Wednesday, July 21, 2010

O Cebreiro Village


On the French route of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, lies a tiny village at the entrance of the Galician province. Sitting on top of a dreaded 1300 meters high mountain pilgrims have to climb (I don't know why.. I enjoyed it!), O Cebreiro, although appearing like a slumbering old village, played quite an important role in the history of the region.

While I was lucky to have a good weather during both my stays (good but freezing), O Cebreiro usually likes to hide under a mysterious foggy blanket. After reaching the Galician border, I felt its presence without seeing it. A faint music was floating all around, transported by the mist. The fog magically disappeared both times I arrived on top of a hill overlooking the old village.
The first thing I noticed was the music. It sounded like Irish music. Celtic to be more precise. Even the architecture of some houses was different with big round stone houses and straw roofs (called pallozas). I later learned that Galicia was of Celtic culture, some even claiming the Irish Celts originated from there.

The main attraction of O Cebreiro however is the pre-Romanesque church of St. Mary, the oldest fully remaining one on the Camino. It played an important part in guiding the pilgrim through the mist with its bell.
The church of St Mary also owes its fame to the miracle which occurred  in the 14th century, as well as the presence of a Holy Grail (not THE Holy Grail).
Tradition has it that a weary priest was celebrating Mass one winter´s day. A peasant from a nearby village, having fought his way to the top of the mountain through a fierce snowstorm in order to hear Mass entered the church just as the priest was performing the consecration. The priest insulted the peasant´s faith and ridiculed him for having come all the way to the top of the mountain in such severe weather in order to witness a non-existent miracle. At that very moment, the bread and the wine on the altar were literally transformed into flesh and blood.
The miracle of O Cebreiro was confirmed in 1487 by Pope Innocent VIII while the particles preserved from the miracle were placed in a silver chalice donated by Queen Isabella the Catholic. The chalice image was later incorporated into the shield of Galicia due to its importance to the region.

Miracle or not, O Cebreiro is undoubtedly a magical place to visit. Don't forget to taste the famous queixo do cebreiro with local honey!

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