Camino Culture: Muxia & Our Lady of the Boat
The ‘Virgin of the Boat’ or ‘Our Lady of the Boat’ is the name of Muxia’s best-loved sanctuary, peacefully welcoming pilgrims at the very end of the Camino de Finisterre and Muxía route of the Camino de Santiago by the mighty waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Fisterra and Muxía Way is the only route that starts in Santiago de Compostela, taking pilgrims further West, to the Atlantic Coast of Galicia with its fascinating mix of pagan and religious traditions.
Muxía’s Our Lady of the Boat shrine, Nosa Señora da Barca or Virxe da Barca in Galician, is located in a very unique spot, right by the ocean, and believed to have been a sacred place of cult for villagers since pre-Christian times. It seems the locals weren’t an easy crowd to convince and convert to Christianity, as pagan rituals were deeply rooted and widespread.
Legend has it Muxía was the landing place of the stone boat that carried Virgin Mary when she arrived in Galicia to help Saint James convert the locals. The granite stones you will find near the sanctuary are said to be the remains of the Virgin Mary’s stone boat: the sail, the helm and the boat itself. Since the 12th century, pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago have travelled further on after reaching Santiago de Compostela to pay tribute to Our Lady of the Boat in Muxía.
The ‘remains’ of Our Lady’s boat are also known by other more famous names, and believed to have special curative powers (quite possibly dating back to before the Christianization of the area). The sail is the so-called ‘pedra dos cadrís’ believed to cure back ailments, rheumatic pains and even helping with fertility issues if walking under the stone nine times. The stone boat itself is the ‘pedra de abalar’, a rocking stone also believed to predict catastrophes and have healing powers.
The original sanctuary of Our Lady of the Boat in Muxía was founded in the 12th century on the site of a pre-Christian chapel and then rebuilt in the 17th century. On Christmas Day in 2013, the sanctuary suffered extensive damage due to a fire started by lightning during a storm. However, a restoration project is underway to reopen this famous chapel by September 2014.
Why September? September is a fantastic and very special time to walk the Camino de Finisterre and Muxía and experience the traditional festival in honour of the Virgin of the Boat, the ‘Romaría da Virxe da Barca‘, which is the biggest event in this charming little fishing village by the Atlantic Ocean. It generally takes place on 9th September.
It is a traditional pilgrimage there is even a Galician folk song about it.
And did you know you can get a special pilgrim certificate if you walk the Camino de Santiago to Muxia? It is called ‘Muxiana‘.
For more information about the Camino de Santiago routes or to book your Camino walk, contact our travel specialists.