A Time of Floods

Just outside the entrance to Puebla de Sanabria's Castillo is an unusual stone formation shaped like a boat. According to local legend, a pilgrim arrived in a nearby village called Villaverde de Lucerna and begged the locals for food. Only three women – bakers who were baking bread when the pilgrim arrived – obliged. Angry at the remainder of the village's inhabitants for having refused his cries of hunger, the pilgrim struck the ground with his stick. Immediately water poured out from the earth, flooding the village and creating Lago de Sanabria in the process. The pilgrim, along with the three women bakers, were saved by climbing into the boat-shaped stone. They were carried along and, when the water subsided, the boat was stranded on a mountaintop. It was here that the village of Puebla de Sanabria was founded.

A legend this may be, but Lago de Sanabria was the scene of an all-too-real flooding tragedy. On 9 January 1959, a dam under construction 8km from the village of Ribadelago at the western end of Lago de Sanabria collapsed and a wall of water swept down the valley, killing 144 people, most of them women and children. Today, at the road's end in Ribadelago Viejo, a haunting monument marks that terrible day.