Finisterre, where is the end of the world?

Finisterre, Finis terrae, Penn-ar-Bed,Finisterra, in short, the point that sanctioned the end of the known world in antiquity.
In fact, before Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas, fear of the unknown had driven our ancestors to locate 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 no 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 acronym “Finisterre” different places are identified.
This definition was appropriate in antiquity for the Strait of Gibilterrra, where the Romans claimed that beyond the Pillars of Hercules the unknown would swallow the daredevils who dared to venture, but among the Celtic peoples there were other places deemed impassable.

Finisterre is simply where the world ends.

So I found a Finisterre in Spain during my Santiago Trail and one in France, respectively in the western end of Galicia and in the Quimpere region of Brittany.

Finisterre in France

On my trip to Brittany, we traveled along the pink granite coast until we reached Pointe Saint Mathieu. It was a really exciting trip, the places and nature were food for the soul and also for the body I must say. Pointe Saint Mathieu is identified with the beginning of the French Finisterre.
Penn-ar-Bed literally means in Breton: “tip of the world,” however, it is also translatable 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 felt like we were in a Pirates movie. Abbiamo fatto colazione e da lì siamo partiti per la regione di Quimpere per arrivare a Pointe du Raz, il vero Finis terrae francese.

Pointe du Raz: the force of nature

The drive to Pointe du Raz takes about 2 hours, stopping also at Crozon, a beautiful headland with sheer cliffs overlooking the sea. Unfortunately, the weather was not the best, and after a brief stop in Crozon for the classic photo op we set off again toward Pointe du Raz.

pointe du raz faro
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.

notre dame de naufrages
Statue of Our Lady of the Castaways

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.

Finisterre Bretone marea pointe du raz
tidal current in Pointe du Raz

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!

Pinte du raz faro 1
View from the cliff of Pointe du Raz

One understands then the whole difficulty of navigating these waters and why almost every country in this area has its own monument to those lost at sea.
In addition to strong currents, the tide on specific days can generate a difference between the minimum and maximum of as much as 11 meters (the height of a three-story 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.

Finisterre Spain

The best known Finisterre, however, is located in Galicia. Cabo Finisterra is located at the extreme point of Spain and is famous because it concludes the Camino de Santiago, so thousands of pilgrims travel here to end their pilgrimage to the land of St. James.

Finisterra at the end of the Camino

For Ornella and me, too, it represented the end of our Camino. Having arrived in Santiago and collected our Compostela, we wanted to reach kilometer zero of the pilgrimage located right at Cape Finisterre.

Le emozioni che si provano arrivando a Santiago sono indescrivibili: la gioia per aver raggiunto una meta ambita, l’emozione estrema data dalla spiritualità del momento, ma anche un senso di vuoto e di smarrimento: …e adesso?”.

“We can’t stop here,” we had to continue toward the ocean!

Arrival at Finisterre
Arrival at Finisterre

After a week of sharing, meditation and, above all, hard work-we left from O Cebreiro-everything was over, with the prospect that the next day we would be back to our usual chaotic lives.
The problem was that the next day we would be leaving again toward Italy, and then how to cover the 90 km that separated us from the sea to km ZERO?

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.

Cabo finisterra beacon
Faro Cabo Finisterra ©paolosalvetti

Tradition makes this place magical, with its rituals to be performed and full of spirituality.
The cliffs with the boot monument, pilgrim’s joy and sorrow, Celtic cross and pyres

Finisterre way of st james monument to the boot
Camino de Santiago monument to the boot – Cabo Finis terra

Many people burn something with which they made the pilgrimage to sanction the passage to a new, purified life.

paolo salvetti - cabo finisterre
I too have left something behind: my cane
stick to the celtic cross
Ornella offers her stick

Or they leave-as in our case-everything they do not want to bring back in their “new life” after the Camino under the Celtic cross abandoning them to the wind and the sea.
Going down to the beach, one must collect a seashell, but it should be given only to those who plan to take 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.

Frequently asked questions about Finisterre

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