At 1300 meters above sea level, O Cebreiro is cradled in between the O Courel and Os Ancares mountain ranges, on the border of Leon and Galicia. Until the 16th Century, O Cebreiro was the only access point for travelers entering Galicia and was a strategic location during the Spanish War of Independence. Nowadays, O Cebreiero buzzes with tourists and pilgrims braving the climb through the mountains on the Camino.
In this town are pre-Roman houses called pallozas. These could possibly be Celtic due to similar home structures discovered in Scotland and Ireland. In Spain, these little homes can only be found in the Galician region, with nine pallozas still standing in O Cebreiro, and three open to the public. These structures can be spotted by their thatched roofs that allow the smoke from cooking to escape while still providing insulation.
Walking around the town, one may hear the locals speaking to each other in Gallego, a mixture of Spanish and Porteguese; the most notable difference the change from “el/la” to “o/a”, hence it’s called “O Cebreiro” instead of “El Cebreiro”. One may also come across a traditional dish called “caldo gallego”, which is a traditional soup originally made from leftover stock to prepare for a Sunday feast.
One of the most important sites in O Cebreiro is the local church, Royal Saint Mary’s Church, also known as the Church of Saint Benedict. All of the roads in this tiny village eventually lead to this establishment. This pre-Romanesque Church is believed to be one of the oldest churches on the Camino. However, the original Church had fallen in ruins, and rediscovered in 1962. A new church was erected on its foundations and was finished by 1971.
Like many of the other towns along the Camino, O Cebreiro has its own legends. Royal Saint Mary’s Church houses one of the two holy grails, though both claim to have the “original” one.
The church also lays claim to the remains of a miracle. As the story goes, a traveler had braved through a snowstorm in order to get to the church and partake of the Eucharist. The priest was exasperated by the traveler’s struggles to eat a piece of bread, telling him or her that it wasn’t the actual flesh and blood of Christ. As soon as he said this, however, the bread and wine was transformed, becoming actual flesh and blood.
From miracles to the very architecture, O Cebreiro is full history and is a great place to stop on one’s way on the Camino.