There are many legends that make up the Galician collective imaginary and have been transmitted from generation to generation. Some of them are local and linked to specific events or places, others are particular variations on a similar story that is repeated in very different parts of the community, and a few have a broader scope and extend across much of Galicia weaving a common narrative thread . The latter could be the case of the legend of the Queen Lupa (Raíña Lupa or Reina Loba), one of the most significant characters in Galician mythology and whose story is directly linked to another of the most important stories in our culture, the transfer of the remains of the Apostle Santiago to Galicia.
In fact, it is precisely in the Codex Calixtinus, the medieval work devoted to the figure of the Apostle, where the first mention of Lupa (Luparia in the original text) appears. She is described as a local noblewoman to whom the disciples who carried the body of Santiago went in search of help. It is this text that allows us to begin the journey through Galicia in the traces of this legendary queen.
The Codex Calixtinus tells us that after disembarking at the port of Iria with the remains of the Apostle, his disciples went inland for several miles until they reached the possessions of Lupa. This place has been traditionally identified as the Castro Lupario, the castrexo site located on the border of the municipalities of Brión and Rois and whose walls are still partly visible today. Those visitors asked Lupa for a place to bury Santiago’s body and to build a temple in his honor, but she avoided the request by telling them to go north and ask for help from the king who lived in the lands of Dugio.
The next stop in the story takes us to the municipality of Fisterra, where according to various scholars two parishes guard the legacy of the disappeared city of Dugium: Duio and San Martiño de Duio. The remains of ceramics and tools found during excavations in the area would testify to this. The Apostle’s disciples did not find the help they were looking for there either.. According to the account in the Codex, the king ordered their death and they had to flee and return to the domains of Queen Lupa.
In view of their new request of collaboration, she sent them to the present Sacred Peak in search of some tame oxen with which to help them to undertake the works of construction of the tomb, but again it was a trick. On the slopes of this peak located in the lands of Boqueixón, a dragon awaits them. They managed to defeat it with the help of their Christian symbols. The oxen turned out to be really wild animals, although their aggressiveness also succumbed to the carriers of the body of the Apostle. Back again with Queen Lupa and seeing the miracles worked by Santiago’s retinue, she finally agreed to help them and facilitated the construction of the Apostle’s tomb where it would remain hidden for several hundred years. Its discovery, at the end of the 9th century, would trigger the phenomenon of the cult of Santiago and the pilgrimage to Compostela.
An open trench in the stones of the Pico Sacro known as the Way of Queen Lupa; the name of the neighbouring municipality of Touro, which is attributed to the oxen of the legend; the Fountain of the Carme, in Padrón, which stages the conversion to Christianity of Queen Lupa through baptism; and the Fountain of Santiago, in Vedra, which recreates in stone the episode of the dragon, are some of the vestiges of the story that links this queen with the Jacobean phenomenon. But her legacy and her mark on Galicia goes beyond the history of the Apostle.
Another story links a queen named Lupa with the lands of the Costa da Morte. Specifically, with another of Galicia’s most mythical peaks: Monte Pindo. On this mountain, located in the municipality of Carnota and whose base is bathed by the waters of the Atlantic, another of the fortresses of this monarch would have been raised and that same place would have also served as her tomb. Legend has it that her remains were buried there along with a treasure of great value.
Likewise, from the Ponte Caldelas municipality in Pontevedra, they claim to be the birthplace, or at least one of its dwellings, of Queen Lupa. And in the lands of Os Blancos, in Ourense, there is another story that has she as the main protagonist. “You killed Reina Loba, Carqueixos e Pixeirós, you killed Reina Loba, hidalgo stayed you”, narrates an ancient copla revealing the end that the inhabitants of the villages of the area would have given to the monarch to get rid of her abuses and tributes. The peak known as the Penedos da Raíña Loba would be the place where the fortress where this legend takes place. This peak is located in Covas, a parish that has Santiago as its patron saint. A coincidence, or not, to add to this exciting chapter of Galician mythology.