Cape Finisterre is the final destination for many pilgrims
Cape Finisterre is about a 90-km walk from Santiago de Compostela. It is a recent tradition for pilgrims to burn their clothes or boots at the end of their journey at Cape Finisterre.
The origin of the pilgrimage to Finisterre is not certain. However, it is believed to date from pre-Christian times and was possibly associated with Finisterre’s status as the “edge of the world”. The tradition continued in medieval times, when “hospitals” were established to cater to pilgrims along the route from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre.
Before the Americas were discovered, in Roman times, it was believed to be the end of the known world. The name Finisterre, like that of Finistère in France, derives from the Latin finis terrae, meaning “end of the earth”. It is sometimes said to be the westernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula. However, Cabo kilometres (10.3 mi) further west and thus the westernmost point of continental Europe.
Monte Facho is the name of the mountain on Cape Finisterre, which has a peak that is 238 metres (781 ft) above sea level. A prominent lighthouse is at the top of Monte Facho. The seaside town of Fisterra is nearby.
Cape Finisterre has some spectacular beaches, including O Rostro, Arnela, Mar Riveira, and Corbeiro. Many of the beaches are framed by steep cliffs leading down to the Mare Tenebrosum (or dark sea, the name of the Atlantic in the Middle Ages).
There are several rocks in this area associated with religious legends, such as the “holy stones”, the “stained wine stones”, the “stone chair”, and the tomb of the Celtic crone-goddess Orcabella.
Greco-Roman historians called the local residents of Cape Finisterre the “Nerios”. Monte Facho was the place where the Celtic Nerios from Duio carried out their offerings and rites in honor of the sun. Monte Facho is the site of current archaeological investigations and there is evidence of habitation on Monte Facho circa 1000 BCE. There is a Roman Road to the top of Monte Facho and the remnants of ancient structures on the mountain.
In Spain, France and Portugal, pilgrim’s hostels with beds in dormitories dot the common routes, providing overnight accommodation for pilgrims who hold a albergue, both of which are similar to youth hostels or hostelries in the French system of gîtes d’étape.
Staying at pilgrims’ hostels, known as albergues generally cost between 10 and 15 euros per night.) Pilgrims are usually limited to one night’s accommodation and are expected to leave by eight in the morning to continue their pilgrimage.
Hostels may be run by the local parish, the local council, private owners or pilgrims’ associations. Occasionally these refugios are located in monasteries, such as the one run by monks in Samos, Spain and the one in Santiago de Compostela.
The final hostel on the route is the famous Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos, which lies across the plaza from the Cathedral of Santiago de Campostela. It was originally constructed by Ferdinand and Isabel, the Catholic Monarchs. Today it is a luxury 5-star Parador hotel, which still provides free services to a limited number of pilgrims daily.
- Walter Starkie, The Road to Santiago (1957)
- Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage (1987)
- Jack Hitt, Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain (1994)
- David Lodge, Therapy (1995)
- Cees Nooteboom, Roads to Santiago (English edition 1996)
- Shirley Maclaine, Camino: Journey of the Spirit
- Hape Kerkeling, “I’m off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago” (2009)
Camino de Santiago • Locations & Activities