Monday, January 24

A village around a cemetery


Madrid

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It rains, the houses are made of granite, the streets are deserted and a lush forest surrounds the town, which when rounding a curve appears as an apparition. A great church, almost a cathedral, rises above its roofs. We arrive to Santa Mariña de Aguas Santas, near Allariz, a few dozen kilometers from Orense.

Is it a village or a cemetery? The doubt arises because the first thing that draws attention is that there are tombs attached to the walls of the houses, a few meters from the door. The living coexist with the dead and perhaps they sit at the table in this enigmatic town Galician. A tall man, an old man of cadaverous paleness, with a

Just one good eye, cross the street like a ghost.

Santa Mariña is the town of the dead, but also of miracles. A Roman governor beheaded this venerable woman, buried in the ecclesial enclosure, from which three streams of blood emerged that became a source of miraculous water. It is still said that he casts out curses and heals the sick. With that water was baptized to those born in the town in a large baptismal font that is inside.

Very close to the sanctuary there was a huge oak tree, ten feet in diameter, which, according to legend, would bleed if an ax was split. Its trunk showed a huge hole through which children were introduced. The tree was destroyed by lightning and was chipped by loggers. One after another he died.

Legend has it that Olibrio, a Roman prefect, tried unsuccessfully to seduce Mariña in 139. He locked her in a dungeon and tortured her. Then he wounded her with hot irons. But none of this had any effect on the maiden, who healed after three days. Olibrio ordered her to be burned and her body thrown into a pond, but it was all in vain: the saint rose. Finally they beheaded her and her blood turned into three springs.

The tradition survived and a hermitage was built in the place, which was transformed in the 12th century into a Romanesque church. It was extended much later with the Gothic elements that today give it its formidable appearance. The temple is accessed by stairs, flanked by a wall. A tower with a bell and a clock stands on the facade. Some columns with acanthus capitals support the weight of its walls. We see the image of the saint, illuminated by a beautiful polychrome window, which rises above an altar.

A templar construction

Although tradition indicates that Santa Mariña was buried in this sanctuary, you have to travel several kilometers on a cobblestone Roman road and through an oak forest to reach the Horno de la Santa, where it was burned. Saint Peter freed her from torment by making a hole in the wall. It is a Templar construction, called the Basilica of the Ascension, which was never finished for mysterious reasons. Its walls and a vaulted crypt remain, protected by a barred door. A series of underground passages leave the place.

You descend a steep staircase with a flashlight. On the walls there is a Templar cross and other mysterious signs. A cavity in the floor indicates the possible existence of an old oven. AND there is also an altar, granite tombs, stone stelae with drawings and some channels for the water. Some scholars of the ancient temple point out that the building had a Celtic origin and that initiatory rites were practiced there. Others point out that the crypt was a furnace where the bodies of the dead were burned. Nor is there anyone who claims that the Templars used the site for alchemy. But nobody knows anything for sure.

Very close to here Manuel Blanco Romasanta, the werewolf of Allariz, murdered his victims. He was condemned to the vile stick in the time of Queen Elizabeth II, who pardoned him. He wanted his case to be studied by science. It is not difficult to imagine Romasanta through these dense forests, on the lookout for defenseless women who crossed this road.

Santa Marina It could be a mirage of a summer morning but it is a very real place. Death, the miracles of the saint and old traditions that are lost in time remain unchanged in this lost corner of Orense, where the clock stopped centuries ago.

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