The Man Who Spoke To Stones


This is the story of Manfred Gnädinger, a young German man who arrived in Camelle, a small fishing village in Galicia, in 1962 and fell in love with this part of the world. An artist, a lone wolf, a hermit, someone who chose to live a simple life.

Man, as he was known in the village, was a sociable and well dressed young man when he arrived in Camelle. According to the villagers, he stayed with a family that had lived in Germany in the past and spoke the language so it was easy for him to get settled. He fell in love with a teacher from the village but she rejected him and, according to the people who lived in Camelle in those years, that was what triggered the significant change he suddenly experimented.

Man decided to break with the past and dedicate his life to meditation, creation and caring for the environment. He built a simple house without any running water or electricity. He run large distances barefoot and only wearing a loincloth in search for materials to create his outdoor museum. He was also a skilled swimmer who would swim to the nearby coast of Traba and back everyday. When you ask villagers about Man’s health they would tell you “He only visited the doctor once” and it was because he was bitten by a dog. His vegetarian diet, physical activity and peaceful lifestyle made him a healthy man.

Around his house there is the museum, built primarily with big stones piled on top of each other forming columns and chains. There are also animal and fish bones decorating the stones and some of them are painted in black and white, others with colorful symbols.

In November 2002, the tanker ‘Prestige’ encountered heavy weather during a routine voyage and eventually sank off the coast of Galicia, Spain causing the worst environmental disaster in the country and one of the greatest oil spills in Europe. As the oil leak continued after the sinking, 20 million US gallons (76,000 m3) of oil were spilled in total.

Man’s museum was affected by the oil spill and he never recovered from the deep sadness he experienced. The photo above showing his despair went viral and was compared to Munch’s painting “The Scream”. After that, he locks himself in his humble house and on December 28, a month after the huge ecological disaster, he was found dead by a neighbor. He was 66 years old.

I visited the museum years ago when he was still alive. You could either admire it from the harbor or you could go and walk around as it is outdoors. Man didn’t charge for the visit but most people left some money anyway. Once you met him, you realized he was a character even though we couldn’t interact much as my kids were young and were a little afraid of him. He would give you paper and pencils and encourage you to draw what you saw and write your name and date of birth.  Today, the outdoor museum is run by local authorities as it was his wish. There is also a new building in the village that houses an exhibit of photographs, documents, sketches, personal objects and his collection of drawings from people who visited his museum when he was alive. Watch the video below for more detailed information about this interesting MAN.

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