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The seven sisters of Bierzo: the best-known legend from this region

Seven sisters and seven hermitages with a very important relationship for the tradition of the area

Villafranca del Bierzo, image from Wikimedia Commons

Villafranca del Bierzo, image from Wikimedia Commons

Along the French Way we find numerous legends related to the Camino de Santiago, such as the shepherds from Estella or the Alto del Perdón. All of them mix religion with mythology, and the same phenomenon occurs in El Bierzo. The legend of the seven lost sisters is born there, linked to seven churches in the area.

What does the legend say?

According to this popular story, these seven sisters were doing the Camino de Santiago when the youngest of all had to rest because her feet were injured. She made the stop in Foncebadón, and her older sister decided to stay with her and help her. The other five sisters decided to walk around in the meantime and, captivated by the beauty of the landscape, they parted ways until they couldn't find each other.

The older sister went to look for the others, leaving the little one alone. She went off on her own to look for the five sisters, but found none. Instead, he arrived at Valdescayos, where the hermitage of the Virgen de Escayos was built.

Meanwhile, the older sister did not find the other five either. He asked a shepherd for help, who recommended that he look for the highest point to be able to see them in the distance. Thus, he reached the peak of Aquiana, and finally found his sisters: each one of them shone in a different place. In each of the locations where one of the sisters shone, the parishioners of the area built a hermitage dedicated to a virgin.

Hermitage of the Virgin of the Encina, image from Wikimedia Commons

Hermitage of the Virgin of the Encina, image from Wikimedia Commons

What happened with the seven sisters?

The hermitages that serve as testimony to this legend are those dedicated to the Virgen de la Peña in Congosto, the Virgen de las Nieves in Valdeprado, the Virgen de Fombasallá in the mountains of Paradaseca, the Virgen de las Angustias in Cacabelos, the Virgen de la Encina in Ponferrada and the hermitage of Guiana on the top of Aquiana, where the older sister stayed.

In this legend, the number 7 plays a very important role, an omnipresent figure in Christianity related to perfection and closeness to God. The Bierzo region has a marked religious tradition, also marked by the Camino de Santiago, which has been maintained for centuries and is preserved, among others, in this legend.

The visit to Villafranca del Bierzo at the end of the stage that starts from Ponferrada is a must, not for nothing is it considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain. However, if you have some time, a visit to one of these hermitages through the valleys of the area is a route with great historical and popular value.

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