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Stones at Cruz de Ferro and Crosses on Fences

Paula TO

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Sarria to SdC (May 2018)
CF SJPdP to SdC (Sep 2021)
#1
Firstly, I hope that my question isn't controversial, and it's something I've been thinking about as I have watched many YouTube videos on the Camino, documentaries, etc.

Is leaving a stone at the Cruz de Ferro an ancient sort of thing, or is it more recent? Is it something that locals are fine with? How about the tying of homemade crosses on various fences along the way?

The reason I ask is this. Over the past decade, we have travelled to Paris many times. When we first started going, there were no locks on the Pont des Arts. Then some sort of crazy fad happened, and tourists began affixing locks to the bridge and tossing their keys in the Seine. And the sides of the bridge began collapsing under their weight, and the whole thing became an eyesore. Most locals hated them. And guidebooks and tour guides, even the commentary on the cruise boats along the Seine, began talking about the "romantic French tradition" of affixing locks to symbolize one's love. Which of course was not true...it was just a tourist thing that took over and created a mess. A costly mess for the city, as it turned out.

So for people who live there, is there any issue about the leaving of stones, or crosses? I haven't yet been on the Camino, but already from videos, I've seen a fair bit of graffiti, and random leaving of boots and other detritus along the way. Just wondering how folks feel about this...is it taken in stride?
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#4
Paula, thank you for asking! This is one of my Camino pet peaves.

There was a post early this week on the Camino del San Salvador from those who are taking care of that route upset at the stuff people are now leaving at the cross there, and writing their names on it. There are also local newspaper articles about the cost to the local community to clean the mount of stones and all other sorts of souvenirs from the Cruz de Ferro, and pieces of paper flying around the surroundings.

The Salavador FB page is quite explicit ($&@!) when it comes to what is thought of those doing it and their immediate relatives, as well as the motivations of those doing it: pure ego. :eek: Mind you, knowing the state of the Cruz de Ferro, one can only imaging it was only a matter or time before that cross got the same treatment - asking for trouble if you ask me.

And it is a new thing and historically incorrect. There are threads about this you could search for here on the Forum.

I would suggest that, especially if you have already noticed how disrupive it is,that you apply the long approved idea of leaving things as you found them. (Including not leaving biological traces in the bushes, and the accompanying toillet paper o_O).

BTW, the padlock thing is, I believe, a Russian tradition. You would see these on bridges in Moscow and St-Petersburg in the late 80s, well before they appeared in Paris.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

MichaelSG

Retired member
Camino(s) past & future
Not enough
#5
Firstly, I hope that my question isn't controversial, and it's something I've been thinking about as I have watched many YouTube videos on the Camino, documentaries, etc.

Is leaving a stone at the Cruz de Ferro an ancient sort of thing, or is it more recent? Is it something that locals are fine with? How about the tying of homemade crosses on various fences along the way?

The reason I ask is this. Over the past decade, we have travelled to Paris many times. When we first started going, there were no locks on the Pont des Arts. Then some sort of crazy fad happened, and tourists began affixing locks to the bridge and tossing their keys in the Seine. And the sides of the bridge began collapsing under their weight, and the whole thing became an eyesore. Most locals hated them. And guidebooks and tour guides, even the commentary on the cruise boats along the Seine, began talking about the "romantic French tradition" of affixing locks to symbolize one's love. Which of course was not true...it was just a tourist thing that took over and created a mess. A costly mess for the city, as it turned out.

So for people who live there, is there any issue about the leaving of stones, or crosses? I haven't yet been on the Camino, but already from videos, I've seen a fair bit of graffiti, and random leaving of boots and other detritus along the way. Just wondering how folks feel about this...is it taken in stride?
Hi Paula,

Leaving a small stone on cairns on mountain passes is an ancient tradition but leaving them specifically at the site of the Cruz de Ferro, in the amount that is left there....? that's most likely a more modern tradition. One day, when you have walked your first Camino past this site, I hope you also get to experience the incredible emotions that most other pilgrims feel as they leave their pebble behind. For me, it was the emotional highlight of my Camino Frances, even more so than arriving in Santiago. There is also a thread on this forum that tell some of the moving stories of pilgrims about this subject. (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/the-story-of-your-stone-at-the-cruz-de-ferro.21624/)
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
#6
I Hope you will accept my little diversion off the topic but this thread awakened some good memories in me:

The only things I left at the cruz were my own negative and self destructive thoughts. They obviously "liked staying there" since I haven't had them since...... Which is quite nice......Such a long journey up to the Camino, so much pain and self punishment. But it only took me a few moments at the crux to get rid of the negative thoughts. Hope it will be a lasting turning point.

To me that's part of the magic of the Camino and I still feel grateful and humble.
 
Last edited:

Paula TO

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF Sarria to SdC (May 2018)
CF SJPdP to SdC (Sep 2021)
#7
Thank you all for your thoughtful responses, and for sharing your experiences.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#8
Firstly, I hope that my question isn't controversial, and it's something I've been thinking about as I have watched many YouTube videos on the Camino, documentaries, etc.

Is leaving a stone at the Cruz de Ferro an ancient sort of thing, or is it more recent? Is it something that locals are fine with? How about the tying of homemade crosses on various fences along the way?

The reason I ask is this. Over the past decade, we have travelled to Paris many times. When we first started going, there were no locks on the Pont des Arts. Then some sort of crazy fad happened, and tourists began affixing locks to the bridge and tossing their keys in the Seine. And the sides of the bridge began collapsing under their weight, and the whole thing became an eyesore. Most locals hated them. And guidebooks and tour guides, even the commentary on the cruise boats along the Seine, began talking about the "romantic French tradition" of affixing locks to symbolize one's love. Which of course was not true...it was just a tourist thing that took over and created a mess. A costly mess for the city, as it turned out.

So for people who live there, is there any issue about the leaving of stones, or crosses? I haven't yet been on the Camino, but already from videos, I've seen a fair bit of graffiti, and random leaving of boots and other detritus along the way. Just wondering how folks feel about this...is it taken in stride?
The tradition of leaving a stone at Cruz de Ferro comes from the Galician reapers who went to Castille till the 1960s before the farm equipment.
It seems that they did it to return home in good conditions because they feared to work so many hours every day under the burning sun of July in Castille.
I think that because of that the name of the cross (Ferro) is Galician.
Sp (Hierro), Leonés (Fierru)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - April-June, 2016
Portuguese Lisbon-Santiago - October, 2017
#9
On the stage to Zubiri there was a place were thousands of cairns, crosses and paper notes were left on the right side of the trail. When you looked down through the woods to the left it was covered with paper "trash." What a mess.
 

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2015, I plan to walk the Camino Portuguese in Sep 2019.
#10
My understanding of the history of Cruz de Ferro was that long before the Camino Romans were dropping rocks there. That said the site has been moved over the years and I have read that the local authorities remove some of the build up every year. I saw a photo of the spot from the 1990's and the pole holding the cross was different and the pile was in a slightly different spot (they had to move it for the road). Quite unexpectedly I got very emotional there, much more so than at Santiago. I attribute my feelings to the spiritual build up from a couple of thousand years of emotion from perhaps millions of people centered on that spot and of course the symbolism I had built up in my mind. If you want to see a short film I made about my experience there you can find it at this link...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2013
Camino del Norte a Chimayó (USA), 2015
Camino Portugues, 2017
#11
To the best of my knowledge, stone cairns have been used all over the world to mark trails in open areas, such as deserts, plains, or tundra above timberline. This is a similar to blazes (axe or knife marks) on trees in forested areas. This tradition pre-dates sign posts and even yellow painted arrows. Only recently has the building of stone cairns become something of an artistic expression which is hip to some passers-by and loathed by others.

The true origin of the leaving of a single stone as some sort of personal symbolic offering is probably lost in myth and legend, whether it be for religious or secular purposes.
 

MichaelC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
August 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
July 2019: Cammino di Assisi (La Verna to Assisi)
#12
I know in my part of the world this ancient custom dates from the 1960s. We (I work for the state government) are constantly removing stacked piles of rocks from our parks and remote beaches. It's even in some travel books, and they always tie it back to pagan / pre-Christian customs. I've talked to counterparts in Greece, Japan, Ireland, and Mexico who have the same problem. Modern people like to stack rocks at places they see as having sacred properties. I've seen zero evidence that historic people did.

Maybe Galicia is the exception, but I'm skeptical.
 
P

Pabloke

Guest
#13
I agree with those who think it's ugly and unpleasant to see all the things people leave there, even understanding the symbolism for the lefters.

Anyone can imagine San Pedro's place or Obradoiro covered with personal items?
 

Katerina7

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Primitivo (2016), Camino Portugués por la costa (2017)
#14
Paula, thank you for asking! This is one of my Camino pet peaves.

BTW, the padlock thing is, I believe, a Russian tradition. You would see these on bridges in Moscow and St-Petersburg in the late 80s, well before they appeared in Paris.
No, it's not! Wikipedia says it has initially originated in Serbia and became popular in the early 2000s in various locations for unknown reasons. In Rome this ritual can be attributed to the 2006 book I Want you by Italian author Federico Moccia.
In fact, Moscow authorities dealt with the matter wisely. They installed several "Love Trees" near the famous Luzhkov Bridge for people to hang locks on them without overloading the bridge structure.
I'm tempted to include "The Russians did it" meme in this post, but I will abstain from doing it :D
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#15
No, it's not! Wikipedia says it has initially originated in Serbia and became popular in the early 2000s in various locations for unknown reasons. In Rome this ritual can be attributed to the 2006 book I Want you by Italian author Federico Moccia.
In fact, Moscow authorities dealt with the matter wisely. They installed several "Love Trees" near the famous Luzhkov Bridge for people to hang locks on them without overloading the bridge structure.
I'm tempted to include "The Russians did it" meme in this post, but I will abstain from doing it :D
Well, if WIKI says that. But I remember these on bridges in Leningrad in the summer of 1989.
 
Camino(s) past & future
First timer, leaving April 3rd from SJPDP
#17
I understood leaving a stone at CdF was custom and I carefully chose a stone from home. I understood it was Camino tradition.
Similar to Steve, I had no idea it would be such a powerful moment! My trail-mate Bill and I left Foncebedon very early to arrive before sunrise. Two local dogs led us up the trail in the dark to CdF and then just disappeared. (strange/eerie) Although there were 4 other pilgrims there in the darkness, none of us was speaking. Without talking, we each took the walk up to deposit our stones and returned to group hugs. I haven't cried so hard since my mother died years ago. I couldn't stop. All were crying. Why? Why would this pile of rocks have this effect? To this day, 5 months later, I still tear up when even thinking about that morning. Clearly the most significant moment in My Camino? No explanation. Just amazing. Memorable.

Paula, take a stone!
 

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