Spain’s Iron Cross

In the midst of the bank of white peaks you will arrive at the Cruz de Ferro ( 2Km from Foncebadon). For many pilgrims arriving to the cross is one of the key points in the journey because it marks two things. The first is that they have traveled a long way to arrive to this point; the Cross of Iron is only a little over 200 km from Santiago. However, this spot is even more emblematic because it is the place where many people leave behind their sins, fears, dreams, wishes, and make peace with themselves.

It is a tradition to bring a few rocks from home or from their journey to this point and entrust them to the hill. Due to the millions of pilgrims who make this trip annually, the result is that the amount of rocks dropped off are uncountable; the rocks continuously accumulate in a giant sized mound. While some pilgrims only bring one or two rocks to part with, others take the occasion seriously and bring one for every dream or sin they care to contribute to the camino. I will always remember a certain friend who attached the largest stone he could find to his back pack. He identified this five pound piece of earth as his greatest sin and hopes, ultimately feeling that by leaving it behind he would feel free. It was a laughable, yet touching sight.

Also, after ascending the emotional hill and parting with their rocks, a pilgrim significantly touches the ten foot cross that stands proud and tall on top of the rock site.
Furthermore, many people leave trinkets, pictures, pins, flags, notes, or other memorabilia to attach to the cross. For some this “drop off” is a bittersweet experience. During my travels I met a Texan lady whose brother had passed away a few years ago. For her, part of the trip was saying goodbye to her brother and using scallop shells ( a key pilgrim item) to leave pieces of his memory throughout key points of the camino. She recounted to me how beautifully sad it felt to drop off her shell at the cross. She was giving her brother to the mountain and making peace with his death here.

For many, arriving to the cross is an unforgettable and priceless part of their pilgrimage.