A Fiesta to Die For at Santa Marta de Ribarteme
At noon on 29 July each year, in the small Pontevedran church of San Xosé de Ribarteme, one of the most unusual processions in the world sets out – the Romaxe dos cadaleitos (Procession of the Coffins) of Santa Marta de Ribartemeo. San Xosé de Ribarteme is in the municipality of As Neves, some 30 kilometres from Vigo, which for centuries remained isolated from the influence of traditional, orthodox Catholicism.
The effigy of St Martha is paraded at the procession of Santa Marta de Ribarteme,protectress of the helpless and patroness of lost causes, one of the most devoutly worshipped virgins in the community. She is also the sister of Mary Magdalene and Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Christ after having been dead for three days. Alongside her effigy and the images of St Benedict and the Virgin of Carmen, a funeral cortege comprising open coffins with living people insidefiles past, the coffins held aloft by family and friends. It is a profound act of faith, combining religion and symbology, by which the faithful intend to fulfil a promise they have made to St Martha out of gratitude for having survived some near-death experience. As the cortege files past, the other pilgrims sings the praises of the virgin’s healing powers to the rhythm of drums and the constant pealing of bells.“Virgin St Martha, Star of the North, we bring you those who saw death”.
The enactment breathes spirituality and a devotion typical of the Galician heartland. Visitors may be shocked by the scene, but every year more and more faithful, tourists and passers-by come to this small Galician village to experience this special moment. Galicia is a land of legends in which death and resurrection often play a major role. Stories which unfold across misty landscapes, like the one about the Holy Campaign – a procession of tormented souls who, in their grim wanderings, visit the homes where someone is about to die. This mysticism is part of the land’s charm – to discover the essence of Galicia, one has to come to terms with its ancestral customs.
In the International Limelight
The procession is arousing increasingly more interest among tourists and journalists around the world. It even came to the notice of The Guardian which ranked it the second most unusual festivity in the world, a fact which has increased its fame even further. Other landmarks in the area have also come to the prestigious newspaper’s notice – it has classed Rodas Beach and the Cíes Islands, in the archipelago of the same name in Pontevedra province, as the most beautiful in the world.
The journal, National Geographic, also set its sights on the Rías Baixas in a documentary on cultural traditions and communities around Europe. In the course of its making, the television presenter, Darren McMullen, got heavily involved in the action by climbing into one of the processionary coffins.
«El Concello de As Neves»
The Concello de As Neves municipality, closely linked to the river Miño, which forms the natural border with Portugal along a 10-kilometre stretch, is an ideal spot for delving into the past. This is evident at A Pedra da Moura, in the Taboexa parish district, and Monte das Carboeiras, in Liñares, as well as in the military vestiges at Cividá, Rocha and Altamira. The beautiful landscapes of As Neves can be viewed from several routes skirting the Miño riverbanks, notably the Sendeiro dos Pescadores de As Neves, which winds along the Galician side of the river, and the Ruta do Patrimonio Natural e Histórico-Artístico, a circular route which traverses the thirteen parish districts in the As Neves municipality.
Concello de As Neves also boasts fine cuisine, with such local produce as lamprey, baby eel, game, honey and queixo (cheese) das Neves, ideally washed down with a white wine from the Miño riverbanks such as Condado or Albariño, or the Rubios red.
Come and live out this extraordinary experience. Check out our flights to Vigo here.
Text by Scanner FMmore info
Outings Near Santiago
Santiago’s zone of influence stretches through a score of municipalities, ranging from A Coruña to Pontevedra, all articulated around the river Ulla, while various branches of the Road to Santiago run nearby, too.
Hardly 10 km from the city lies a magical spot – Pico Sacro, a legendary hill as far as Galician culture and the Jacobean tradition are concerned. Located south-east of the city, its unusual outline rises sharply to a height of 533 metres. Santiago and the skyline of its Cathedral towers are visible in the distance from its summit.
Galicia is green, and the city of Santiago is also surrounded by green. Nature lovers can go on outings from the city to such amazing spots as the Fervenzas do Toxa, or to Insua; to unique forests like the Fraga de Catasós, with chestnut trees towering over thirty metres, or to mountain ranges like O Candán, with its ancient landscapes and great open spaces.
In a radius of just fifty kilometres you can discover the monumental wealth of such historic towns as Padrón or Melide, both directly related to the Road to Santiago; pazos (country homes) like the Pazo de Santa Cruz de Ribadulla, noteworthy for its camellias and centuries-old olives trees, and even places of quiet and repose like the Carboeiro Monastery, surrounded by splendid natural scenery.
Needless to say, being Galicia, it is also worth planning outings to try the delicious and abundant cuisine in Santiago’s environs, characterised by the use of fresh produce in season. Be sure to try the Padrón peppers, trout and lamprey, cocido (stew), beef, cheeses, melindres (honey fritters), filloa crêpes, almendrados (macaroons) and rosquillas (a ring-shaped pastry), and to end your trip by toasting with a local spirit.
Come and discover all these gems for yourself! Check out our flights here.
For further information on Santiago: www.santiagoturismo.com
For further information on the environs of Santiago: www.areasantiago.es
See In the Summer at Santiago de Compostela
In a few days’ time we will usher in the summer solstice and the shortest night in the year, an auspicious moment marked by a number of rituals. A host of countries in Europe pay tribute to the change of season, not to mention the excitement associated with the long-awaited summer holidays. Fire is usually the main ingredient in most of these celebrations, whether in the guise of bonfires to burn the old spirits of the year we are leaving behind, or firework displays that light up and colour the sky as everyone waits for dawn on the longest day of the year.
Santiago de Compostela is one of a plethora of locations in Europe where the night of St John is celebrated. In keeping with the tradition that stretches across all Galicia, the city’s streets and public squares are lit up with bonfires in the course of what is undoubtedly the most magical night in the year. On this night alone, the bonfires are known here as cacharelas. The people of Santiago de Compostela leap over them, a deed believed to ward off witchcraft and the evil eye cast by meigas, the name by which evil spirits are known in Galicia. Be sure to join in this magic ritual to see in the summer on the right foot. The city’s historic centre has the most crowded bonfires, particularly in the Plaza de Irmán Gómez and the streets of Algalia de Abaixo and Valle Inclán, although you will also find bonfires blazing in the Pelamios quarter, San Juan Park in Vista Alegre and the district of San Lorenzo.
Alongside the bonfires, centre stage also features sardines, the streets of Santiago redolent with their aroma. The sardines are grilled over the bonfires and eaten together with the traditional Galician empanadas (a sandwich pie) and red wine – a great culinary combination for a night out that is bound to extend well into the morning.
Another purification ritual which Santiagans take very seriously is to leave overnight in water a sprig of magical plants and herbs, including rosemary, mint, camomile and rose, and wash themselves with that infusion the following morning. Anything goes when it comes to warding off the evil spirits, so don’t hesitate to get your spray of herbs at the Mercado de Abastos and join in the tradition.
And, There’s More
Coinciding with the festivity of St John and for the second year running, a festival organised by Turismo Santiago will be held from 22 to 24 June at which you can delve more deeply into Galician rituals and traditions associated with the arrival of summer. Among the scheduled activities are itineraries for picking the herbs for St John, a free train which runs from one bonfire to another, wickerwork exhibitions, traditional dance workshops, storytelling sessions of myths and legends about meigas and magic spells, music and the conjuro de la queimada (a ritual consisting of an incantation accompanied by mulling and drinking a pomace brandy called orujo). There will also be a market where you can taste locally sourced traditional products in season.
Text by Turismo Santiago de Compostela
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