5 unusual and unexpected facts to discover on the trails

5 unusual and unexpected facts to discover on the trails

On the paths to Compostela, there are many surprises for the pilgrims who set out to travel the Jacobean routes. Between historical curiosities, mythical places, and anecdotes, here are five unusual facts to discover along the trails.

The Irache Fountain on Camino Frances

In Spain, at the exit of the village of Estrella, pilgrims are invited to make a somewhat original stop. Along the way, they discover an astonishing fountain, accompanied by an inscription in Spanish: “Pilgrim, if you want to arrive in Compostela with strength and vigor, of this great wine, take a sip and toast to happiness. » Above the source, a statue of Saint-Jacques watches over it.

The fountain has two taps. From the first, water simply gushes out, but when the second is opened, an unusual beverage flows out. Since its installation in 1991, this fountain has delivered 100 liters of red wine every day, admittedly a little young, supplied by one of the oldest cellars in Navarre, the Bodega d'Irache. This extraordinary source is the only one existing on the route to Compostela.

Offering wine to pilgrims is not unusual on the paths to Santiago. This drink was once considered a cure for injuries caused by their journey! The Irache fountain perpetuates this ancestral tradition, symbol of the legendary hospitality of the roads to Compostela.

An invitation to the restaurant for the first ten pilgrims to arrive in Santiago

Every day, in Santiago de Compostela, a nice surprise awaits the ten walkers arriving first at the city's pilgrims' office. After getting their much deserved Compostela, these ten people receive an invitation to dinner, at the table of a restaurant. This establishment perpetuates a tradition of the path that is dear to it, offering meals to walkers exhausted by their long journey.

The underground staircase of Puy-en-Velay Cathedral

It is 7 a.m. when mass begins in the majestic Puy-en-Velay cathedral. The pews of the church welcome the faithful of the city, mixed with walkers impatient to embark on their pilgrimage to Compostela. Le Puy-en-Velay marks the start of the famous Via Podiensisthe oldest and most traveled path in France, linking this Haute-Loire town to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

At the close of the mass, the floor of the cathedral opens, revealing a staircase that invites the pilgrim to begin his journey.

This original event gives a special aura to this departure, adding a sacred dimension to the adventure that awaits walkers.

The path to the Canary Islands: a path that does not lead to Santiago

In the heart of the Atlantic, on the Canary Islands, there is a Camino de Compostela which will never take you to the square in front of the cathedral. There Route Jacobea y de los volcanes (route of Santiago and the volcanoes) in Gran Canaria, is the only Santiago route located outside European borders. This path invites walkers to cover 65 km in the heart of the island, following the volcanic landscapes and the characteristic flora of the archipelago.

Despite its geographical distance, this island maintains important links with Santiago de Compostela. In the past, Canary Islanders, especially Spanish settlers, could walk to the Santiago de Los Caballeros church in Gáldar. This pilgrimage allowed those who had no means of getting to the continent to access the same indulgences as those granted to pilgrims who set foot on the ground in front of the Cathedral of Santiago.

Every year in July, the town of Gáldar celebrates its patron saint with the feast of Santiago de Los Caballeros (Saint James of the Knights). Each district of the city parades on their float in procession, accompanied by offerings. That same day, the traditional flower battle took place.

Allow between three and four days to travel the 65 km that separate the southern end of the island from the north. The route connects the church of Tunte (where pilgrims can admire a statue of Santiago) to that of Santiago de Los Caballeros de Gáldar. Even if the walker does not cover 100 km, it is possible, exceptionally, to receive the plenary indulgence at the end of his journey.

La Cruz de Ferro, highest point of the Camino Frances

On the “French Way”, between Astorga and Pontferrada, pilgrims pass through one of the most mythical places on this route. At the top of Puerto Irago, perched at an altitude of 1490 m, stands majestically an iron cross on a five-meter mast. This timeless and striking site invites the pilgrim to stop for a moment.

At the foot of the cross, walkers discover a large mound of stones, deposited centuries ago by travelers on their way to Compostela. According to tradition, the pilgrim must carry a stone in his backpack, which he must place at the foot of La Cruz de Ferro. This ritual act has several symbols:

  • The stone symbolizes the burden that the walker leaves behind.
  • It represents the superficial aspects of his life, which he sheds.
  • This extra weight in his bag also embodies his sins.

Today, this sacred place also brings together personal objects, photographs, handwritten messages… A beautiful way for the pilgrim to leave a timeless mark on the path.

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