Finisterre, Finis terrae, Penn-ar-Bed, Finisterra, in short the point that sanctioned the end of the world known in antiquity. In fact, before Christopher Columbus’ journey to the Americas, fear of the unknown had pushed our ancestors to identify geographical points beyond which nothing was thought to exist.
It was thought in ancient times that the earth was flat – to tell the truth there are still those who support this thesis, which is absurd today – and that it would not have been possible to venture beyond certain limit-places.
Where is the Finisterre
There is not a single Finisterre, one in France and one in Spain
During my travels in Spain and France I was able to understand that each population has its own legends and traditions and with the meaning of “Finisterre” different places are identified. In ancient times, this definition is suitable for the Strait of Gibilterrra, where the Romans claimed that beyond the columns of Hercules the unknown would swallow the daredevils who dared venture, but among the Celtic populations there were other places considered impassable.
Finisterre is simply where the world ends.
So I found a Finisterre in Spain on my way to Santiago and one in France, respectively in the far west of Galicia and in the Quimpere region of Brittany.
Finisterre in France
During my trip to Brittany we travelled along the pink granite coast to Pointe Saint Mathieu. It was a really exciting journey, the places and nature were food for the soul and also for the body I have to say. Pointe Saint Mathieu is the beginning of the French Finisterre. Penn-ar-Bed literally means in Breton: “tip of the world”, but it can also be translated as “end of the world”.
The emotion of the cliffs beaten by the wind, the tide that in this region has excursions of up to 11 metres, the Breton hospitality, the cuisine and above all the ruins of the old abbey are memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Finis terrae – Towards the end of the world
From Pointe Saint Mathieu we arrived at the village of Ploguvelin, with the morning mist it was like being in a Pirates movie. We had breakfast and from there we left for the Quimpere region to get to Pointe du Raz, the real French Finis terrae.
Pointe du Raz: the force of nature
The journey to Pointe du Raz takes about 2 hours, stopping also at Crozon, a beautiful promontory with cliffs overlooking the sea. Unfortunately the weather was not the best and after a short stop in Crozon for the classic ritual photo we left again towards Pointe du Raz.
Once we reached our destination we left our car at the large car park to walk along the wide path that leads to a huge and beautiful monument at the top of the cliff.
It was incredible to see how dozens of people were sitting there on the cliff admiring the sea and contemplating the infinite. I have to say that it really is a place for meditation and even Ornella and I have adapted to the slow rhythms stopping to collect the emotions of nature.
La marea a Pointe du Raz
Looking at the huge rocks in the sea, the impression was to see the rapids of a river flowing fast, rather than the ocean. The tide with its endless clicks here gives rise to very strong currents that reach 12 knots, over 20 km per hour, the speed of a ferry!
One understands then all the difficulty of sailing in these waters and why almost every village in this area has its monument to those lost at sea. In addition to the strong currents, the tide on specific days can generate a difference between the minimum and maximum of 11 metres (the height of a three-storey building).
The difference is so great that it empties the harbours and makes the Bretons think that they put the easel on their boats like ordinary bicycles so that they don’t tilt when they are dry.
The best known Finisterre, however, is located in Galicia. Cabo Finisterra is located at the far end of Spain and is famous because it concludes the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago, so thousands of pilgrims come here to end their pilgrimage in the land of St. James.
Finisterra at the end of the Path
For me and Ornella too, it represented the end of our Path. Having arrived in Santiago and withdrawn our Compostela, we wanted to reach the zero km of the pilgrimage located right at Cape Finisterre.
The emotions one feels when arriving in Santiago are indescribable: joy at reaching a coveted goal, extreme emotion given by the spirituality of the moment, but also a sense of emptiness and bewilderment: …and now?”.
“We can’t stop here”, we had to continue towards the ocean!
After a week of sharing, meditation and above all fatigue – we left O Cebreiro – everything was over, with the prospect that the next day we would return to the chaotic life of all time. The problem was that the next day we would leave for Italy and so how could we cover the 90 km that separated us from the sea towards the ZERO km?
So I decided to look for a means to get back on the road and I managed to rent a car at the train station in Santiago and in about two hours we walked for 4 days undecided whether to reach the Cape or go to the little church on the sea of Murxia, the one in the movie “The Way to Santiago”. In the end we opted for the first one and I must say that we did not regret it.
The lighthouse of Cabo Finisterra
When we reached our destination, a large lighthouse dominated the cliff. After a hundred metres, here it is, the milestone that identifies the zero km.
Tradition makes this place magical, with its rituals to perform and full of spirituality. The cliffs with the monument to the boot, joy and pain of the pilgrim, the Celtic cross and the pyres where pilgrims complete their rites.
Many people burn something with which they made the pilgrimage to sanction the passage to a new, purified life.
Or leave – as in our case – everything they do not want to bring back to their “new life” after the Path under the Celtic cross, leaving them to the wind and the sea. Going down to the beach you have to pick up a shell, but it has to be given only to those who intend to undertake one of the paths.
So I first left the stone that I had picked up in Santiago and I don’t hide the fact that I cried leaving my stick at the foot of the cross, a support in my 180 km of pilgrimage.