Day 9 Navarrete – Najera – 17.4km

Day nine is a short day and not all pilgrims will walk as little as this, however it is good to have days that are not as hard on the body occasionally.

During the first half of the route today the path hugs the main N120.  After it crosses the road, about halfway, the track is further from the road.  It is an easy 17.4km along red earth tracks among the local vineyards, great in the dry but very muddy if wet.

Ventosa is the only available rest point for coffee or water, it is 7.9km out of Navarrete.  Shortly after Ventosa you will see up on your left the Alto de San Anton, at the top of this is the ruins of the Monastery of San Anton.  Navarrete to Najera MapThe monastery  is off the Camino and to visit it you will need to detour.  The only real climb of the day is into the hilltop village of Ventosa and again shortly afterward, however the climb is not steep or long.

Just as you leave Navarrete you will pass the cemetery which was built in 1886.  The Romanesque entrance was once part of the Hospital at San Juan de Acre, which we passed the previous day walking into Navarrete.  The capitals depict a battle between Roland and the Giant Ferragut, of which there are many legends, and various pilgrim scenes.  However the capitals although extraordinary are also quite eroded by the weather.

Ventosa 7.9km, water, cafe, restaurant, bar

Ventosa is a village with only 160 inhabitants, with little to hold the passing pilgrim.  It is the only place to stop during today for lunch and water.

Albergue San Saturnino, private, 33 Calle Mayor, €10, 42 beds, K, W€4, D€4, V, @, Bike, Tel: 941 441 899, 657 823 740, Web: http://www.jacobeos.net, Open all year (from November till March call first).

Shortly after Ventosa the path winds up and passes between two small hills where pilgrims have built mounds of small stones.  To the left are the ruins of a medieval monastery and hospice of San Anton.  To the right is the killing ground where Roland apparently slew Ferragut.  There are many legends around this confrontation. The one where Roland threw a stone down the hill and killed Ferragut, another where the hill was only a rock, however the following is the most elaborate:  Ferragut had taken several knights from Charlemagne army prisoner and Roland begs to fight for their release.  Roland is allowed to fight Ferragut and after they have both fought for many hours they agree to take a rest.  After sleep Ferragut and Roland wake to continue their battle, however before starting they have a theological discussion where they agree that the winners religion is the only true religion.  Of course Roland wins, this time by stabbing Ferragut in the navel, his only weak point revealed during their theological discussion.

Najera 9.5km, all services

Albergue de Peregrinos de Nájera, municipal, Plaza de Santiago, donation, 90 beds, K, W, D, @, Tel: 941 360 041 (Tourist Information Office), Open all year.

Albergue de Peregrinos Sancho III – La Judería, private, 13 Calle de Constantino Garrán, €8, 10 beds, M€8,50, Tel: 941 361 138, 659 006 628, Web: http://www.lajuderiasanchoiii.com/ Open from Holy Week to October.

Albergue Calle Mayor, private, 5 Calle Dicarán, €15, 6 beds, @, Bike, Tel: 941 360 407, Web: http://www.alberguecallemayor.com, Open from Holy Week to Nov, 4 double rooms €30

Albergue Puerta de Nájera, private, 1 Calle Ribera del Najerilla, €10, 34 beds, W€3,50, D€2, @, V, Bike, Tel: 941 362 317, 683 616 894, Web: http://www.alberguedenajera.com, Open from March 1 to November 4.

Albergue Nido de Cigueña, private, 4 Calejja Cuarta San Miguel, €10-15, 18 beds, K, W€2, D€3, V, @, Bike, Tel: 941 896 027, 640 072 753, Web: http://alberguenajera.es, open Apr to Oct.

Albergue El Peregrino, 90 Calle San Fernando, €10 – 12, 30 beds, K, W, D, @, Tel: 941 896 027, 640 072 753, web: http://alberguenajera.es, Open Apr to Oct, – same owner as above

Najera contains a population of 8,400 in a bustling market town that is increasing in size each year.  The name is derived from the Arabic of ‘between cliffs’ or place between the rock; this reveals the origin and character of the city, which was reconquered in 923.  Sancho the Great made Najera the capital of Navarre in the 11th century, shortly thereafter the pilgrims route was diverted via Najera from its more difficult route north.  These changes to the French Way can maybe help put into context the changes to the route during the last few days and at some points ahead due the new motorway, the French Way, as with all Camino routes are not static and have evolved over time.

Church-of-Santa-Maria-la-Real

The monastery and Church of Santa Maria la Real was founded in 1052 by King Garcia, son of Sancho the Great.  One day, legend tells, King Garcia was out hunting when his falcon chasing a dove disappeared into a cave. When the King entered the cave, pursuing them, he discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary lit by a lamp with Madonna lilies at her feet.  This incident gave name to the first Spanish order of Chivalry,  ‘Orden de la Terraza’, which was founded to commemorate this discovery. The cave is now part of the church and the three above elements can still be viewed.

Due to fights and wars between bishops, kings, and the prior, the church fell into disrepair.  In 1214 a new building was endowed by Diego Lopez de Haro.  For a period after the church and town flourished as it was an important market town; 25% of the profits from the weekly market went to the church.  In 1368 Pedro I confiscated the gold and silver from the monastery to pay for the dynastic wars.  Even though the church never regained it former power and prestige by 1633 it still owned and controlled 84 monasteries in Spain.  The city was sacked once again during the War of Independence against the French.  Today the Franciscans are responsible for the upkeep of the church and monastery.

The outside of the church is plain compared with many we have seen so far.  The real jewel of the church and monastery is the interior.  As is standard the three aisle church has a magnificent Baroque retablo, but there are other treasures here.  You can visit the cave where Garcia first discovered the statue which is still in the same place.  The Plateresque pantheon houses the tombs of the Navarran Kings.  There are four tomb of most interest: Dona Blanca’s tomb is the best preserved, on one side is the depiction of the wise and foolish virgins, the Slaughter of the Innocents, and the judgements of Solomon.  The other side depicts Christ Pantocrator, (Christ as the judge, an image rarely found on tombs), around which are grouped the Tetramorphos and the Apostles. (Tetramorphos is the four attributes of the Evangelists, Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John) The three other interesting tombs are Sancho Abarca founder of Castilla, (970 – 994); Sancho VI the builder, he repopulated many towns along the Camino including Pamplona and Estella; and of course Garcia who founded the monastery and church.

El coro fue realizada entre los años 1493 y 1495

One of the treasures of Santa Maria is the high choir.  the wood choir stalls date from the 15th century and are adorned with excellent carving that include Saints and many figures from the old testament.  The church is only open for a few hours each day and closed on Monday, 10am to 1pm and 16.30 to 17.30 winter, 19.00 summer.

My thought for today follows yesterday though of destruction.  The French Camino like all have evolved over time.  Am I evolving and flexible?  Or am I fixed in my beliefs and thoughts?

Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred  = Credential, Bike = Bike Storage

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Navarrete to Najera Elevation Map