Where the Camino Primitivo and Camino Frances meet – MELIDE
Melide, located in the region of Galicia in northwest Spain is the only town where two Camino routes meet. The Camino Primitivo (Original Way) stops in Melide and the Camino Frances (French Way) passes through or you can stay the night if you wish in Melide. Due to the two routes meeting in this town it is well equipped and accustomed to helping pilgrims. After all the Primitivo is the oldest route and the French is the busiest! From Melide these two routes become one to Santiago de Compostela.
Short History of Melide
The northwest region of Spain has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. Melide itself however didn’t really begin to grow and come into importance until after the discovery of the tomb of Saint James. From the 10th Century when the popularity of the Camino de Santiago was growing so too was Melide. With the increasing number of pilgrims on both the Primitivo and French routes many traders and innkeepers began to set up along these two routes into Melide. This resulted in the growth outwards of the town, creating what we would now refer to as suburbs.
In the early 14th Century, the Archbishop of Santiago, Berenguel de Landoira stayed in Melide whilst he was on his way to Santiago to take up his Bishopric. As a means of thanks for the villages hospitality at this time he granted them permission to build a fortress and charge taxes. In the 15th Century, Melide played a central role in the Irmandiña Revolts against the power of the local barons. It was during these revolts that the walls of the town and the fortress were destroyed. The stone however was later used in the construction of the Convent of Sancti Spiritus.
In the 19th Century Melide played its role in the fight against Napoleon’s troops during the War of Independence. Despite being outnumbered by the French and with less than half of them having firearms. The troops along with the assistance of villages armed with some weapons and pointed sticks managed through their bravery to advance fearlessly at the French who eventually retreated. Later in the 19th Century Melide also witnessed fighting during the Carlist Wars.
Despite suffering a wave of emigration since the 1950’s Melide is still going strong. Today the tourism from the two Camino routes plays a major role in the economy of the town alongside more traditional agricultural activities.
Melide – Things to do
Although not a large town Melide has much to offer pilgrims on the Camino, so it is worth starting your walk early the day you will arrive into Melide. If you are staying the night then you will have ample time before you leave to explore this town.
Just before entering Melide if you are walking the Camino Frances you will pass through the village of Furelos and cross its medieval bridge. This bridge is regarded as one of the jewels of architecture on the Way of St James.
Arriving into Melide you will not be disappointed with the impressive architecture of the Chapels you can visit as well as monuments to look out for. Saint Roque Chapel, although only built in 1949, the facade is in fact from the medieval St Peter’s church and held as one of the most beautiful in Galician Medieval art. Next to the chapel is the oldest transept in Galicia, dating from the 14th century. Just pass here and off the main roundabout in town is the Fuente de los Cuatro Caños (Source of the four pipes), the most iconic and ornate in Melide.
Continuing on to Praza do Convento you will find both the Sancti Spiritus Church and St Anthony’s Chapel to which the Town Hall is attached. Just off the square is the Terra de Melide Museum. So even if you are just walking through Melide it is very convenient to visit all these places in one go.
The Sancti Spiritus Church stands on the ground of the monastery or convent of the Third Order of Saint Francis which was established here in the 14th Century. What makes this building interesting is that the additions over the centuries are obvious but add charm to the Church. The church was initially rebuilt in the 15th Century using stone from the destroyed walls of the town. Then during the 18th Century the church was extended and it is from this period that the main facade on the side of the church in the square was added. The tower of the Church was also added at this time and is similar in style to the towers on the Church at the Convent of San Francisco in Santiago de Compostela. The interior of the church has wonderful examples of Baroque and Neoclassical style sculptural pieces.
St Anthony’s Chapel was built in 1671 and is attached to a Baroque country house that since 1960 has been the Town Hall. Unfortunately it is only the facade of the country house that remains as the interior was demolished to allow adaption for its new use. The demolishing of the interior meant the loss of its ancient stone stairway as well as the layout of its courtyard. If you still have some time on your hands, another great place to visit is the Terra de Melide Museum built in 1978 on the grounds of an old pilgrim hospital. The museum has 8 floors all with different themes and of course, one floor has a section dedicated to the Camino de Santiago.
When leaving Melide on the Camino to Santiago you will get the opportunity to pass by the viewing point O Castelo and the Chapel of the Virgin of Carmen. Although the castle no longer stands you will have a wonderful panoramic view back over Melide and the land you have crossed to get to this point. This is also a wonderful spot to come at night for the view if you are staying the night in Melide.
Like most Spanish towns, festivals make up a big part of the calendar of activities throughout the year and Melide is no exception.
If you are in Melide over Easter you may be lucky enough to witness the processions of the Virgin of Solitude or the one on Good Friday. During June and the celebration of Corpus Christi this is surely one of the best times to be passing or stopping in Melide as the Convent Square is laid out with carpets of flowers that are wondrous sight to behold.
Other feast days celebrated in Melide but with not as much fan fare are San Antonio on the 13th June; San Pedro the patron saint of Melide on the 29th June and Carmen on the 16th and 17th July. Undoubtedly the largest festival is the celebration of San Roque. This festival lasts for one week from the 15th August. During this week you can attend a Medieval Pilgrim Market alongside a wide range of musical performances and cultural programmes. During this festival the population of Melide triples creating a lively atmosphere to arrive into when walking the Camino.
Food plays a major role in Melide. Here they pride themselves on high quality raw produce and good cooks. Every Sunday there is a fruit and cheese market. We would recommend that you get into Melide early if you are arriving on a Sunday so you can perhaps purchase some fresh produce or sample some of the local cheese, preserves or spicy sausages.
Despite being inland Melide’s best dish and one you must try when here is ‘Pulpo á Feira’, boiled octopus. To enjoy this dish like a local it should be accompanied with bread, cachelos (boiled potatoes) and red wine. So why not plan your walk on the Camino to arrive here in time for lunch.
For those with a sweet tooth Melide will prove to be a taste of heaven. With the smell of fresh baked goods welcoming you in the centre of town you will be very strong willed not to be tempted to taste the local freshly prepared pastries. Find a bakery and try melindres (sugar-topped pastries), amendoados (almond cakes), and ricos (butter-based pastry) which are exclusively made in town. If you are fortunate enough to stumble upon Melide on the second Sunday of May you will be in for a treat. TheSweet-Cake and Traditional Pastry-Making Festival occurs on that very Sunday and the day is devoted to traditional pastries made in Melide. Needless to say, it will be a mouth-watering affair.
If you are interested in walking the Camino Primitivo or Camino Frances so you can pass through or stay in Melide then get in touch with our Camino Planners who will be more than happy to help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published on 27th November 2015, updated on