Finisterre is a land of traditions and legends, a place where the sun sets, at the end of the earth, where travelers and hikers went in search of knowledge about life and death. There are numerous indications that point to the existence of pagan cults prior to the arrival of the Romans and supported by them. Sun cults, life cults, fertility cults and rituals … We don’t know if the memory of these traditions was kept alive or was temporarily lost with the advent of Christianity, but we know that in order to Christianize their people, the Church decided promote in the area a cult with great strength and devotion: the Virgin cult.
Virgin worship was promoted particularly in Muxia, with the creation of the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Barca, a tradition which, in line with the Virgen del Pilar de Zaragoza, spoke of an apparition of the Mother of Christ to the Apostle Santiago. In Finisterre, Santa Maria das Areas too became a place of devotion to the Virgin. In this way, centering, around Muxía and Fisterra, the pilgrimage to Santiago began to extend its route as far as the coast during the XV, XVI and XVII centuries.
Thus, for centuries the pilgrims continued their journey towards Fisterre for the same reasons that they visited Compostela: to visit holy places, Christian shrines. But gradually, after passing through this land and knowing its history, some of them began to narrate and spread the old pagan heritage, the anthropological meaning of Fisterre as the end of the world, as the western place of Europe, as a place of worship and pagan rituals.
Apart from the ancient past, some Jacobean legends were added by the pilgrims. On the one hand the symbol of pilgrimage and the pilgrim to Santiago from times of Gelmírez was the scallop shell, a symbol of completed pilgrimage which was sold on the streets of medieval Santiago … So, would it not be better to continue on as far as the coast and get one for yourself? On the other hand, rituals such as washing oneself in Lavacolla, at the gates of Santiago, didn’t carry with it the symbolism of a new baptism and rebirth that swimming in the waters of Finisterre could bestow, nor the break with the past life which casting off old clothes (and even the very boots with which he has walked there) would imply.
If you can’t walk to Fisterre but you still want to visit, take a look.
Text: Rosa Vázquez
Photos: Commons Wikipedia (Grela, Profesor Paz)
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