Santa Maria das Areas is on the way to the lighthouse of Finisterre. Throughout centuries of pilgrimage to Santiago, many pilgrims continued on their way as far as the coast or, as they said in their reports, to the sunset or to the end of the world. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the cult of the Virgin was strongly developed and this church, like the nearby shrine of Muxía, became very popular. Also, in St. Maria of Fisterre there was and is a very popular image of Christ, which together with the Virgin cult and the importance of Jacobean legends and traditions, made the church an important shrine of pilgrimage. The number of pilgrims became so large, that in 1479 a pilgrim hostel was built in front of the main church façade.

Sta. Maria of Fisterre was founded in 1199, at the time when the cathedral of Santiago was being built. Its founder was Doña Urraca Fernandez, daughter of Count of Traba. The original architecture was Romanesque, but over the centuries it was remodeled. The current building is essentially a Gothic building from the XV century with some remains of the original Romanesque structure, for example the main doorway.
800px-Santa_María_de_las_ArenasThe famous sculpture of Christ, known as “Santo Cristo da Barba Dourada”, is kept in a baroque chapel. It is a Gothic sculpture of the early fourteenth century attributed by tradition to Nicodemus. The legend says that it was thrown overboard from a ship at Cabanas in order to abate a terrible storm that was lashing the area: after which, the waters were stilled and the ship was able to continue her journey. Many other miracles have been attributed to the sculpture, including the conversion of a group of Muslims who had broken into the church in order to desecrate it. There are other similar sculptures and traditions in Burgos, on the French Way, and in Ourense, on the Via de la Plata.
Like Compostela, the church of Fisterra also has its Holy Door, which is only opened and used as an entrance to the temple during Holy Years.

Text: Rosa Vázquez

Photos: Commons Wikipedia (José Luis Filpo Cabana)

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