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Is this True?

2020 Camino Guides

xin loi

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked May 14, 2014 from St Jean France

starting to walk again August 25, 2016 --SJPDP to Finisterre
Was told that ex-military are leaving a set of their Dog Tags at the Cross of Iron since it is an old Roman Legion site.

Taking an old set to leave there.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Hmmm, not sure about the Roman / military connection. Though they were pretty busy all over northern Spain, lots of valuable minerals & metals, I can't find anything that suggests that Cruz Ferrol is at or near an identified roman site.

The long standing tradition has been to carry a stone from your home or from a place significant to you to be laid down at the Cruz, symbolically laying down the burdens that you carry from your old life before you enter your new life as a pilgrim who has completed their journey to Santiago. Many seem to leave other tokens: scarves; toys; photos; jewellery, even cremation ashes. If you choose to engage in this tradition then your token and it's value and symbolism are in your own heart.
 

StuartM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012)
I can't recall where I read it but I remember seeing somewhere a theory that underneath all the rubble is/was a pagan Roman altar to the god Mercury. No idea if it is true or based on evidence or if it is just speculation.
 

lettinggo

Active Member
Hola

The reference that Tincatinker makes is the one I have heard as well.
Unloading a burden of some kind, by symbolic leaving a stone behind.
Thinking about this now, I wonder if pilgrims could have brought stones to partake in constructing the road to Santiago..
It is a nice idea that future pilgrims burden is lessen by actions taken by present pilgrims.

Buen Camino
Lettinggo
 
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PANO

Guest
According to the German-language Wikipedia, the Cruz de Ferro (span.: Cruz de Hierro) has pre-christian origins; wanderers paid homage to a roman god by laying down small stones, when they crossed the highest point of Monte Irago. It can however be presumed that it was already a site of cult by the Celts.

By the way: According to Tomás, the hospitalero of the Manjarin Albergue, the current location was banked up in the fifties during the road construction, to allow easier access to bus-tourists. The original site was some 300 meters off the current spot. In the nineties, the Cruz de Ferro was victim of vandalism, unknown perpetrators took it down with a power saw.


Sorry, no reference found to roman legion, but since the path has such an old history, a connection is entirely possible.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Lee Hoinaki makes reference in "El Camino: Walking to Santiago de Compostella" to the association between piles of stones and Mercury, the messenger and the Roman god of travellers. There are traditions globally of adding a stone to a cairn / altar as you pass, amongst other benefits, spiritual aside, this ensured the maintenance of the way-marks. Galiciaguide makes a similar assertion in relation to Cruz de Ferro though attributes the erection of the Cruz to Gaucelmo, christianising a pagan site. These and others rely on "it is said" for their authority. I cannot find any authoratative historical / archeological references to an identified Roman or pre-Christian site.

Pagans, christians and all others should take comfort in the thought that the site was significant before Gaucelmo added his cross, and that leaving a symbol of sacrifice, a precious or personal item, or a burden borne is a symbolic act that unites us all as pilgrims on the Way.
 

CaminoJohn

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2006,2008,2011; VDLP, Sanabrias (2018)
In The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago; Gitlitz and Davidson 2000; States "The pre-Roman Celts were in the habit of marking their high mountain passes with piles of rock (for which we still use the Gaelic word cairns). Roman travelers also customarily marked high passes by leaving stones, called murias, in honor of the god Mercury, the patron of travelers." They do not provide their source for this information.
 

gerardcarey

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF x2, CPL
I saw the local site tidiers collecting everything they considered rubbish from around and on the cross. Basically anything apart from stones got the heave ho.
In reply to my query they said that the significance lay in the reason something is left, not in the object itself.
Sounds about right to me.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
I recall seeing the cruz and thinking 'what a disgrace'. The place resembled a trash heap with all the 'memorabilia' being left behind.

The tradition of leaving a cairn to mark the routes and high points on a hill is a common practice as an aid to navigation. Its probably as ancient as the desire to find ones way home.

Its been overdone at the cruz. I question how it became a tradition even to carry a rock from home to place there.

Hiking ethics are: take only pictures ... leave only footprints.

Leaving metal dog tags might be symbolic to you ... however it has a permanent and negative visual effect on the place (until the clean up crew removes it) and so it constitutes littering. Keep the tags for yourself as a reminder of the person who owned them.

Do what the tradition calls for and bring a rock if you really must leave something.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
In the important point of pilgrimage San Andrés de Teixido (Nothern Galicia), there are also several piles of stones.
San Andres de Teixido was clearly a sacred point for the pagan religion in Galicia before christianism. So, the piles of stones had a meaning in their religion.
 

bystander

Veteran Member
Can't speak for Wales or Ireland but in Scotland, if not a custom as such, it is a common practice to carry a stone up to be placed on a cairn at the summit of a mountain.
As to a cairn being an aid to navigation and considering the weather patterns and cloud base in Scotland it would be about as much help as the proverbial chocolate sun dial!
 
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PANO

Guest
Can't speak for Wales or Ireland but in Scotland, if not a custom as such, it is a common practice to carry a stone up to be placed on a cairn at the summit of a mountain.
As to a cairn being an aid to navigation and considering the weather patterns and cloud base in Scotland it would be about as much help as the proverbial chocolate sun dial!
Would not want to dig deep on this historically, but to carry a stone up to be placed on a cairn at the summit of a mountain is also a common practice in Japan, Korea, Tibet, etc.. I think that the marking of a passage is something deeply rooted in mankind and certainly much older than Christianity.
Wikipedia: «Since prehistory, [cairns...] have also been built as sepulchral monuments, or used for defensive, hunting, ceremonial, astronomical and other purposes.»
 

StuartM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012)
As to a cairn being an aid to navigation and considering the weather patterns and cloud base in Scotland it would be about as much help as the proverbial chocolate sun dial!
There was a bit of a campaign a few years ago to get the public to stop adding to cairns and I know a few cairns were being flattened.

Apart from being considered an eyesore (something I agree with) they were also being misused as navigation markers. Route notes would refer to cairns for directions but the speed at which new cairns appeared and old cairns wandered (as sand dunes do) were making for navigation errors and rescue callouts.

I thought Cruz de Ferro was a very moving place but generally I dislike cairns. I've even kicked new ones over when I've seen them in the hills.

There is a belief that cairn building is a fairly recent invention dating from Victorian or Edwardian times at best when people started both having leisure time and seeing hills as other than sheep grazing or shooting grounds.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
Can't speak for Wales or Ireland but in Scotland, if not a custom as such, it is a common practice to carry a stone up to be placed on a cairn at the summit of a mountain.
As to a cairn being an aid to navigation and considering the weather patterns and cloud base in Scotland it would be about as much help as the proverbial chocolate sun dial!
A route indicated by cairns usually has markers close enough together so the next one can be seen from the last one even in rude weather.

A major problem is people building cairns for the heck of it with the result of hikers getting lost. The cairns also become an eyesore when they serve no function.

I agree with Kanga about the stones placed on the existing markers. I'll go further and complain about paint and memorabilia defacing same. The old boot was funny ... once. I don't get why people do these things.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
There is a belief that cairn building is a fairly recent invention dating from Victorian or Edwardian times at best when people started both having leisure time and seeing hills as other than sheep grazing or shooting grounds.
StuartM, while I agree that belief exists I am certain it's erroneous: the cairns marking, for instance, the classic droving and traverse routes through Scotland and down through the border country significantly pre-date those Romantic landscape improvers. Indeed General Wade, tasked with the suppression of the Jacobite rebellion in 1715, set his road builders the secondary job of destroying the cairned routes across the highlands to hinder the passage of rebels. The Nazis and their allies in Spain undertook the same in an attempt to suppress movement across the Pyrenees between 1936 & 1944. Though that post-dates the Victorians and so is outside my argument.

Those great cairns on the Meseta certainly pre-date Albert and his frisky spouse.

Perhaps there is an Aussie member who could help me out here but I remember, from Chatwin I think, that some Songlines are marked by stones "from another place" ie. that along a Songline the presence of a rock from another geological source would indicate direction / transition.

And a foot-note: I am aware that the most blessed National Trust in the UK has been actively discouraging the adding of stones to cairns. This has been promoted as a "conservation" measure. Apparently the placing of stones on cairns changes the cairn, subsequently the cairn will not be as it was at some random point in its history.
 

scruffy1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Holy Year from Pamplona 2010, SJPP 2011, Lisbon 2012, Le Puy 2013, Vezelay (partial watch this space!) 2014; 2015 Toulouse-Puenta la Reina (Arles)
Was told that ex-military are leaving a set of their Dog Tags at the Cross of Iron since it is an old Roman Legion site.

Taking an old set to leave there.
"No Pasarán"!!! Spit on Franco's grave and leave them on the memorial from the Civil War just before Cruz de Ferro!
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Steady my friend. Though I empathise fully with the sentiment this forum is not the best place to express it. The monument in the Montes de Oca to those slaughtered and buried nearby seems a fitting place for military memorials.

And I'll state for clarity this is a personal opinion not a moderator comment. My family lost souls in every way of that bloody conflict.

May we please give peace a chance.
 

scruffy1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Holy Year from Pamplona 2010, SJPP 2011, Lisbon 2012, Le Puy 2013, Vezelay (partial watch this space!) 2014; 2015 Toulouse-Puenta la Reina (Arles)
Tincatanker of course your comment is correct my family lost two who volunteered in the Brigadas Internacionales and were murdered not killed in combat - their memory is preserved in our synagogue and I have seen their names there on the wall since I can remember - certainly we should forgive if possible and give peace a chance - we should never forget.
 

xin loi

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked May 14, 2014 from St Jean France

starting to walk again August 25, 2016 --SJPDP to Finisterre
Left the dog tags there along with my hat with an Air Assault Badge on it. Wore the tags in combat in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos. And Christine, my tags are PRE--SSI number. Mine were from the days you could tell where a soldier came from by looking at his serial number stenciled on his gear: my number starts with 13 which means I'm from Pennsylvania.

Saw the French Foreign Legion Tee shirts hanging in a bar shortly after the Cross of Iron.
 

waveprof

Enthusiast
Camino(s) past & future
May-June 2013, Camino Frances
I like the rock tradition. I try to be respectful when people leave other, random things because I like to assume they felt it was soooooooo important to them. But I really hope it doesn't become a "tradition" to leave dog tags, or any other specific item. The tradition really is rocks/pebbles....
 

xin loi

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked May 14, 2014 from St Jean France

starting to walk again August 25, 2016 --SJPDP to Finisterre
Dog tags were left for the God of the Roman Soldiers.
But some people claim the soldiers started the rock tradition also. Some claim the Druids some how knew it was the highest point and started adding rocks to make it even higher. My neighbors are UFO fanatics and amaze me with their knowledge of the Camino they found in their reading of UFO literature. Think they must agree with Shirley McClain and her visions on the Camino.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
I like the rock tradition. I try to be respectful when people leave other, random things because I like to assume they felt it was soooooooo important to them. But I really hope it doesn't become a "tradition" to leave dog tags, or any other specific item. The tradition really is rocks/pebbles....
I agree. If you want to leave dog tags somewhere leave them at a memorial dedicated to that conflict. Such as the deeply profound monument to Vietnam war vets in Washington.
 

xin loi

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked May 14, 2014 from St Jean France

starting to walk again August 25, 2016 --SJPDP to Finisterre
Cross of Iron was built for soldiers; Viet Nam Memorial was built so civilians could feel good.


BYW--- also put a piece of Pennsylvania Anthracite on the pile; had no idea they mine anthracite near Sarria.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
Cross of Iron was built for soldiers; Viet Nam Memorial was built so civilians could feel good.


BYW--- also put a piece of Pennsylvania Anthracite on the pile; had no idea they mine anthracite near Sarria.
Here in canuckstan we gather at the cenotaph, of which there is one in every community, once a year to remember those who fought and suffered on our behalf. Its not enough but I don't know any other way than to make this mark of respect. I would suggest its an insult to state we do this so "civilians could feel good".

Exodus 3 says: There is a time and a place for every purpose under heaven.

Cross of Iron was built to mark the pass; its not now nor was it ever a soldiers monument.

Cruz de Ferro
http://www.caminoteca.com/index.php/place-of-interest/160-cruz-de-ferro.html

Take only pictures and leave only footprints so that others will find it as uncluttered as you would have liked to find it.
 

Bogong

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First, March 2014
To the north of where I live on the south coast of NSW in Oz is the Morton National Park.

On Quilty's Mountain, a good half day's walk in, is an ancient Aboriginal Bora ground. This is marked out by a big circle of rocks, and is one of the ways ancient ceremonies were celebrated.

In the very early 1960's the site was only known to around half a dozen or so people in Australia, to the best of my knowledge. Some bushwalking friends of mine were in the area and noticed that aside from the big circle, there were numbers of other loose rocks lying around in no pattern whatsoever. So they set to and created an additional, smaller Bora circle. Subsequently when the area became more widely known and explored, this second circle became enshrined as part of the traditional, centuries-old, Bora set-up. But if you look closely at it, it is a representation of a map of Australia!

So are legends with piles of rocks sometimes born!

De colores

Bogong
 

marbuck

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Condom to Pamplona April 2016.
Le Puy to Condom France - April-May 2015.
Roncesvalles to Santiago April - May 2014
Finisterre to Muxia May 2014
As an avid bushwalker we really dislike cairns unless they are for directions. They are built by vain people who wish to leave a mark where they have been. We left no stones anywhere on the Camino.

As a Vietnam Vet myself, I find it sad that a fellow veteran would want to leave something so important at the cross. The Cross is starting to look like a rubbish dump.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
I am a bit confused here, you start of this thread entitled by you 'Is this True?' with:

Was told that ex-military are leaving a set of their Dog Tags at the Cross of Iron since it is an old Roman Legion site. ...
And then, after some people told you that there is little academic evidence to support this, you come to this conclusion:

Cross of Iron was built for soldiers; ...
Anyway, Buen Camino!, SY
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Frances (2018}
When I researched the cruz de ferro I found suggestions that it was at one time a monument to Mercury. However, the most likely explanation is that it was a marker left by workers who had to cross the mountain on an almost daily basis. Look to the near-bye road and you will see the modern equivalent. Tall red and white poles. These mark the path of the road when there is heavy snow just as the ancient cairn marked the way for workers who would carry stones to the spot each day to build up the marker. The cross was added by a local bishop Gaucelmo to Christianize an old Celtic/Druid spot. Just as many pilgrims today stop here to pray and meditate, so too did pre Christian peoples who stopped here to rest. To conclude, it is just a marker to guide the way in the snow, a marker that millions of pilgrims have built up into something it was never meant to be. Of course, I could be completely wrong :)
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
... The cross was added by a local bishop Gaucelmo to Christianize an old Celtic/Druid spot. Just as many pilgrims today stop here to pray and meditate, so too did pre Christian peoples who stopped here to rest. ...
May I ask what is your evidence to support this? SY
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011 (2019)
There is evidence from elsewhere in Europe that some pre-Christian religious worship was based on the notion that the gods were in the heavens, and getting closer to these gods made worship more effective. As an observation, this appeared to be so on St Olavs Way, when it seemed that every day there were always several climbs up the sides of whatever valley one was in to reach a church or historical site. I'm not convinced about how readily one can extend conclusions about these things across the whole of Europe. There is a point at which to do so would be turning archaeology into little more than creative fiction!
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
As an avid bushwalker we really dislike cairns unless they are for directions. They are built by vain people who wish to leave a mark where they have been. We left no stones anywhere on the Camino.

As a Vietnam Vet myself, I find it sad that a fellow veteran would want to leave something so important at the cross. The Cross is starting to look like a rubbish dump.
I absolutely agree. And I have heard it costs a fortune, a few times a year, to bring buldozers to get rid of the rubbish. You leave something there - not only does it look like a dump, it is a dump.

When I walk I brougth a handkerchief that belonged to my grandfather who got swallowed in the Civil War because his brother was one of its key aviators of the Republicans (cannot stand the overused word "hero", and oh how that term in today's context rings a completly opposite bell...). I left it at the monument to the wasted killings (fusillamentos), and not lives, as the monument points out so well, going into Burgos. It had meaning, and would disintegrate in the sun and rain. Ashes to ashes.
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Frances (2018}
May I ask what is your evidence to support this? SY
Hi Sybille, this quote '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. Those who continued the tradition by placing a stone along path, then called it Cruz de Ferro.'
You will find this and more at caminoteca.com. The point is that there is no difinitive history of the cross, it is all just theory. That there were Celts/druids and Romans in the area pre Christian is not in doubt and as it was a high point on a fairly well travelled ancient trail we can assume that just like us pilgrims, the pre Christians would have stopped to rest here and be alone with there thoughts.
 
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Anemone del Camino

Guest
As cemeteries are more and more catering to differnt religions you see the influence of one on the other. For which I am all for if it all us to embrace traditions that help,is in our spiritual journey. So when I go visit my mom's grave, I smile whrn I see pebble on her tomb stone, meaning a loves one has vivisted her grave. Live the idea of sitting Shiva in the departed one's home.

Current reading is a gem, the story of the C. In the middle ages, but anyone mildy relious/beliver will get hives no doubt. Very straight forward, not mincing words abocut where traditions came from, and wouldn't,you know ot, not a single mention in the annex of the Cruz de Ferro.

I am one who believes in leaving this the way you found them. Granted 200 years ago when the odd cat walked by and put down a stone it's one thing, but these days, with people stamping a chapel all over with its pilgrim stamp, or dumping toys, etc., I really ask tou to find symbolism in your heart, not you wallet or China's exports.
 

Scott Sweeney

Active Member
I have been very disappointed with the conduct of walkers and the trash left behind at Cruz de Ferro. These articles of possession may be important to walkers but I'm not convinced this is where they should be left. This is a solomn place, leave your stone or leave your prayer, it is sad to see thousands walk over the past prayers of so many. Past two walks I haven't even stopped because of the behavior of people wanting to be part of a scene.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
I agree. When I wrote that it starts to make sense to me for the first time, I meant to say it starts to make sense where this confusing and contradicting mixture of beliefs or explanations comes from which makes up the modern narrative about the Cruz de Ferro/Fierro/Hierro in particular that is so often found in blogs and modern guidebooks.

And I am very tempted to order Mille fois à Compostelle :).
Ferro is Galego
Fierro/Fierru is Astur -Leones
Hierro Spanish

The theory of Galician reapers starting the pile of stones (amilladoiro) would explain the Galician name Ferro in a Asturleonés/Castilian linguistic area.

Why the Galician reapers chose this point? Maybe because they feared the hot Meseta in front of them and left the stone to return home in good condition.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes/Burgos/SdeC (by train) 77; Frances 12,15,17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes/Aragones 18; Meseta 19.
I have been very disappointed with the conduct of walkers and the trash left behind at Cruz de Ferro. These articles of possession may be important to walkers but I'm not convinced this is where they should be left. This is a solomn place, leave your stone or leave your prayer, it is sad to see thousands walk over the past prayers of so many. Past two walks I haven't even stopped because of the behavior of people wanting to be part of a scene.
Ditto, ditto, ditto, Scott!

I'm a big, strong, healthy, hetero male -- who is also moved to tears by the strangest, smallest things! I often can't get through the reading of the Gospel on Sunday morning without weeping. You'd think that the Cruz de Hierro 'moment' would be one of the emotional high points of the Way, for me! Well, it's not! Every time I've passed the Cruz de Hierro it's been overrun with crowds of the most unattractive kind of tour-igrinos, school groups, and 'extreme sports' enthusiasts -- not soldiers, that's for sure! Yack, yack, yack. Litter, litter, litter. "Can you take my picture?" "Can you take my picture?" "Can you take my picture?"

There are many places along the Way where I can sense, tangibly, the presence of the divine. The Cruz de Hierro may once have been such a place....
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
I get annoyed when I find stones piled on top of the flat topped concrete distance markers. Without the stones they are the perfect height on which a weary pilgrim can perch.
I brush them off and sit down for a rest.
 
Thread starter OLDER threads on this topic Forum Replies Date
Iain McKie Camino Frances 12
scruffy1 Camino Frances 2
PortlandKa Camino Frances 36
L Camino Frances 2

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