The Ría de Pontevedra estuary is a magical place that has witnessed many legends and stories throughout the centuries. This vast bay is located on the north-western coast of Spain. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times and, over the years, it has seen different cultures and civilisations come and go, leaving their mark on the land and its people.
From the legend of La Santa Compaña (the Holy Company), that tells the story of a procession of grieving souls that wander through the Galician nights, to the stories of the corsairs that plied the waters of the estuary in search of treasure and adventure, the Ría de Pontevedra estuary is filled with fascinating stories that have been passed on from one generation to another. In this article, we will explore some of the most interesting legends and stories that come from this beautiful place.
The rock carvings at Mogor, commonly known as Mogor’s Labyrinths, are Neolithic cave carvings which are located at Marín, Pontevedra.
The origin of these fascinating stone carvings has been researched for some years and, to date, different interpretations have been proposed. Some think that they could be fertility symbols, others interpret them as funerary symbols. But the most fascinating thing of all is that these inscriptions are very similar to others found in Lapland and Finland. This could mean that they are the remains of populations that inhabited Northern Europe and that, in their time, they tried to settle in this part of the continent.
Visiting the site is free of charge, and this offers an excellent opportunity to explore these mysterious rock carvings, as well as giving you time to enjoy the amazing landscapes of the O Morrazo coast.
The Island of Ons
One of the most attractive locations on the Island of Ons is the Buraco do Inferno, a spectacular viewpoint where you will find a large cave-shaped hole which was believed to be the door to hell. The legend tells us that in that cave, when there are storms, you can hear the heartrending cries of the souls condemned to the eternal fire. And a legendary figure, a bull with golden horns, protects the entrance to the underworld.
The Island of Ons is one of the archipelagos that make up the Atlantic Islands of Galicia Maritime-Terrestrial National Park. It is the only island of the National Park that is located in the Ría de Pontevedra estuary. During the summer months, our vessels at Mar de Ons Ferries travel there daily from Combarro, Bueu, Sanxenxo, Portonovo and Vigo. Book your ticket well in advance to discover all the hidden secrets of the island, including the buraco do inferno.
Another island of the Ría de Pontevedra estuary is the island of Tambo (Poio). One of the many stories that surround this place relates to Saint Trahamunda. The legend tells that this novice from the convent of San Martiño, located on the island, was kidnapped by Arabs and taken to Cordoba. While she was there, Trahamunda prayed to God and asked him to release her from captivity and return her to San Xoán de Poio. A day later, Trahamunda was able to return. Because of this miracle, she was beatified and canonised as a saint.
Apart from the above legend, the Island of Tambo is home to various interesting stories. The island suffered an attack by Francis Drake, the famous English privateer who was known and feared along the Galician coast. It was also said that the island was inhabited by a moura (a supernatural being) that summons a bull each night to carry away the bodies of the dead.
The best kept treasure of Pontevedra
Pontevedra is the capital of the province and the principal town on the Ría de Pontevedra estuary. The streets here are home to hundreds of myths and legends, but perhaps the best-known legend is the one about the treasure that belonged to the feared pirate Benito Soto. The legend tells us that this man, known by his motto “the dead don’t talk”, hid a great treasure between the walls of the Casa das Campás. This is one of the oldest buildings in the town and is currently the headquarters for the Vice Chancellor of Vigo University.
Benito Soto was a pirate who came from Pontevedra. He was the captain of the ship known as “El Burla Negra” which plied the seas over the centuries looking for treasure. According to the legend, this was the pirate that inspired the famous poem by José de Espronceda.
Legend of the nine waves
One of the most popular beaches of the Rías Baixas is the beach at A Lanzada, located between Sanxenxo and O Grove. One of the most popular stories surrounding this great sand system is the legend of the “nove olas” (nine waves in Galician), a fertility ritual that became popular with the people of the area.
Women who wanted to get pregnant and who had not been able to do so, would submerge themselves in the sea in the hope that the beneficial power of the waves would grant them their wish. The tradition specified that, if the women let the water pass over their belly nine times, their wish to have a child would be granted.
La Santa Compaña
La Santa Compaña (the Holy Company) represents one of the best-known myths of the Rías Baixas and Galicia. This nocturnal procession consists of souls wrapped in shrouds that wander barefoot in two files. Each ghost carries a lantern, and only a light breeze and the smell of candle wax indicates their presence. At the front of the line there is a larger spectre, known as la Estadea.
The legend tells us that if anyone comes upon the procession, they will be forced to follow it carrying a cross and a cauldron. If they come across another person, they can pass these onto them and be freed. The person receiving them must then accompany the dead.
Both the coasts and the waters of the Ría de Pontevedra estuary are the keepers of many years of stories and hundreds of myths and legends that make the place both more interesting and more appealing. If you are planning to come to discover this area, we recommend that you come for a number of days so that you can visit all the magical places that are hidden here. We would also encourage that, on one of the days, you sail with us to the Island of Ons so that you can discover for yourself all the great things that the island has to offer.