There are numerous myths and legends on the Camino Francés, Camino Primitivo and Camino Portugués. Spain and Portugal are places where this kind of stories has been passed from mouth to mouth over the centuries.
Each stretch, every route of the Camino and every year, layer upon layer, you can keep figuring out different aspects of your travel through its many stories, ancient architecture, the culture and traditions that surround the pilgrimage. Legends or myths are hidden as a treasure along the Camino, you only have to keep your eyes and ears wide open on magic and mystery because the experience of finding them always increases our desire to explore more treasures.
One exciting story is The legend of the Pilgrim Shadow.
Throughout history many pilgrims have shared this story and passed it down through the ages adding to it their own version. The most popular and simple version is that a shadow accompanies a pilgrim during the long journey to Santiago de Compostela. According to this legend, this presence can be felt especially during hard sections but there is only one place that a pilgrim can eventually meet this shadow and that is in Quintana Square just outside the Cathedral.
The shadow is reborn when it´s getting dark. It can be seen at the base of the clock tower, next to the Holy Door. For many pilgrims, the shadow depicts a figure in medieval dress, hat and bread. Though this expression of a more earthly pilgrim may be due to the reflection created by the night lighting of the basilica and its granite pillars.
Its origins are varied as some believe that it contains and reflects the soul of a pilgrim who stayed forever in the Cathedral. Others say that they recall seeing a figure of a French pilgrim of the fifteenth century, , the son of a nobleman of Paris, who suffered a sad fate.
The most widely believed version relates to the tragic path of a priest of the Cathedral, in love with a cloistered nun of the convent of San Paio, located opposite the Cathedral on the other side of A Quintana square. Legend says that the priest met her through a passageway that existed under the steps of the A Quintana plaza. This passageway connected the cathedral and the monastery and this was the place where the lovers met. Tradition of the story says that after awhile the priest, tired of the situation, suggested his beloved running away together and living their love in a free way. He waited for her in the square with medieval pilgrim clothing that would provide secrecy. He waited patiently but she did not come. Still, night after night, the lover – or shadow – has appeared in the square and waited in hopes that she might come to meet him – and so now he still waits.
The Camino always provides what we need while we are hiking. We do not only need food, drink, dry clothes or good sleep but also stories. Legends are stories of the Camino.
Buen Camino and watch out your shadow!