One of the most Iconic stops on Camino de Santiago, sitting high on a plateau called Mount Irago, the highest point that pilgrims climb, is Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) a sacred place of Reverence, Prayer and Spiritual significance.
The now-famous mound of stones stretching some 15 metres across and 8 metres high with an oak pole in the centre, and an iron cross embedded on top (a replica of the original housed in the Museo de los Caminos in Astorga) is believed to have been placed there in the 11th century by Gaucelmo.
As with many legends along the Camino, that predate Christianity, there are several stories surrounding Cruz de Ferro. It is told that it was a place of ritual for the ancient Celts who originally inhabited the land before the birth of Christ, and evidence today suggests, the Romans may have used the site as an Alter to Mercury the god of travel.
Today Pilgrims from all over the world despite their beliefs, culture or reasons for being on the Camino follow the current ritual of carrying from home or collecting along the way a stone or trinket for themselves or a loved one; symbolically representing any physical, spiritual, or emotional baggage they no longer wish to carry in their lives.
As you approach Cruz de Ferro the energy is palpable, a hush falls over the site. Pilgrims stop, reflect, then drop or throw whatever it is they are walking away from then continue on “The Way”
When I personally walked to the site, on my first Camino, I arrived with no idea of where I was. I had done no research and knew nothing of the history or what to expect as I was intentionally riding the Camino by the seat of my intuition. As I climbed the mound of rocks with messages and symbolic items people had placed there I was overcome by emotion. At that moment the pile of rocks morphed into a mass of hopes, dreams, pain, suffering and emotions of a collective of human beings from every age and corner of the planet, I felt connected to everyone and everything.
I have no answers or words for what happened that day, however, I sat alone on the pile of rocks and cried a small river of tears, unwittingly emptying some weight from my life long baggage.