Culture on the Camino: after the Templar’s trail (Part 2)

Already in Galician lands, the Templars also left traces of their passage. The most outstanding example is Santa María del Templo in Melide (12th century). This small church with a single nave is a real jewel of Romanesque art and is listed as a National Monument. In its west doorway we find mysterious inscriptions on the inner and outer faces of the outermost archivolt. There are 48 signs that encrypt a message in geometric figures: 24 xes, inverted crosses, circles, curved lines, rhombuses…

Santa María del Templo en Melide

Also in Melide we can visit the Templar church of San Julián, with the same geometric signs in the frieze of its façade.

Crossing Santiago and heading west, we will arrive at the magical enclave of Iria Flavia. Here we will find the Church of Santiago, the “pedrón”. It is a neoclassical temple, but keeps inside under the main altar, some very old inscriptions: a Roman altar dedicated to the god Neptune. According to the Jacobean tradition, here was moored the boat that moved the remains of the Apostle Santiago from Palestine, accompanied by his disciples Theodore and Athanasius, to the Galician coast.

Detalle del púlpito

Noya is also an enigmatic town surrounded by legends since Roman times. According to an ancient tradition, Noah landed in this Galician estuary and his granddaughter Noela founded the first village naming the place after him. That is why in the coat of arms of the city appears Noah’s ark floating on the water and a dove with a branch in its beak.

If we visit the medieval cemetery of Santa Maria, we will see some tombstones engraved with strange symbols. In its center stands a small open-air temple, surrounded by tombs and with a cross inside, topped by a pyramidal vault supported by four pillars. It is said that it was a donation of a soldier of the Order of the Temple on his return from the Crusades; and that he brought with him the earth of these holy places.

According to ancient teachings, the pyramid is a symbol of celestial ascension. It is also identified with the spiritual fire or the Light of Christ in the hearts of believers. All this coincides with the inscription of INRI (Ignea Natura Renovatur Integra) that we observe on the front face of the cross facing west. In the west frieze five interlaced circles are represented with figures inscribed inside that could encrypt a mysterious message: a clover, an open book marked by a pencil, a face in the shape of a moon, another open book and a face in the shape of the sun.

On the exterior, the polychrome tympanum of the main door, representing the Adoration of the Magi, and the figure of Bishop Landoira kneeling and St. Joseph to the left of the Virgin, stand out.


In short, everything that surrounds the world of the Templars: their philosophy, their symbols and their art remain enigmatic for us to this day. But without a doubt, walking the Camino de Santiago is a good way to get to know first-hand the amazing legacy they have left for History.

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