Friday, June 6, 2014

Ara Solis, Finisterre, Galicia


(among the most magical (and often most-overlooked) places on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, begun on 6 June 2014)   

Finisterre, an outcropping of land jutting into the Atlantic Ocean along Galicia’s rugged fishing coast, is considered a final destination of the Camino after Santiago de Compostela. Here, the old Roman road across northern Spain also ends, marked by the Ara Solis, an altar to the dying sun. It was once located on the highest point near Finisterre’s present-day lighthouse. 


Finisterre also appears to have been the end of an initiatory road dating back before the Romans, to Celtic and perhaps Neolithic times, as indicated by the ancient remains of a nearby Neolithic stone circle on Monte San Guillermo and other Neolithic and Celtic remains sprinkled along Finisterre’s jagged coastline. 


Pre-Christian lore survives concerning fertility rites among women who were having trouble getting pregnant: They would visit a dolmen nearby, on Mount Fache, a tall, vertical dolmen that once stood there, hoping to improve their chances through proximity to its symbolic potency. Too explicit and disturbing for an 18th century bishop, he had the dolmen destroyed. While the dolmen is gone, the climb is exhilarating for the stunning view and feeling of being on top of the world.

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