It is situated on the slopes of Monte Irago in the heart of the Jacobean route and very close to the Cross of Ferro The first time that Foncebadón is quoted is in the Council of Monte Irago, in which all the bishops of the Kingdom of León met at the request of King Ramiro II and in which it was discussed the measures to be taken to try to alleviate the incessant excesses that the bandits, sheltered from the orography and climate of the area, had here. It is also mentioned in documents from the 11th century in relation to sales and donations made in the village. Also in the eleventh century the hermit Gaucelmo founded a hospice and a church, years later became a monastery in recognition of this work, which prioritized the care and protection of pilgrims and travelers, King Alfonso VI granted Foncebadón in 1103 the privilege of not paying taxes in perpetuity, a privilege that was ratified by later kings.
In an 18th century document Foncebadón is cited as tierra maragata and this is with certain criteria as we know of muleteers' writings of the village in the years 1664, 1716 and 1723. Foncebadón was razed to the ground during the War of Independence, then it was rebuilt by moving it a little to the East, apparently due to the remains of a belfry from the tower of its old church. The village is now part of the Santa Colomba de Somoza Town Hall.
On entering the long street of Foncebadón, an old cross welcomes the visitor. A palloza, some houses in ruins and others that are being rehabilitated and that want to recover the spirit of the village. On one side, and always ascending towards the Foncebadón port, is the church dedicated to the town's patron saint, Santa María Magdalena, and which has recently been restored with a flirtatious belfry. On leaving the village you can still see the ruins of what was the monastery of Foncebadón, where the council took place. The surroundings of Foncebadón invite you to stroll through pine and fir forests and to discover bucolic places, such as the Fervencia waterfall or the fountain of Las Brujas.
Just two kilometres away at the top of the port, which is one of the highest in the Montes de León, the view is flooded with landscapes of great beauty, as well as being able to play at discovering which mountains can be seen from there. And crowned by the emblematic Cross of Ferro, on top of a mound of pebbles that may be of Celtic origin, since it was customary from this period to make small mounds of stones in the highest and symbolic points of the roads and which were called Montes de Mercurio (Mercury Mountains) in honour of the god Mercurio. Others say that its origin is due to the Romans and the milestones they used to mark territorial boundaries, but whatever their true origin this custom was the Christian hermit founder of the abbey of Foncebadón, Gaucelmo when at the top of the mound placed a cross in the early eleventh century. This original cross is in the Museum of the Roads of Astorga. The Celtic tradition of leaving the stone was continued by the maragato muleteers as they moved from the coast to the plateau. In the last quarter of the twentieth century next to the Cross was built a chapel dedicated to Santiago Apóstol.
Foncebadón celebrates its patron saint Santa María Magdalena on the 23rd of July and on the 25th of July the feast is moved to the Cruz de Ferro to honour Santiago Apóstol.
According to tradition and some documents, the residents of Foncebadón were exempt from taxes if they placed eight hundred stakes to indicate the way to travellers.
Not long ago, coinciding with the Year Jacobeo, the Bishopric of Astorga decided to remove the bells from the church of Foncebadón and transfer them to the Museum of the Roads. On the appointed day, Maria, an elderly mountain lady and lonely neighbor of Foncebadón, received the people in charge of carrying out such a task perched on top of the bell tower and wielding a stick while shouting, "leave the village in peace, these bells stay here" And she added that she needed them to warn the people of nearby villages in case one day a fire was declared in the place, and also to guide pilgrims in case of fog. It was such a surprise that these people were carried away with the attitude of Mary, defiant and protective at all costs of the bells, that in the end they left without them while the woman shouted to them: "before they remove these bells first call for my death".
It is said that the girls of the place came to pray before the Cross of Ferro not to lose their virginity before getting married. This tradition was captured by Alonso del Castillo Solórzano in a scene from his picaresque novel of 1632, " The girl of lies ". In it she tells how a beautiful young woman was mocked under false promises by a servant of a canon who, after calming her anxieties, went in search of new adventures. The maiden then went to the Cross of Ferro and prostrating herself before her she begged, implored and cried so much that her tears oxidized the base of the cross.
As far as Foncebadón we arrive following the road LE-142 that joins Astorga and Ponferrada passing by, among other places linked to the Way of Saint James, Rabanal del Camino, the Cross of Ferro or El Acebo de San Miguel.
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