The Cruz de Ferro also known as The Iron Cross, is located on the Camino de Santiago or the Way of Saint James. Specifically, it is located on the highest point of the French way between the towns of Manjarín and Foncebadón.
What is the Cruz de Ferro?
The Cruz de Ferro is a wooden post that has an iron cross on top. A replica of the original cross is kept in the Museo de Los Caminos in Astroge.
At it’s base, a mound of pebbles and dirt has been forming over the years due to the tradition of pilgrims bringing stones here from their homes.
In 2000’s the monument suffered a lot of damage and the cross was even stolen! But don’t worry it’s back now.
Nearby you can also find a sundial that will tell you the exact time of your journey and a church.
The Tradition of the Cruz de Ferro
Pilgrims traditionally leave a small stone at the Cruz de Ferro. You can collect one on the way to the cross or you can bring one directly from your garden, put it in your backpack and bring it on your Camino to the iron cross.
Stones are left here to symbolize you leaving all your burdens behind. There is also a tradition of throwing the stone onto the pile with your back to the cross to symbolize your journey.
Rocks can have words, pictures or messages for loved ones written on them.
Origin of the Cruz de Ferro
There are several theories about how Cruz de Ferro came to be on the Camino.
Some people say it could have been built to mark the road when it snowed, as it becomes frequently hidden from view.
Others say that it is just a pile of stones called Montes de Mercurio, built since the time of the Celts to mark the road and later Christianized with crosses.
The cross is believed to have been placed here in the eleventh century by Gaucelmo.
Later Galician crop reapers would be on this path on the way to the farmlands of Castile and Leon, where they went to work.
They also continued the tradition by placing a stone along the path. Then they called it Cruz de Ferro.
In 1982 a chapel of St. James was built by the cross.
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How to get to the Cruz de Ferro
Getting to the Cruz de Ferro is a challenging part of the Camino de Santiago, but it can be easily managed as long as you are prepared, that includes having a really good pair of shoes!
It begins on a hill which you probably won’t even notice. It is safe and can be handled without any problems if you take breaks from time to time.
There are a lot of interesting places along the way to the Cruz de Ferro. Astorga is worth paying a visit because of its Episcopal Palace designed by Anton Gaudi, Cathedral with its Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements and the Pilgrim Museum.
Once you finally reach the cross, get ready to be amazed by beautiful nature and breathtaking view. Take a break, relax to gain new strength because there are still many exciting things waiting for you.
The end of the stage is the lovely town of Ponferrada, where you can find a Templar castle.
See the Camino yourself
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Originally published on 5th November 2021