Camino de Santiago myths & legends

There are many myths and legends related to the Camino de Santiago and some of them date back centuries. Thousands of pilgrims walked this pilgrimage since the Middle Age and many legends were born with them thanks to their journeys. Are you interested in knowing more about these myths? At Galiwonders we are very curious about the Way of Saint James and we did some research for you. Let’s discover some of these myths and legends in this post!

Camino de Santiago myths & legends

From the Middle Ages to our days, there have always been myths and legends related to the Camino de Santiago. Usually, these stories refer to the miracles made by St James the Apostle, the Virgin Mary and other saints. These legends have been transmitted from pilgrim to pilgrim since ancient times; an oral tradition that took place on the Way, or when pilgrims were having some time to rest. Nowadays, we can still enjoy some of these short stories, as we can find them in written collections in monasteries. 

The Camino de Santiago is a spiritual journey, aiming to explore not only the route but also ourselves. It is quite understandable that the path is full of symbols and secret messages hiding all kind of mysteries. Pilgrims that walk the Way of St James nowadays, embrace the adventure with the same enthusiasm as the medieval walkers. Each stone along the Way, hides a tale that is worth to be told, and today we are collecting some of them.

Camino de Santiago myths


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    The Bird and the Virgin Mary

    Puente de la Reina is one of the most iconic stops of the French Way, in Navarra region. There, we can visit the pilgrim bridge that was built by order of the Queen Doña Mayor  (“puente” means “bridge”, and “Reina” means “queen” that’s why the town is called “Puente de la Reina”, or “Bridge of the Queen”). On this bridge, there used to be an image of the Virgin Mary and, according to the legend, it used to be cleaned by a small bird that soaked his wings on the river. According to the tradition, this ritual used to happen on important dates and events taking place in Puente de la Reina.

    If you walk the Full French Way, you will able to cross this bridge and feel the power of this legend today, after centuries. This is one of the main treasures of the Camino de Santiago. To feel connected with a past that looks very far and close, at the same time. Get ready to live some incredible moments on your Way. You will feel linked to those pilgrims who walked your same route in the past and it will be a great feeling!

    Puente Románico (Puente de la Reina)


    The chicken in Santo Domingo de la Calzada 

    There is a popular proverb in Spain that says Santo Domingo de la Calzada, donde cantó la gallina después de asada (which means: “in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where the cock crowed after being cooked”). The origin of such sentence comes from the Middle Ages: a German pilgrim was walking the Camino de Santiago with his parents, and they stopped in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. They were eating at one of the restaurants, and the young waitress fell in love with the pilgrim when she saw him, but she was not loved in return. For this reason, she decided to take revenge by hiding a silver cup in the belongings of the German Pilgrim, for him to be accused of theft.

    The young man was sentenced to die in the gallows, and his parents prayed to the Saint. When they saw the body of his dead son, he came back to life saying that St James the Apostle had listened to the prayers. His parents went to see the Chief Magistrate of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, to inform him about the news, who was having dinner (chicken, to be precise). When they told him that their son was alive, we was about to eat a bite of his chicken, and started laugh. He said: your son is as alive as this chicken that I am about to eat. In that moment, the chicken jumped out of the plate and started to sing, full of life. The Legend of Santo Domingo de la Calzada is not the only one in which “a rooster” is mentioned. We talked about the miracle of Barcelos in our post about the Portuguese Way from Porto.

    santo domingo de la calzada


    The Mystery of Obanos

    It is told that in Navarra, the noble Felicia de Aquitania decided to renounce to her comfortable and privileged life after walking the Camino de Santiago. She decided to live in Amocaín dedicating her life to the poor people and those who needed help. Her brother, the Duke Guillermo, when he found out about such decision, was furious and stabbed her to death. After his crime, the Duke was full of remorses and travelled to Rome to confess his sins. He was imposed the penance of walking to Santiago de Compostela. When he came back, he renounced to his privileged life, same as her sister did before him. 

    Later he decided to stay in Obanos as a penitent next to the hermitage of the Virgin, on Mount Arnótegui. He will then become Saint Guillermo and the hermitage will be dedicated to his name. This legend is currently staged in the town square in the second half of August since 1962 and has been declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest.

    The legend of the Botafumeiro

    botafumeiro santiago de compostela

    The Botafumeiro, this giant inciense container, is one of the most fascinating objects of the Camino de Santiago. There are thousands of pilgrims that walk the route aiming to see it once in Santiago de Compostela, swinging inside the Cathedral. There is a story that states that the Botafumeiro was created to hide the bad smell of the pilgrims inside the cathedral, blocking the stink with the inciense.  Also, the smoke of the Butafumeiro was believed to have magical properties, to treat blind people, respiratory diseases, etc. 

    Remember that the spirit of the Camino and its myths are stronger than ever this year, since it’s Holy Year Xacobean. Furthermore, you will be able to enjoy this atmosphere one extra year, because the Holy Year has been extended until 2022. Don’t miss it!

    Do you know any other legend, myth or tradition related to the Camino de Santiago? Please do not hesitate to contact us here

    The Story of Pedro Madruga

    Popular legends say a lot about the place where they are set. This is the case of the story of Pedro Madruga, the bastard son of an important man in Galicia in the 15th century.

    A bit of history

    A few kilometers from Arcade, in the heart of the Portuguese Way, if we turn a little inland we will arrive at Sotomayor. Here you will find one of the most famous castles in Galicia. This fortification was inhabited in the 15th century by one of the most outstanding figures of Galicia. That is precisely the story we bring you today: the story of Pedro Madruga.

    Pedro Álvarez de Sotomayor (1430 – 1486) was the bastard son of the Lord of Sotomayor, one of the most powerful families in Galicia at the time. Due to his status, he received an ecclesiastical education while his brother inherited the title from his father; however, his brother had no descendants, and after his untimely death Pedro finally took his place.

    It was a time characterized by clashes between peasants and feudal lords, due to insecurity and bad harvests. But our protagonist stood out for his leadership skills and his good management of the troops, which led him to defeat these revolutionary groups (something in which his brother had failed).


    The legend

    The name Pedro Madruga, by which he is historically known, Pedro Madruga, comes, as you may have already suspected, from his fame as an early riser. The story goes that in order to mark the dividing line between his territories and those of the Sarmiento de Ribadavia family (his bitter enemies), both Lords agreed to get up in the morning with the crowing of the rooster and start walking towards each other, marking the boundary at the point where they met. When Lord Sarmiento of Ribadavia was about to leave his castle early in the morning, he found Pedro Madruga already at the door. It is known that the roosters of Sotomayor crowed much earlier than those of Ribadavia!

    During the War of the Castilian Succession, Pedro Madruga had the misfortune to support the losing side. This left him in a very bad position. His reaction to the harassment he was the victim of by the victors was to carry out the risky action of kidnapping the bishop of Tui in exchange for a ransom (the house of Sotomayor was in ruins at the time).

    The strategy did not work out well either, and he finally decided to set course for Castile to ask for the pardon of the Catholic Monarchs, but during his journey he met his death in dark circumstances.

    Or so one version of history tells us. There are many scholars who support the theory that, in reality, Christopher Columbus and Pedro Madruga were the same person (to tell the truth, as many as those who affirm the opposite).

    The truth is that this is such a controversial subject, about which so much has been written and opined, that it is impossible to affirm such a thing without the risk of being wrong, although we like to continue thinking that, indeed, Christopher Columbus was Galician.

    From here we can not fail to recommend to all travelers who are in the Rias Baixas, a short visit to the Castle of Sotomayor. Even to those pilgrims who are doing the Portuguese Way.To get there you have to deviate about 3 km from the route, but if the weather and energy accompany, it will be worth it.

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