The source of the legend
½ day trip
Padrón-Iria Flavia-A Escravitude-Bastavales
Padrón is the place where it all allegedly started, the first place-name to appear in Galicia’s most fundamental legend: the Jacobean. It has left its imprint on the sanctuaries, on the names of places and on the very atmosphere of this land.
The route is marked by two rivers, the Sar and the Ulla, on the confluence of which is the town of Padrón, known for its fertile and productive vegas, where the exquisite and celebrated Padrón peppers grow.
The town of Padrón, 20 kilometers from Santiago, has always had very strong ties with Compostela. It seems possible the name may come from ‘pedrón’ (big stone), a rock where they would have tied the boat that allegedly brought the Apostle’s body from Palestine to the coasts of Galicia. The Sar, the river of Compostela, is also the river of Padrón, so they are both linked by this stretch of water. For its nearness to the mouth of the Ulla, Padrón was during the Middle Ages an unavoidable stop for Compostelans heading for the sea, and also the port of entry for pilgrims arriving by it. Given its location between Santiago, Pontevedra and the ría of Arousa, Padrón is since Roman times a crucial point of the Galician road network.
One inescapable visit is the Casa Museo de Rosalía de Castro in the ouskirts of the town, opposite Padrón train station. It is also known as Casa da Matanza. The poetess Rosalía de Castro, the most important figure of Galician letters, spent the last years of her life there. Apart from memories of the writer, the house offers the opportunity to get acquainted with the interiors of the areas traditional architecture.
Only a couple of kilometers from the house of Rosalía is the Franciscan convent of Herbón. The monastery is next to a leafy oakwood and the river Ulla, famous for its lamprey, trout and salmon. From Herbón came the first pimientos de Padrón, (Padrón peppers) which were apparently brought from Mexico by Franciscan monks in the sixteenth century. These small green peppers are one of the best known products of Galician gastronomy, and the saying goes, roughly translated, ‘some are hot, and some are not’.
Next to the writer’s house are the artistic and botanical gardens, pride of the Padronese.
Padrón, originally a medieval town, still has the charm of the past lingering in its corners: the pazo of the Bishop of Quito, plaza de Macías O Namorado (El Enamorado in Spanish), a legendary local troubadour who died at the hands of the angry husband of the object of the impossible love he was wailing about.
The pedrón that the Jacobean legend mentions is under the altar of the parish church of Santiago, commissioned by the archbishop of Compostela, Xelmírez, and which stands on the banks of the river. Just opposite, the Espolón, a treed promenade along the Sar which every Sunday is busy with a much visited fair, proudly offering among other articles the best fruit and vegetables from the orchards and gardens of Padrón.
Crossing by the Santiago bridge, the fountain fuente del Carmen is reached. On its arch, carved in stone, the boat in which the disciples transported the body of the Apostle. Following the steep stone pavement we reach the convento del Carmen, erected upon the granite rock of the slopes of monte de San Gregorio. The church, all that can be seen, is distinguished and beautiful. From the atrium, a planimetric view of Padrón and its surrounding area.
Iria Flavia, A Escravitude and Bastavales
Iria Flavia is a strongly evocative place-name, yet one that is difficult to explain. Quite close to Padrón, it was the seat of the bishopric until it was moved to Santiago in the eleventh century. Santa María de Adina is today a parish church. The pyramid-shaped towers and the façade, a combination of Romanesque and Gothic styles, speak of its past splendor.
In the area surrounding the church, and outdoors, there are interesting anthropomorphic sepulchres from the time of the domination of the Suevi. The graveyard of Iria, next to the church, was faithfully described in nostalgic terms by poetess Rosalía de Castro. The remains of another great writer rest here: Nobel prize winner Camilo José Cela, a son of Iria Flavia.
In front of the parochial temple, an interesting group of eighteenth century buildings known as Casa de los Canónigos, contains the small Museo de Arte Sacra de Iria Flavia, John Trulock’s train museum and the Camilo José Cela foundation, with different memorabilia and personal belongings of the author. In the garden are the locomotives Sarita and Sestao, pioneers upon the rail network of Galicia.
The sanctuary of A Escravitude, marking the limit of the lands of Padrón, looks over the road almost like a watchtower. Legend has it that an ill man on his way to Compostela was suddenly cured after drinking water from this fountain. Thankful, he praised the Virgin for freeing him from “the slavery” of his ailment, which explains the name of the place. This beautiful building, a combination of baroque and neoclassical, was built to watch over the miraculousfountain that is at its feet.
On the right side of the temple there is an uncommon village of small lined up and almost homogenous houses peering into a single street, and that leads to a hillock from which you can see the fertile banks of the river Sar. On the left, there is a path that leads to a small and solitary parish church, with a Romanesque apse. From this raised platform, another panoramic view of the area.
The valle de Bastavales, green, smooth looking and fertile, is presided by the slender baroque tower of the church of San Xulián, immortalized like all of these lands by the romantic Rosalía de Castro: Bells of Bastavales / When I hear you toll / I die of solitude...