The Grand Tour: Part 6 — The legend of Pedra da Serpe

CORME-Porto, Spain — The Pedra da Serpe, or Serpent Rock, is located on the outskirts of Corme, on the road to Gondomil. It should be noted that the towns on Galicia’s Costa da Morte are closely bunched, often with barely enough time to get the car into fifth gear before having to slow down for another village.

The Serpent Rock. A winged rock is carved into the rock below the cross. The point is the iontersection between Celtic and Christian traditions.

The Serpent Rock. A winged rock is carved into the rock below the cross. The point is the iontersection between Celtic and Christian traditions.

Located at a crossroads on top of a hill, the Serpent Rock legend goes back for millennia. Some date it as prehistoric, others that it is Roman, or others that is represents a Pagan cult that pre-dates Chrstianity. It is certainly evidence of the Celtic influence, who used snakes in their symbols.

The Roman historian R. Festo Avieno, in the 4th century, wrote that the original inhabitants of the area, the Oestrimnios, were driven out by a plague of snakes — probably referring to a conquest by the Celts.

Here’s where the legend takes on a Christian theme. The infestation was so bad that no one could live there until San Adrian, presumably inspired by God, stamped his foot or hit the ground with his staff — legends are fluid after all — causing all the snakes to flee and slither under the rock on the hill. One of the snakes turned into stone, hence the winged snake figure carved in the rock.

A cross was erected and the church of San Adrian is adjacent to the crossroads.

The story echoes St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, with both legends presumably referring the Christianization of the Celts.

Seems like these poor old Celtic snakes can’t catch a break.

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