It is not strange that a city with the extensive history of Santiago and the multitude of people who have walked its streets, is an inexhaustible source of legends, tales and myths. The silhouette that is projected daily on one of the façades of the cathedral is that of a pilgrim dressed in a wide-brimmed hat, walking stick, pumpkin and cape. This ghost is nothing more than the result of a coincidence that causes the shadow of a granite pillar located in the A Quintana square to project its figure when night falls and the lighting comes on. However, there are not a few interpretations that enter magical and superhuman territory that go far beyond this natural and logical explanation.
Different versions of the Plaza A quintana
They are neither one nor two, but up to four different versions of the origin of this vision have come to us. The first is due to the past use of A Quintana Square.
Quintana de Vivos and Quintana de Muertos
This esplanade next to the cathedral is divided into two levels, separated by a staircase that splits its surface in two. The one at the top is called Quintana de Vivos, while the one at the bottom is known as Quintana de Mortos (of the dead). And it is that in the lower part was previously located the public cemetery. Many people say that the shadow of the pilgrim is the manifestation of the wandering soul of some of those who rested there. The second explanation has to do with the darkest stage of the Catholic Church and the brutal practices that took place here. In this case it is said that the shadow belongs to the soul of some unhappy person who was burned at the stake by inquisitorial judgment.
Leonard du Revenant
A widespread version is that the shadow belongs to the soul of Leonard du Revenant, a French pilgrim of the 15th century. This man was condemned to travel to Santiago to purge himself of the murder of his father, whom he killed to inherit his fortune. It was by interceding in the trial the Duke of Burgundy, who is said to be his true father, when his sentence was reduced to make the pilgrimage.
Along the way, as he passed through Navarre, the Frenchman met an innkeeper who he tried to conquer. She rejected him and this caused him a fight with the girl’s boyfriend. Leonard, in revenge, stalked the young woman, forcing her and killing the couple in love later. On his arrival in Santiago, Leon de Cornu appeared to him, announcing that his death was purged but not that of the other two innocents. He would have to wait for their souls in the cathedral to be forgiven. Hence, every night, Leonard’s shadow appears impassive waiting for the souls of the bride and groom whom he murdered.
The Priest and the Nun
Finally, the version that will be listened to most by those who pass through the square will be that of the priest and the nun. Legend has it that a clergyman from the cathedral and a nun from a convent on the other side of the square maintained a secret romance. The priest, tired of having to hide his love, proposed to his lover, to flee from Santiago, out of censored glances. So he quoted her one night in the square dressed as a pilgrim so as not to attract attention. It is said that he waited for her for hours but she never showed up. The shadow, in this case, represents the disguised priest. He never resigned himself to losing his beloved and who returns every night to wait for her.
In reality, this is just one of the many legends that Santiago hides, and these are just some of the versions that are told about the silhouette of A Quintana Square. It is said that the shadow will accompany us all the way but that we will only get to see it on the façade of the cathedral once night falls. And is that this figure has already become, without doubt, an icon of the city and one of its most photographed and popular images.