All of the pilgrims were happy to discover that the walk to Melide was shorter than usual and along a rather flat path that took us through farmland and forest. Being a shorter walk than usual, most of the pilgrims arrived before the afternoon and just in time to get lunch. Together we got to experience some of the things that Melide is best known for, including their food. Many of us had out first encounter with octopus at lunch, some more successfully than others, but no one was at a loss when it came time for dessert.
We later strolled to the Praza do Convento, the square where most of the main attractions for pilgrims coming through Melide are located, and on our way we passed Fuente de los Cuatro Caños (source of the four pipes) in the main roundabout of the town. The old fountain in the center was once the main source of drinking water for pilgrims passing through Melide, but now serves as a beautiful centerpiece to the town. Upon arrival in the Praza do Convento, the fresh smell of baked goods wafted through the air, emitting from a small store nestled between the Town Hall and the Terra de Melide Museum.
The Terra de Melide Museum, which was built upon the grounds of an old pilgrim hospital, housed archaeological artifacts from the area, exposing just how long the area of Melide has been inhabited. An older region of Spain, Melide has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, experiencing both population booms and waves of emigration. After the discovery of the tomb of Saint James, Melide became a more bustling area of Spain as innkeepers and traders began to open shop to accommodate pilgrims travelling along the routes of the Camino.
In the early 14th century, the Archbishop of Santiago, Berenguel de Landoira stayed in granted the town permission to build a fortress and charge taxes to those passing trough. However, later in the 15th century, Melide played a central role in the Irmandiña Revolts in which locals fought against the power of the local barons, which resulted in the destruction of the walls of the town and the fortress. The stone from the walls and the fortress were later used in the construction of the Convent of Sancti Spiritus, which the pilgrims visited together. The church stands on the ground of the monastery or convent of the Third Order of Saint Francis, which was established in the 14th Century. The church was initially rebuilt in the 15th Century using stone from the destroyed walls of the town and many additions have been made since, resulting in an interesting mix of neoclassical and baroque style architecture. During the 18th Century the church was extended, adding in the main façade and the tower. Only the little side chapel remains from the ancient church, which includes the dome and the triumphal lancet.
Also in the town’s main square are Saint Anthony’s Chapel and the Saint Roque Chapel. Saint Anthony’s Chapel was built in 1671 and is attatched to a baroque style country house that has been used as the town hall since 1960. While the chapel remains entirely intact, only the façade of the country house remains as the inside was demolished to allow for its adaptation into the town hall. Nearby, Saint Roque Chapel was built in 1949 using the facade from the medieval Saint Peter’s church and held as one of the most beautiful in Galician Medieval art. Next to the chapel is the oldest transept (cross-shaped church) in Galicia, dating from the 14th century.
Despite suffering waves of emigration since the 1950’s that made Melide a smaller town, Melide remains a busy town and a popular destination for pilgrims to stop. Today the tourism from the two Camino routes, the Camino Primitivo (the oldest pilgrim route) and the Camino Frances (currently the most popular route), plays a major role in the economy of the town along with the many agricultural activities we saw on the way into town. The two routes meet in Melide and continue on together onto the final destination, just two more days away, Santiago. As we continued along the route out of Melide, O Castelo and the Chapel of the Virgin of Carmen provided a wonderful viewing point on the way out of town where a castle once stood. Although the castle no longer stands the panoramic view back over Melide and the land we had crossed still remains.