Cruz de Ferro, or Iron Cross, is a cross on the Camino de Santiago, located between the towns of Foncebadón and Manjarín, on the Camino Frances.
It consists of a wooden pole about five feet high surmounted by an iron cross, a replica of the original preserved in the Museo de los Caminos in Astorga. At its base, a mound has been forming over the years. A legend says that when the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was being built, pilgrims were asked to contribute by bringing a stone. The tradition is to throw a stone, brought from the place of origin of the pilgrim, with his or her back to the cross to symbolize their journey.
There are several theories as to the origin of the cross: It may have been erected to mark the road when it snows, as it becomes frequently hidden from view; Others believe it is just a pile of stones called Montes de Mercurio, erected since Celtic times to mark strategic locations on the roads and then Christianized with crosses. In this case, the cross was placed there in the early eleventh century by Gaucelmo, abbot of the lodgings at Foncebadón and Manjarín. Later Galician crop reapers would be on this path on the way to the farmlands of Castile and León, where they went to work. They also continued the tradition by placing a stone along path, then called it Cruz de Ferro.
In 1982 a chapel dedicated to St. James was built by the Cross, and for some years the Centro Gallego de Ponferrada has been celebrating the feast of Santiago/Saint James with a pilgrimage to the place that brings together hundreds of people and attracts different personalities.
The cross is believed to have been placed here in the 11th century by Gaucelmo. When you visit the cross today you will see that pilgrims traditionally leave a rock here. Sometimes pilgrims pick up a rock along the way to carry with them, others bring them from home. The rocks may have a letter, word or message to a loved one on them. You will also find a huge sundial on the floor near the cross that will help to tell the time of your journey.
For more information about the Camino Frances, the French Way. please contact one of our travel specialists.