking view of cape Fisterra, with its mythical lighthouse at the end, and intuitively you will find the path that we must take to reach it.

The end of this itinerary could not be more perfect: watching the sun disappear behind the end of the world is priceless.

Arriba