Pilgrim’s stories on the Camino de Santiago
In this article about myths and legends on the pilgrim route we told you some of the key legends to understand the origin and history of the Camino de Santiago. In today’s publication, we want to share with you more amazing stories of the Camino de Santiago and its pilgrims.
Each of the myths and stories on the Camino de Santiago makes up the magical and wonderful essence that is breathed along the routes of the Camino. We will begin with two of the most popular pilgrim tales: The Reniega Fountain and the shadow of the pilgrim.
Then, we will tell you about more miracles that happened on the Camino Frances and other routes. These are not so well known and surely not surprising. We love stories and pilgrim’s myths!
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The legend of Fuente Reniega
On the 4th stage on the Camino Frances, at almost 13 km from Pamplona, you will find the Reniega Fountain, the enclave of one of the most famous myths on the Camino de Santiago. According to this tale of the pilgrim culture, a pilgrim was completing a hard climb, in the middle of summer, on the Perdon mountain pass.
Upon reaching the pass, thirsty and exhausted, he found only dirt and dust. At that moment the devil appeared in disguise as a young walker and the pilgrim asked him where he could get some water. The demon quickly offered the dying pilgrim to soothe his thirst if he rejected God.
According to the legend of the Reniega Fountain, the pilgrim refused to renounce his faith in God. It was then that the devil tried to tempt him again, asking him to renounce the Virgin Mary, if he wanted to quench his thirst. The dying pilgrimage refused his offer again.
Satan, convinced that he would make the pilgrim renounce his faith, made him a third offer. “If you forget your devotion to Santiago the Apostle, I will soothe your thirst and you’ll avoid death,” the devil told him. Despite the desire to drink some water, the pilgrim said no again.
The thirsty man, looking exhausted and weak, and at the high price demanded by the devil for providing water, implored heaven for help. The legend of the Reniega Fountain tells that at that moment, the devil disappeared wrapped in a cloud of sulphur.
In the eyes of the surprised pilgrim, Santiago appeared, dressed as a pilgrim. The apostle made a fountain appear, in the same place, from which fresh and clean water emanated. With it he gave some for the pilgrim to drink, using his own scallop.
Other miracles of the Fuente Reniega
This is not the only legends of the Reniega Fountain. In this place on the Camino de Santiago, there have been other miracles. According to the peasants of this region, the water of the fountain saved many pilgrims who came to her seriously ill. They also say that the Virgin of Forgiveness works miracles among the neighbours of this area on the Camino de Santiago Frances.
The legend of the Shadow of the Pilgrim
Another of the more well-known stories on the Camino de Santiago happens in the heart of the city of Compostela, next to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. We refer to the legend of the Shadow of the Pilgrim, also known as the Legend of the Ghost Pilgrim.
This pilgrim tale speaks of love, of the romance that a priest and a cloistered nun lived. This story of the Camino de Santiago takes place in the Plaza de la Quintana, one of the most visited squares of Santiago de Compostela, after the Plaza del Obradoiro.
The most widespread version of this story tells us that a priest in the cathedral fell in love with a cloistered nun from the nearby Convent of San Paio. The lovers were met using an underground passageway that linked both temples.
The clergyman, tired of that clandestine situation, proposed to his beloved to flee together and start a new life. The lovers were met at nightfall in the Plaza de la Quintana.
He came to the rendezvous in pilgrim’s clothing, so as not to draw attention to himself. However, she never showed up. From that day, the priest, dressed as a pilgrim, returns every night to the meeting place to wait for his lover, in case any of these nights she decides to accompany him.
They say that the shadow belongs to him, that when the sun falls, it can be seen in the Plaza de la Quintana. Specifically, at the base of the clock tower, next to the Holy Gate. If you look well, you will see the figure of a pilgrim, with his hat and his cane.
Other stories about the Shadow of the Pilgrim
What we have told you is one of the legends of the Pilgrim’s Shadow of Santiago. However, there are other stories of the Camino de Santiago that revolve around this mysterious shadow of the pilgrim.
Other stories indicate that the shadow belongs to the soul of some of the people who are buried in the old cemetery that was once in the Plaza Quintana. Or it that belongs to one of the people who was condemned to burn on the stake during the Inquisition, and whose burning was carried out in this square.
Surrounding the legend of the Pilgrim’s Shadow also revolves another well-known history of the Camino de Santiago. But that version we tell you in the article that we recommended at the beginning of this post.
Stories and miracles on the Camino Frances to Santiago
We can say that the above are some of the most popular myths of the Camino de Santiago. However, on the Camino Frances, popular pilgrim culture gathers many more stories. Next, we tell you more miracles than you will hear on your way along the Camino de Santiago.
Milagro Eucarístico de O Cebreiro
The Miracle of the Eucharist (or Eucharistic Miracle) is also known as the Miracle of the Holy Grail. This history of the Camino de Santiago happens in the Church of O Cebreiro, on stage 26 of the Camino Frances.
According to the legend of the Eucharistic Miracle, in the year 1300, where Juan Santín lived. This neighbour of O Cebreiro had his house in the village of Barxamaior, located almost three kilometres from the church.
The man was so believing that he went to mass always, even on the days in which the bad weather made the journey, from his house to the Church of O Cebreiro, a real hell. The story of the Miracle of the Holy Grail recounts that one night on which the roads were full of snow, the temple priest thought that no one would attend that day to worship.
To the pastor’s astonishment, John Santín did. Although he had to travel the three kilometres that separated his house from the temple, which, with the heavy storm that swept the area, had become inhospitable.
When the devotee parishioner entered the church, the clergyman despised the effort that he had made and mocking him said:
“This one comes here so tired in the teeth of a storm just to see some bread and wine!”
The legend of the Holy Grail
In these words, the famous miracle of the Eucharist was worked. They say that when the parishioner was about to take the host, it became flesh, while the wine in the chalice was transformed into blood. It is believed that the miracle was worked to punish the lack of faith and charity of the priest.
At present, both the host and the chalice are kept in the Chapel of the Miracle. In memory of this miracle of the Camino de Santiago, also rest the remains of the two protagonists of the miracle.
The legend of Fuente Mojapán
La Fuente Mojapán can be found on stage 11 on the Camino Frances, the one that starts from Villafranca Montes de Oca. This story of the Camino de Santiago tells that a group of men who were heading to Santiago de Compostela decided to spend a night in Villafranca.
The next morning, when the group of pilgrims woke up they realized that one of them had disappeared and that with him had taken the pouch in which they kept the little food they had: some crusts of dry bread.
The men went out in search of the fugitive Pilgrim and found him dying of asphyxiation next to the Mojapán Fountain. According to this story, the pilgrim who stole the bread, when he arrived at the fountain, tried to soften it to eat it, but this, suddenly, stopped emanating water.
Before that, the hungry pilgrim decided to crush the bread and eat the crumbs. The ball of bread that formed in his mouth choked in his throat and was about to suffocate him if not for the arrival of the other pilgrims.
The group, arriving at the Mojapan Fountain, and finding their partner in such a hurry, instead of punishing him for having stolen the bread, decided to help him in honour of the patron of the pilgrims. They say that at that moment, the miracle was worked and the fountain began to spout again.
Stories of other routes on the Camino de Santiago
The Camino Frances is not the only route of the Camino de Santiago that hides surprising myths. On other pilgrim itineraries, we can also find many miracles. Here we have two stories of the Camino de Santiago in Portugal.
The stories from the Camino Portugues coastal route: Berengaria the Abbess
This is one of the first stories of the Camino de Santiago that you will discover if you are encouraged to do the Camino Portugues coastal route. This Jacobean miracle takes place on the first stage, next to the town of Vila do Conde (Portugal).
For many years, Abbess Berengaria was said to have been in charge of the Convent of Santa Clara. Her beginnings in the post were not easy.
The legend of the Convent of Santa Clara tells that at the end of the 14th century, life in the cloister was dominated by pleasure and laziness. The nuns did not fulfil their work and did not respect the hours of prayer.
In this environment, Sister Berengaria was an exception. She followed the example of the sisters who had preceded her and was humble and fulfilled her duty. When the abbess who managed the convent, at that time, died, the nuns were forced to choose a new abbess.
None of them wanted another companion was the new abbess, so although many were presented to the post when the day came to vote, many gave their vote to Sister Berengaria. The nuns were sure that she would be unable to develop the functions of the abbess and would thus be able to postpone the assignment of the new office.
However, when Berengaria knew that she had been elected, she decided to accept the post, despite not having voluntarily presented herself. The convent nuns mocked her and confessed that they had only tried to ridicule her with their votes. Thus refusing to follow her orders.
The miracle of the Convento de Santa Clara
Faced with this situation, Berengaria pleaded with the previous abbess, whose remains rested in the convent, which gave her obedience. The legend of the Abbess Berengaria tells that, at that instant, the ancient abbess rose from her grave and showed submission.
The rest of the nuns observed the miracle, surprised and then repented for their mockery. From that day on, they abided by the orders of the new abbess and discipline returned to the Convent of Santa Clara.
Stories of the Camino Portugues (Central): el gallo de Barcelos
This is one of the pilgrims ‘ stories on the Camino de Santiago that show the important tradition that pilgrim culture in Portugal has. The miracle of the Barcelos cockerel is one of the most well-known miracles of this pilgrim route.
According to the legend of the Barcelos cockerel, a Galician pilgrim began the Camino de Santiago from Barcelos. In the town he was accused of stealing from a landowner and sentenced to death on the gallows.
Before he was executed, the pilgrim asked to see the judge. He received the pilgrim sitting at the table, where he was eating a roast chicken. The pilgrim alerted the judge to the falsehood of the charges and told him that as proof of this, the chicken on his plate would rise and crow.
The judge ignored the pilgrim’s words and turned the plate aside. By the time the pilgrim was being hanged, the miracle of the Barcelos cockerel was worked. The cockerel rose from the judge’s plate and sang.
The judge, realizing that the pilgrim was right, ran to the gallows to prevent the execution of the sentence. When he arrived next to the pilgrim, he realized that he was still alive thanks to a knot that was badly tied.
This pilgrim tale is the origin of one of the most famous symbols of Camino Portugues, the Barcelos cockerel. If you visit the country you can find colourful cockerel ceramics.
Another version of the miracle of the cockerel
The legend of the Barcelos cockerel also has its own version on the Camino Frances, in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. In this part of the Camino de Santiago it’s known as the legend of the rooster and the hen, but the story very similar. Now we will leave you with a video with the tale of the rooster and the hen of the Camino Frances, if you want to know also this other version of the miracle:
More about pilgrim culture
Here we finish our blog with the stories of pilgrims and miracles of the Camino de Santiago. Of course, there are many more, you could write a book on them. If you want to find out more about pilgrim culture, we invite you to read our article on traditions and rites on the Camino de Santiago.
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