Ponte Maceira is a place not to be missed in the Way to Finisterre, documented in the historical sources. In 2020, it was recognised as one of the most beautiful villages of Spain due to his cultural and environmental values, and was listed as an Asset of Cultural Interest. Here we will talk about how the ways assembled our territory over time, by making easier the exchange of goods, ideas and values between diverse peoples and cultures. We will also talk about the surrounding trees and the linking of the ways and the forestry sector, while resting under one of them.
PEFC considers that an adequate road infrastructure is essential for the fulfilment of the management objectives, uses and protection of forests.
The ways are not static but dynamic elements, which respond to the circumstances and needs of the communities they are associated with at every moment and place. Their construction requires a level of intervention in the environment which changes according to the time; in prehistory, for example, it is nothing more than marked paths on the ground, while in modern times, it requires levelling, filling… In any case, the construction of ways denotes a specific and expert knowledge of the territory by the communities.
The Neolithic burial mounds (also called mámoas and medorras in Galicia) are located along the transit routes marking drainage divisions, indicating the best passage areas.
The emergence of hierarchical societies in the Iron Age involves the appearance of power centres which interact with each other, what leads to creation of a network of short, medium and long distance ways, enabling these exchanges.
This network is multiplied with the Roman conquest, not only because new power centres appear, but also because the Empire itself encourages its construction, understanding that they are a key element for the proper functioning of its social, political and economic system.
In the Middle Ages, the discovery of the tomb of Saint James the Apostle is a turning point. Compostela becomes the centre of Gallaecia, in one of the main centres of Europe and one of the three Christian pilgrimage capitals. Since then, it became the destination of most long distance ways, and this led to a reorganization and hierarchization of the entire network.
The existence of communication routes is one of the factors that determine the location of population centres; that is why it is so common in Galicia that settlements are arranged in a linear way on the edges of the ways. The consolidation of the pilgrimage routes to Compostela at the end of the 11th century emphasises this process, as it encourages the creation of new settlements on the edge of the routes with the aim of ensuring control over the territory and the transit of goods, security and service offer to pilgrims through specific equipment such as accommodation or hospitals.
Until the 17th century, ways were designed for the mobility of people and horses. In the 18th century, however, the state embarks on the construction of the so-called Camiños Reais (Royal Ways), already designed for the transit of carriages. The objective was to facilitate trade between regions; that is why these ways were much wider than the previous ones, maintenance work was done more often, more surveillance was done to ensure the safety of users, and support infrastructure was provided, such as places for travellers to rest. As in the past, the traces of the royal ways often followed the route of the previous ones.
That same process was repeated in the 19th century when road construction began. The itinerary of the royal ways was reused, changing certain aspects that could contribute to improving communications (rectification of closed curves, design of alternative stretches in areas with higher slopes, etc.).
In other words, our variety of ways results from the sum of tracks that were built in different periods, which undergo more or less transformations to meet the needs and interests of each historical period. And the Ways to St. James were no exception.
The first undeniable reference to the Way to Finisterre as an international pilgrimage way appears in 1283. The religious pilgrimage to Santa María de Finisterre already existed before that date, but it had a local or regional scope. From Compostela, several routes could be taken to reach the end of the world, all of which crossed the Tambre river. The oldest one crossed the disappeared Ons bridge, located on the border between the councils of Negreira and Brión, which, according to the tradition, collapsed when Roman troops chased the disciples of Saint James the Apostle, who were on their way to Compostela with his dead body. The other is the one that finally consolidated as a pilgrimage way and whose route coincides with the Royal Way between Santiago and Corcubión. This route offers some variants, but in the historical documentation, some stages not to be missed are always mentioned; including, Ponte Maceira, located on the border between the councils of Negreira and Ames.
The bridge you can see nowadays was built between the 13th and 14th centuries by the diocese of Compostela, in order to facilitate the communication with the ports of Finisterre, Corcubión, Cee and Muxía, controlling access and goods. Like all medieval bridges, it displays the feature of a donkey-back bridge, with a pointed arch of 14 meters of light in the centre and two arches of half a point on either side, of 6 meters of light. In addition, a drain was built on each access to facilitate the evacuation of water during periods of flooding.
The bridge is built directly on the rock, and it is on its foundation (which presents a different instrument from that used on the rest of the bridge) that some historians see the Roman origin of the structure, but this issue is not confirmed from an archaeological point of view. Attributing Roman origins to medieval bridges is logical taking into account how the road network was being configured in our country. In this way, following the same logic, the existence of an Iron Age settlement located about 300 meters South (Castro de Piñor) would confirm the constant reuse of the ways and the strategic role played by this area over time in the communication between the interior and the coast.
Downstream, the toponym A Barquiña refers to a boat passage before the bridge existed. There were also other solutions, such as pontellas or pasos, which we’ll talk about in Vaosilveiro, in the council of Muxía.
In 2020, the corresponding procedures were initiated to list Ponte Maceira as an Asset of Cultural Interest, the highest degree of protection provided by our law. In that year, it was also recognised as one of the most beautiful villages of Spain by the association which gives this award. In both cases, although the bridge is the trigger, its environmental value is also taken into account.
Ponte Maceira crosses the Tambre river, one of the most important rivers in our region, which makes the area a natural environment of special beauty. The riparian vegetation associated with the river, besides having a great landscape value (Area of great natural beauty), has a high ecological importance, regulating the microclimate of the river, ensuring stability on the shore, creating an ideal habitat for many species of animals and plants, acting as a filter of sediments and harmful substances and, of course, providing shade and shelter on our way to the next place, which is the village of Negreira.
In this stretch, the path matches the route called Ruta dos Tres Pazos, a 15’5 km circular route that connects three stately houses: Pazo de Baladrón (Ponte Maceira), Pazo de Albariña (Logrosa) and Pazo do Cotón (Negreira).
The stone crosses (Cruceiros)
If we talk about ways, we also have to talk about stone crosses. Wherever you look, you see one. In Galicia, there are more than 15,000 and the cataloguing process is still ongoing.
Stone crosses begin to become popular in the 16th century. They are religious monuments in the shape of a cross, built of stone, isolated or as part of a vía crucis. They consist of a platform of one or more steps where you kneel to pray; a pedestal where there may be an inscription with the year, author or reason for the construction; the shaft; the capital; and at the top, a cross. The shaft and the capital may or may not have decoration. In the case of having it, the most common motifs on the shaft are steps, snakes, skulls and tibides, or instruments of the Passion; the cross is usually represented by the virgin looking East (the birth of the sun) and the crucifixion looking West (the sunset).
Stone crosses have several functionalities. They are located at the crossroads of ways, serving as signalling and protection (we will take a closer look about this on your way by Dumbría). They are also located in places where a tragic death happened to commemorate the deceased, to make amends for some bad work, to give thanks for some benefit from God or as testimony to a promise. They also indicate the proximity of a church or graveyard, as well as the borders of a parish or local council.
In the burials, people prayed on every stone cross where the funeral procession passed. Children who died before being baptized could not be buried in graveyards, so they were often buried in secret at the foot of stone crosses, as they were considered to be closer to heaven. Even today, many parish processions turn around the stone crosses, a signal of its importance in our imagination.
The Role of PEFC
Unha infraestrutura viaria adecuada resulta indispensable para o cumprimento dos obxectivos de xestión, os usos e a defensa do monte.
Dita rede pode estar constituída por infraestruturas de uso público que lle dan servizo e polas pistas forestais do propio monte, polo que resulta imprescindible dispoñer dunha adecuada rede viaria tanto en densidade como no seu estado.
A infraestrutura viaria ten como función principal facilitar a accesibilidade aos sistemas forestais para a súa xestión, para a extracción dos produtos, para a protección contra os incendios, para a supervisión fitosanitaria, para a comodidade dos visitantes, etc.
No caso de aproveitamentos madeireiros, é necesario tomar as medidas oportunas, para racionalizar as vías de saca ou trochas e limitar o largo da vía ao estritamente necesario para o paso e traballo da maquinaria. Recoméndase romper a continuidade das vías de saca a fin de reducir os danos por vento e diminuír o impacto paisaxístico. Na medida do posible, a vía de saca non coincidirá ou respectará os bosquetes de frondosas e minimizarase o número de ramais cegos da rede viaria forestal, evitando tramos de excesiva pendente e construíndo obras de drenaxe tecnicamente xustificadas.
As vías pecuarias, adscritas ao tránsito dos gandos, que viñeron cumprindo tradicionalmente unha dobre finalidade: poñer en comunicación as zonas de pastoreo estacional e proporcionar alimento ao gando durante os seus desprazamentos. Igualmente poden considerarse como corredores verdes de alto interese ecolóxico para o mantemento da biodiversidade natural.
En paralelo coa citada concepción ecolóxica, foi consolidándose a idea, ante unha demanda social cada vez máis intensa, de poñer as vías pecuarias ao servizo da cidadanía, de forma tal que, sen contradición co uso pecuario, poidan realizarse outros usos compatibles e complementarios con este (paseo, sendeirismo, cabalgada, etc.)