Friday, May 15, 2015


Finisterre is a cape on the western edge of Spain. The belief held by Romans that this peninsula was the edge of the world is still reflected in its name: finis means end, terrae means earth, though in fact the western-most point of the continent is actually Cabo de Roca. Still, the area has a long history as the location of several holy sites that predate Christianity and was also a prominent point of landfall for merchant vessels.

Because it is only 90 kilometers past Santiago, many pilgrims walking the Camino chose to continue on to this point on the coast after visiting the cathedral and perhaps resting for a few days. It really is considered the true end of the pilgrimage. It does not have any particular holy sites associated with the Camino but perhaps something about it supposedly being the end of the world draws these visitors.


The desire to walk all the way to the sea is certainly understandable. Many pilgrims, for whom this journey was their first experience of the world beyond their village, may have never seen the ocean before and even for those who had, going to the coast seems to be a natural end to the trip, especially if one believed that it truly was the end of the world, or at least the western-most point. After the bustle of Santiago, the peace and solitude potentially found by gazing over the water would have provided a time for mediation and reflection upon the completion of the pilgrimage.

We arrived in the town a bit later on Tuesday than we intended due to a bit of confusion with the GPS, which initially took us to another town called Finisterre that is two hours south of where we wanted to be. Apparently we were supposed to know to type in the Galacian name "Fisterra." Still, we got there eventually and had enough time to go to the beach once we finally located our accommodations. Really, all of the small setbacks enhanced the overall experience; I'm sure pilgrims hundreds of years ago also got turned around and confused at time. Thank goodness for kind locals who are willing to help with directions!

After spending some time on the beach and wandering about the small town itself, I was able to more fully understand why people are drawn there. Santiago is impressive, overwhelming, and indeed busy; the quiet here on the coast was a welcome relief. Most of the group arose early Wednesday morning to walk to a lookout point and watch the sun rise. We followed the Camino all the way through the village in the dark, along the water and down the old cobblestone streets. As we walked, the sun began to appear behind the wall of clouds in the east. Finally we sat in the grass on a high hill overlooking the sea.

The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below, the chirping of a few early-rising birds, and the rustle of the wind in the grass made for an experience just as moving as being able to view the relics in the cathedral in Santiago. I could have spent quite a bit more time there simply reflecting and absorbing everything I'd seen and learned on the journey so far. The walk back through town was also pleasant and by the end I was refreshed and ready to continue on with the trip.

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