The Camino de Santiago, a path of stars to the tomb of the Apostle (I): from Jaca to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

By David Nogales Rincón, professor of Medieval History at the Autonomous University of Madrid

 

The route runs through some of the cities and towns linked to the roads that, from different points of Christendom, would go to the place where medieval tradition made rest the remains of Santiago el Mayor, brother of St. John the Evangelist and one of the favorite disciples of Jesus of Nazareth: the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela was for centuries the destination of a set of roads that, from different points of Christianity, led to the tomb of Santiago el Mayor, that humble fisherman from Lake Tiberiades, son of Zebedee and brother of St. John the Evangelist, who would die beheaded in Jerusalem, in the year 44. Far from being a secondary figure, James would end up becoming not only one of the favorite disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, but also one of his strongest defenders, to the point that Christ would give him, because of his impetuosity, the appellation of Boanerges or "Son of Thunder."

The gospels say nothing about the link between Santiago and Hispania, of which we only began to have news at the end of the 6th century or the beginning of the 7th century, when the apostle began to be presented as an evangelist of the Peninsula and the "Western countries". This link between Santiago and Hispania, regardless of its historical veracity, had to penetrate between the peninsular Christian communities, which around year 820-830 believed they found the apostle's body at the end of the known world. According to tradition, it was a hermit, named Pelayo, who, after observing the wonders that manifested in a nearby forest, told the bishop of the nearby headquarters Iria Flavia (current Census), Teodomiro. There, where the wonders had become something natural, the bishop ordered to excavate until discovering a marble ark, which hosted a body: the place of wonders would later be known as Santiago de Compostela.

The cult to Santiago, with initially local profiles, would gradually acquire a European dimension since the beginning of the 10th century, becoming, around the year one thousand, one of the main cults of the Christian West. This to the point that the cathedral of Santiago would become one of the great pilgrimage centers of Christianity, only at the height of Rome or Jerusalem. The route was formed, not only religious, but also cultural, which we now know as the Camino de Santiago. This pilgrimage route would have to maintain great vitality from the eleventh century until the middle of the thirteenth century, when a gentle reduction in the flow of pilgrims began, which would be accentuated since the mid-fifteenth century and especially throughout the sixteenth century. Although the pilgrimage to Santiago never disappeared, only the last decades of the twentieth century and the initial years of the twenty-first century have managed to give a new impetus to the Camino, which has now become a myth in itself, even above the religious significance of the Apostle.

The Camino de Santiago was and is, first and foremost, known as the French Way, which linked, along 800 km., Roncesvalles (Navarra) with Santiago, whose opening the apocryphal Turpini History would attribute in the twelfth century to the fantasy Emperor Charlemagne himself (800-814), who, in dreams, would have been commissioned to release that land route whose celestial reflection was in the Milky Way: that "path of stars that began in the Friesland Sea and, extending between Germany and Italy, between Gaul and Aquitaine, passed directly through Gascony, Vasconia, Navarra and Spain to Galicia, where the body of Santiago was then hidden, unknown. To this main route would be added other secondary roads to Santiago, such as the Camino de la Costa, the Camino del Norte, the Inland Basque Way, the Vía de la Plata or the trip by sea.

Some roads through which thousands of pilgrims would run annually, dressed in their brown coat, their slave and hat, in addition to the shell or scallop badge, which identified them as Compostela pilgrims. Encouraged by the encounter with the Apostle, this path of stars concealed, however, a host of penalties: from the mountain passes, such as the port of Cize, in the lands of Roncesvalles, which the Codex Calixtinus would call «the Gate of Spain », Whose« height is so high that it seems to touch the sky », passing through those little recommended accommodations where pilgrims were sometimes forced to land, or the lush forests that, like the Burgos mountains of Oca, were populated by thieves and bandits.

 

ROUTE

The route runs through different places linked to the Camino de Santiago in its different historical roads, in the heat of which different burgos or cities would emerge, with a marked artisan and commercial orientation, and a network of hostels, monasteries, churches or hospitals, to welcome the pilgrims. This route begins at the foot of the Pyrenean pass of Somport, in Jaca (Huesca), head of the Aragonese branch of the French Way, linked to the origins of the kingdom of Aragon and elevated in 1076 to city status, thanks to its status as headquarters regal and episcopal, continuing through Vitoria (Álava), stage of the so-called Basque Road of the Interior or Road of the San Adrián Tunnel, which, passing through the vicinity of the Palacio de los Orgaz Tower in Lantaron (Álava), built at the end of the century XIV or early fifteenth century by the lineage of the Hurtado de Mendoza, in order to control the communication routes that crossed the Alava territory towards Castilla, would link with the main route of the French Way in Santo Domingo de la Calzada (La Rioja), a city that emerged on the banks of the Oja River from the bridge, hermitage and hospital built by Santo Domingo García or de la Calzada, during the second half of the 11th century. The city, which would grow around the pilgrimage route, would be the scene of the famous roasted chicken and chicken singing prodigy, which would certify the miracle that St. Dominic would have performed in saving a young pilgrim, from the German city of Colonia, of dying hanged because of a false accusation of robbery.

Where does the route take place?

  • Castillo de San Pedro. Ciudadela de Jaca. Huescar
  • Palacio de Argómaniz. Parador de Vitoria. Álava.
  • Torre Palacio de los Orgaz. Lantaron. Álava.
  • Convento de San Francisco. Parador de Sto. Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda. Santo Domingo de la Calzada. La Rioja
  • Hospital S.XII Ruta Jacobea. Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada. La Rioja

This route links with

The Camino de Santiago, a path of stars to the tomb of the Apostle (II): from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Ponferrada

By David Nogales Rincón, professor of Medieval History at the Autonomous University of Madrid[...]

Know castles and palaces in this route

The Castle of San Pedro, popularly known as the Citadel of Jaca, is the best preserved pentagonal fortification of S. XVI in Europe. Ordered by King Philip II, the first stone was laid in 1592, following the plans of the military engineer Tiburcio Spanoqui, born in Siena (Tuscany), but under the service of the King of Spain. This fortification was raised to defend and control the main route of penetration from France thrugh the central Pyrenees, in order to prevent attacks by French Huguenots, who were the Protestants fighting in that in country against the Catholic power. We are in the strategic pass of the river Aragon, easily accessible most of the year. For this reason, while the Citadel was being built, the castle of Canfranc and the towers of Espelunca (Aragon valley) and Santa Elena (Tena valley) were being erected and strengthened. Jaca would be the central point of the defense and logistical supply of the Pyrenean valleys of Ansó, Echo, Aragon and Tena.

The Citadel of Jaca was built to be adapted to the effective use of artillery, both defensively and offensively. Its perfectly regular plan is formed by straight lines and by angles that allow to line the weapons for a better defense. These angles are also designed to hinder the enemy’s attack. Gunpowder and the rapid evolution of artillery changed the construction of defenses. From the minds of military engineers and mathematicians like Sangallo, Vitelli, Francesco de Marchi, Niccolo Tartaglia, Pedro Luis Escrivá and, of course, Spanoqui came out geometric forms seeking defensive perfection and the pentagonal shape was the best option. Thus the citadel rose with five bastions, its main feature.

A fortification of these formidable characteristics responded to the need to firmly defend a strategic territory. At the same time, this type of fortress needed a plain from which to obtain resources and with which to defend. Jaca was the ideal location because it is located on a plain in the Aragon Valley: from this strategic position you could obtain resources, control the passes and provide great resistance.

The Citadel is an outstanding example of he Spanish military heritage because of the excellent condition of its main elements. Since the castle has been always occupied and used as barracks, and since the military have assumed the commitment of their care and permanent improvement, the fortress preserves today its original structure and facilities. In this sense, in 1985 it was awarded the Europa Nostra prize by the European Commission. Thus, in the castle have been preserved the five bastions and ten casemates, the barracks, the moat, the drawbridge, the cover parapet walk, etc. The glacis now offers a large space with soft slope of lawn for recreational uses.

The Parador de Argómaniz is an elegant Renaissance palaces in a small town just a few kilometers from Vitoria, offering views of the Álava plain, Sierra de Gorbea mountains and Ullibarri Gamboa Reservoir. This pleasant, peaceful, relaxing spot is an excellent choice to get away from the noise of the city, or as a place to stay while you visit beautiful Vitoria and enjoy the wine and cuisine of the Rioja Alavesa region. You will find it easy to relax in the reading areas or on the terrace and enjoy fine dining in the restaurant, beneath spectacular wooden ceilings. The trails in the surrounding area invite you to take an easy walk, and the reservoir offers up its banks as the perfect spot to sit and listen to the sounds of nature as you gaze upon the small waves that form in the water. Here you will enjoy the peace and tranquility that only the countryside can offer.

The Parador de Argómaniz is the best choice for a relaxing stay in the Vitoria area, or a visit to the city, just 15 minutes away by car. Vitoria is both modern and historic at the same time. It has a lovely old quarter, which has been declared a Historic Site and has preserved its medieval plan. The charming district takes the shape of an almond. You will love wandering along streets such as Herrería, Zapatería or Pintorería, whose names recall the craft guilds of long ago. A walk along the green belt that surrounds the city offers a view of what remains of the city walls and the characteristic silhouette formed by the four towers of the churches of San Miguel, San Pedro and San Vicente and Santa María Cathedral.

And if you have not done so yet, here you will succumb to the temptations of the wines of the Rioja Alavesa region: their texture, bouquet and exquisite flavor. You can accompany them with carefully crafted pintxos (snacks) in the city's bars and terrace cafés, or at our Parador, where we welcome you with the best cuisine, and as is our custom, excellent service.

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The Orgaz Tower-Palace is temporarily closed due to the emergency situation caused by Covid-19.

The monument comprises a wall, tower and palace:
The wall: it is highly likely that there were defences in this location from the 11th century though the original wall does not seem to be older than the 13th or early 14th century.

The tower was built in the late 14th or early 15th century. It is made of well-carved ashlar sandstone. It has a rectangular floor plan measuring 17.3 m (N-S) by 13.4 m (E-W). The maximum height of the tower is 25 m and its lower walls are 2 m thick. It is crowned by a crenellated overhang supported by triple-curved modillions. All faces have large arrow slits and double windows. Arrow slits measuring approximately 1.25 m high with lobed arches are unique to towers in Álava.

The palace dates from the late 15th or early 16th century. The palace and its main access point are situated to the West of the tower. It has a rectangular floor plan measuring 27.3 m x 12.6 m and was built in ashlar sandstone.

The main entrance to the palace is finished with an ogee arch supported by Gothic pillars which rest on high bases and culminate in pinnacles. The arch has two coats of arms. The one to the right displays the weapons of the Hurtado de Mendoza family and the one to the left pertains to the Guzmán and Toledo families. The entire monument is framed with Arab style ornaments.

This beautiful Parador is located in the Monastery of San Francisco, 800 meters from the historic town center of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The building is divided three sections: church, workshop/museum and guest house, with the hotel being located in the last of these. The décor features predominantly contrasting elements, with red tones and blue-grays in the guest rooms, oil paintings with religious themes and works by modern graphic artists. Because of its location on the Way of St. James, the Parador is the ideal spot for rural tourism. Visitors can also enjoy sports such as golf or hiking and the Valdezcaray ski resort.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada stands beside the banks of the Oja River on a vast plain. The town's founding is linked to the branch of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela known as the French Route. Legend has it that in the 11th century, this location was a large holm oak forest on the banks of a tumultuous river that descended from the nearby mountains, now known as the Sierra de la Demanda. A hermit named Domingo took up residence in the heart of the forest, dedicating all his energy to making it easier for pilgrims traveling to Compostela to cross this difficult terrain.

Today you can enjoy the town by visiting sights such as the cathedral or Plaza de España (Spain Square) and savoring La Rioja's delicious cuisine.

The hotel occupies a former 12th-century hospital near the cathedral, erected by St. Dominic to take in pilgrims traveling on the Way of St. James. It has a regal, elegant style, with majestic function rooms and a lobby filled with Gothic arches and wood coffered ceilings. Fine materials and eye-catching colors—whites and blues—give way to comfortable guest rooms decorated with exquisite taste. You will find a warm, harmonious environment which is also highly suited to social events and meetings.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada stands beside the banks of the Oja River on a vast plain. The town's founding is linked to the branch of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela known as the French Route. Legend has it that in the 11th century, this location was a large holm oak forest on the banks of a tumultuous river that descended from the nearby mountains, now known as the Sierra de la Demanda. A hermit named Domingo took up residence in the heart of the forest, dedicating all his energy to making it easier for pilgrims traveling to Compostela to cross this difficult terrain.

Today you can enjoy the town by visiting sights such as the cathedral or Plaza de España (Spain Square) and savoring La Rioja's delicious cuisine.

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