The Most Refreshing Road to Santiago
03 June, 2015
The river-and-sea route along the Arousa estuary and the river Ulla commemorates the sea landing in Galicia of the mortal remains of the Apostle, James the Elder, after his martyrdom in Jerusalem in the year AD 44. James was a fisherman of Galilee, an apostle of Christ, and a preacher of the Gospel in the West. Herod ordered his assassination in the year AD 44.
This is undoubtedly one of the less trodden pilgrim’s routes to Santiago. No ordinary route, it is negotiated mainly by boat, against the magnificent backdrop of the Arousa estuary. The subsequent stretch negotiated on foot is only 26 km long, the distance separating Pontecesures from the holy point of arrival in Santiago de Compostela.
The Sea Route
The route starts in the O Grove fishing village. It has pleasure boats that make most of the journey, with stopovers at mussel rafts, tastings included. But, if you’re hankering after a more genuine adventure, the best approach is to make friends with a local fisherman to negotiate the stretch on a small boat. This is the best way to hear the scores of tales about a route celebrated the world over. And, the shallow draught of the vessel means that reaching the picturesque village of Pontecesures does not involve any major difficulty. It is safest to sail up the river during high tide.
The first few paces of the journey are incredible, sailing right past the shellfish harvesters rummaging between the rocks for clams and velvet crabs on the riverbank. You then wend your way among the mussel rafts, a veritable tangle of floating platforms beneath which you can make out sizeable loads of delicious mussels. From Cortegada Island on, a number of pilgrim’s crosses set on islets and on the shores of the Ulla estuary show the way, traversing the mythical Western Towers of Catoira and the nature reserve of Brañas de Laíño, until you reach Padrón and then on to Compostela.
Feet! You’re Now Required!
The half-ruined towers of the Catoira fortification mark the end of the most maritime estuary. From here on, the two riverbanks start moving together, as if to form a river. The stretch up to Padrón is no longer navigable after the river Sar channelling works were undertaken, but you can reach Pontecesures along the river Ulla. This is the landing point. According to ancient Christian traditions, reworked in medieval texts, after his martyrdom, some of St James’ disciples recovered his decapitated body and took it across the Mediterranean and up the Atlantic coast of Iberia as far as Iria Flavia, in the vicinity of present-day Padrón. They made the voyage in a celebrated “stone boat”, which might have been one of the vessels used for transporting minerals between Galicia and other areas of the Roman Empire. The stone or “Pedrón” is housed in the Church of Santiago de Padrón. Tradition has it that the Apostle’s boat was moored to the stone after its long voyage.
Padrón is a modern town. The boat was moored to a stone or pedrón, which is actually an altar stone that can now be seen under the altar at the Church of Santiago. Padrón, the former Iria Flavia, was one of the great Roman metropoli in Galicia. There are also vestiges of St James at the Fuente de Santiago (Fountain of St James) and in Santiaguiño do Monte, where a shrine and megalithic complexes recollect the Apostle’s early preachings. This maritime route was also plied by the Portuguese, who also celebrate it as the route taken by disciples who brought St James’ relics with them.
Don’t miss out on this maritime route reaching Santiago de Compostela after sailing up the Arousa estuary. Check out our flights here.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
03 June, 2015