The West Ways to Santiago: Fisterra-Muxía, Arousa and river Ulla, English Way
Neftalí Platas García
The Way of Fisterra-Muxía
The pilgrimage usually finishes in the city of Santiago de Compostela, but many people, continuing an old tradition, are not satisfied with this and they continue on towards Fisterra and Muxía, in the Costa da Morte, the most western end of Galicia which was thought to be the most western end of the world in the past. It was a place connected with many pagan believes and ceremonies.
We are going to talk about the most important places in this route. In Ames there is a small bridge from Medieval times and the Baroque church of Trasmonte. Later we’ll find Ponte Maceira (another beautiful bridge).
The way from Negreira to Hospital take us along high plateau areas from where we can see Negreira and Mazaricos. One of the most important characteristics of this section is the popular architecture represented by "hórreos" (raised granary): buildings to preserve farming products.
If we climb up to Monte Aro we can see the beautiful landscape of the area called Terra de Xallas. After crossing Ponte Olveira from the 16th century we can see more examples of popular architecture.
From Hospital the way bifurcates and the pilgrim should decide to go either to Fisterra or to Muxía.
If our decission is to go to Fisterra in the way we’ll see the Sanctuary of Nosa Señora das Neves with a “saint fountain” and the hermitage of San Pedro Mártir with other fountain to cure illnesses miraculously.
Cee is the first town where the pilgrim arrives. Here we should point up O Pazo de Cotón (a beautiful manor house), the building of the Fernando Blanco foundation (from the 19th century) and the Gothic church of Xunqueira.
Near Cee is the village called Corcubión, whose old part has been declared a historical heritage site, and where the pilgrim can visit the Gothic church of San Marcos.
When we arrive to Fisterra we should stop to visit the Church of Santa María das Areas and the Baroque chapel of Santo Cristo. It’s very important to reach the lighthouse of Fisterra to see the immensity of the sea and the sunset.
The way from Fisterra to Muxía crosses villages, fields dedicated to agriculture and forests, all ofthem near the sea. In this area we can find many different kind of birds. We should also point up that in this route we’ll find many examples of traditional rural architecture and very beautiful churches.
Before arriving to Muxía we should climb to a hill to have a wide view of the area. Punta da Barca is the last part of the way. Here we should visit “a Pedra dos Cadrís” (the legend tells that this stone is the ship used by the Virgin when she came to help Saint-James) and the church of Santa María de Muxía.
If we choose the route from Hospital to Muxía, in San Martin de Ozón we should point up one of the biggest raised granary in Galicia and the remainders of the monastery of San Xulián de Moraime: a Romanesque church with three naves and Gothic pictures.
The Route of the Sea of Arousa and River Ulla
This marine-fluvial route through the Ría de Arousa and the river Ulla commemorates the arrival in Galicia, by sea, of the body of Apostle James the Major, after his martyrdom in Jerusalem. Ancient Christian traditions tell that after his martyrdom, some disciples of Saint James gathered his decapitated body and moved it across the whole Mediterranean and the Athlantic Iberian coast up to Iria Flavia, in the proximities of the current village of Padrón.
The annual commemoration of the “Translatio” across the Ría de Arousa takes place at the end of July or beginning of August with some adorned ships and many people.
In the coasts of the Ría de Arousa we can enjoy beautiful landscapes rich in cultural heritage. On both sides we can see beaches, coves, capes and creeks and, at the same time, industrial and fishing villages and places dedicated to wine production and cattle raising.
This way has some different routes. If we begin at the South we can visit the small village called Sanxenxo with important monuments from Roman times and from Medieval centuries. Here we should point up the beach called A Lanzada and, to the west, the Ons and Onza Islands, declared as natural space.
The O Grove peninsula and A Toxa isle are two of the most well-known tourist places of the area.
In the west part of O Barbanza peninsula we found the village called Ribeira, populated since ancient times as we can learn because of the megalithic remainders (Dolmen of Axeitos) and “castrexos”.
The small town called A Pobra do Caramiñal shelters an important cultural and historical heritage with churches and manor houses like the Tower of Xunqueiras (15th century), the Tower Bermudez (16th century), the Big House of Aguiar (18th century), the Manor House of Coton (18th century) and the churches Santa María a Antiga do Caramiñal (16th century) and Santiago da Pobra de Deán (Gothic church from the 15th century).
In the eastern part of the Barbanza Peninsula we found the village called Meaño with its parish church of Simes. If we go to the north we’ll arrive to Cambados, with a very important artistic heritage where we should point up the square of Fefiñáns, a fantastic place from the 17th century, the church of San Bieito de Fefiñans, the House-Museum of the poet Ramón Cabanillas, some manor houses from the 17-18th centuries and other churches of importance like Santa Mariña Dozo.
The following important stop is Vilanova de Arousa where we can visit some manor houses and the House of Valle Inclán, an important Spanish writer who was born in the village.
A bridge joins Vilanova de Arousa and the Isle of Arousa. This last one is a very important place from the ecological point of view, very well preserved in the natural park of Carreirón.
The next important town is Vilagarcía de Arousa, where we can visit the church of San Martiño de Sobrán (13th century), the church of Santiago de Carril (16-17th centuries) and the manor house-convent of Vista Alegre (17th century).
In the opposite side of Arousa we can found some “castrexos” places between Boiro and Rianxo. One of the most important Galician writers, Castelao, was born in this last town where we can point up the church of Santa Comba (16th century), the church of Santa María de Leiro (17th century) and the Baroque sanctuary of the Virxe de Guadalupe.
After crossing Bamio with its petroglyphs from the Bronze Age we arrive to Catoira, a small town that was assaulted by the Vikings many times during the Medieval Age and, later, by the Almoravid pirates. The Towers of West, the chapel of the castle, the Cross of the King Afonso III are the rest of those times.
At the east side of the Ría de Arousa, in Valga, we find some Romanesque churches from the 12th century. In Dodro, at the west side, we can see the Baroque parish church of Santa María, manor houses like the ones called Pazo da Ermida (17th century) and Pazo de Lestrove (18th century).
From here this way joins the Portuguese Way.
The English Way
The pilgrimage way to Compostela enjoyed widespread fame throughout medieval Europe. In fact, land and sea alike were furrowed with routes rich in spirituality leading to Compostela. Pilgrims from Scandinavia, Flanders, England, Scotland and Ireland employed the ways of the sea to arrive to Ribadeo, Viveiro, Ferrol or A Coruña. These two cities, due to their strategic location, are the starting points of the two alternatives of the English Way.
The pilgrimages from Scandinavia and the British Islands began in the 12th century. Signals of this are the ceramic pieces and English coins and also the offerings made to the apostle (the most outstanding is the famous portable alabaster altarpiece which was donated in 1456 to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela).
We can begin the English Way in Ferrol or in A Coruña. Both ways are different until the small town of Bruma.
Starting in Ferrol, the English Way begins at the docks of Curuxeiras, in the suburb that occupies the site of the medieval port. Leaving the Paseo da Mariña behind, the route takes to the church of San Francisco. One of the most significant buildings as far as the pilgrimages are concerned is the Hospital da Caridade (today a Cultural Centre), built in 1780 to help the sick, the poor and the pilgrims. The most important church is the Concathedral of S. Xián, the church of Virxe das Dores on the Amboage Square and the church of As Angustias.
In the way from Ferrol to Neda we find the monastery of San Martiño of Xubia. In Neda, we can visit the church of Santa María and the pilgrims hospital, the remains of which are affixed to the Town Hall. The Way takes us down Rúa Real, flanked by the arcades of the buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries to the church of San Nicolás (14th century).
We leave Neda and go through Fene and O Val to arrive to Cabanas where we find the church of San Martiño do Porto and the Madalena beach.
In Pontedeume we can visit the convent of Santo Agostiño, the Chapel of As Virtudes, the Keep of the Andrade Castle (14th century), the Church of Santiago (18th century) and the Tower Hall, afixed to the Ulloa Tower (17th century).
After leaving Pontedeume we can take the turn-off to visit the Romanesque church of San Miguel of Breamo (late 12th century). The way takes pilgrims to Barro, As Pedridas, Cermuzo, A Xesta, Buiña passing through the villages of Viadeiro and Bañobre.
After leaving the small town of Miño we will see a bridge (Ponte do Porco from the 14th century). In the way to Betanzos we can visit the Pazo of Montecelo, the Church of San Pantaleón das Viñas, the Romanesque Chuch of San Martiño de Tiobre and the Renaissance Sanctuary of Nosa Señora do Camiño.
Betanzos offers one of the most interesting groups of historical and artistic buildings in Galicia. The most outstanding civil buildings are the Bendaña Palace (15-18th centuries) and the Town Hall (18th century). The Gothic churches of this small city are very interesting: the Church of Santiago (15th century), the Convent of San Francisco (14th centuty) and the church of Santa María do Azougue (14th century).
In García Naveira brothers' square we can find the fountain of Diana, the Church of San Domingos (17th century) and its Baroque bell tower, the Archives of the Kingdom of Galicia and the Municipal Library (17th century).
In the way to Bruma we can enjoy a calm trip and find the churches of San Estevo de Cos and Santiago de Meangos.
Another route to arrive to Bruma begins in A Coruña. This city has many interesting places like the Tower of Hercules (2nd century), the Castle of San Antón, the maritime walk ...
Our itinerary begins at the Church of Santiago (12-13th centuries), continues to the Porta Real, not far from Maria Pita Square and from here to Avenida da Mariña, with its arcades and emblematic verandas (19th century).
The way we should go until Bruma is very quiet. We can visit the Romanesque church of Santiago de Sigrás, the church of Saint María de Cambre and the Manor House of Anceis (17th century). We go out of the small town until Sigüeiro; on the way we can stop to visit the churches of San Paio de Buscas and San Xián de Poulo. Sigueiro is a small town of medieval origin (12th century). After crossing the Sigueiro bridge (medieval origin) over the River Tambre the pilgrim will be in the municipality of Santiago.