Vigo, the largest city in Galicia and heart of the Rías Baixawas, was a port on our Iberian Peninsula cruise aboard the Grand Princess that lead us to one of the world’s most sacred pilgrimages, Way of St. James, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, which is a protected World Heritage Site.
Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia (found in the northwest corner of Spain), was an important harbor for the Romans as they travelled between Britannia and the Mediterranean Sea. It was settled by the Celts in 300 BC. Galicia functions like its own separate country, even speaking a different language then their other Spanish counterparts.
Over the centuries, countless pilgrims have followed the Way of St. James from the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains to the magnificent cathedral containing the remains of beloved Saint James, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, found at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The route consists of a network of several paths along the northern coast of Spain. Brass scalloped shells can be found in the intricate stone walkways leading the way. The two main routes of the Way served as a cultural link in the past to the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe.
Legend recalls that in the 8th century, Christians rescued the bones of Apostle St. James, or Santiago as they refer to him in this region, from a monastery on Mount Sinai and brought them to Galicia, where the remains were buried in a purpose built church. The town grew around this church. It is thought to be the third most important pilgrimage, directly behind Rome and Jerusalem.
The monumental St. James Cathedral dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries and is Romanesque in style but has been altered several times. It is one of the largest and most admired churches in Europe. The highlight of the Cathedral is the baroque facade at its end. For me, the greatest thing was seeing all these dedicated and tired travelers meet their long journeys end.
The day I visited Vigo, there was a torrential downpour, but it did not dampen the spirits of the people we saw on foot making their way into the site. The scenes of people genuflecting and praying and waiting in line for the altar boxes was something very special that I am lucky to have witnessed. Thousands of visitors still arrive daily. The church felt welcoming and warm, and I wanted to capture every little thing in photograph.
Before leaving to go back to our cruise ship, we had some delicious pastries at the Hotel Paradores across the street and visited numerous little gift shops. This region is also famous for its wines and outstanding seafood. Fishing is a popular activity and export in Vigo, with tuna and sardines being the most in demand. The Old Town boasts narrow alleyways, small bars, and photogenic plazas. There was a lovely, colorful ferris wheel in the background but I do not know the story behind it. I am glad I got to visit this unspoiled and historic region.