Belorado with a population of just over 2,000 was a welcome resting place for me in 2004. I only walked 12km this day and rested during the afternoon by the outdoor public swimming pool, after finding a pension for the night.
Belorado was a frontier town resettled by King Alfonso I of Aragon in 1166. He granted it special privileges and fortified it to encourage settlement to provide a buffer against his stepson King Alfonso VII of Leon.
However, Belorado had been occupied since Roman times. The resettlement led to boom years for the town, by the 13th century the town had eight churches.
Like many towns in this region, it was split into ethnic areas; the French, Castilian Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Each neighborhood had its own judges and traditions.
Interestingly, through most of the middle ages Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived together in relative harmony until 1391 when there were anti-Semitic riots, and then in 1498 Jews were expelled from Spain.
During this time Muslims and Jews were exempt from local taxes. However, they were required to keep one of the city’s defensive towers in good repair and another law required two from the Jewish community to sweep the city street every Thursday.
Perhaps another reason for the prosperity of Belorado during the early middle ages was its refusal to pay a yearly tax to the church at Santiago de Compostela. The tax was imposed by Ramiro I after his victory at Clavijo. While claiming the King had no jurisdiction over the town, Belorado managed to fight off paying the tax until it was settled in 1408.
Due to its frontier town status, only ruins remain of Belorados’ early buildings. There’s the Church of Santa Maria, originally the castle church. The central nave dates from the 15th century, while the rest of the building was built much later.
It has an interesting stone retable, which features both Santiago Matamoros and Santiago Peregrino. There is also an interesting ivory Christ and a Romanesque Virgin statue. The church is built against the limestone cliffs and some ancient cave dwellings are still visible behind the church.
The Church of San Pedro was completely reconstructed during the 18th century. The interior has some original pieces that include a rococo altarpiece and various pieces of art.
The Church of San Nicolas is the oldest remaining church which is a ruin. It has an attached clock tower which is accessible by an internal staircase.
My thought for today is inspired by a Frenchman that I talked to this day. I passed him a few times, he caught up with me at each village. We had coffee together and he kept telling me to slow down and not hurry; that I needed to listen to my body and walk at the pace it suited.
Eventually I did and my head followed and also slowed down. Do you listen to your body much or are you like me and driven by your mind?
Table of Contents
Today’s Walk: 24.1 km
As has been the way for the last few days the Camino Frances hugs the N120 for a good part of the day. For various reasons walking this day is one of my least favorites.
I found myself having to walk along a particularly open and noisy part of the road, with dangerous crossings entering and leaving Villafranca. Beware of the trucks as you enter Villafranca at the truck stop.
There are no ATMs for the next two days, so have enough money to last until Burgos.
For the first half of the day there are villages to stop and have coffee or food; however, after Villafranca Montes de Oca there are no villages to buy food until the next day in Ages.
There is a café in San Juan de Ortega where they sell food and refreshments, however, they are not friendly or helpful, perhaps due to having a captured customer base.
Most of the day is easy walking until you leave Villafranca where the route starts to climb into the Montes de Oca. The climb can be steep at times and it is unpleasant if it is raining as the path will turn to mud quickly.
The one saving grace are the trees where shade is available for this part of the Camino. The day starts at about 800m and climbs to 1150m then back down to 1000m.
I have not stayed in the albergue in San Juan, but most reports are very mixed. It is run by nuns who by all accounts are rather strict and are rather frugal with the hot water.
There is a small plot of grass to the side of the albergue to camp. The next albergue is 3.6km further along in Ages.
5.1 km, water, bar
Tosantos is a sleepy little hamlet with fewer than 60 inhabitants. This size of village is common throughout the rest of the Camino while away from the main commercial cities.
Just beyond the village, the Hermitage de Nuestra Senora de la Pena is built into the face of the rock. Legends hold that an image of the child Jesus has been here since 712 and was hidden under a bell to protect it from the invading Muslims. However, the image is from the 12th century.
1.8 km, bar, cafe, water
The Parish Church of Villambistia has an interesting painting from the Italian school of Saint Sebastian and several Renaissance altarpieces. Nearby sits the Hermitage of San Roque which has a small Rococo retablo.
Espinosa del Camino
1.7 km, water, bar
With less than 40 inhabitants the village struggles to exist and survives due to pilgrims using the albergue and local bar.
The Parish Church of La Asuncion contains a 12th-century image of Saint Indalecio who was reputedly one of Saint James’ seven Spanish disciples and is the patron saint of Almeria. Some of his relics still rest in the cathedral in Jaca on the Camino Aragones.
Care is required walking towards Villafranca due to the bridge over the River Oca. You are forced to share the road with trucks.
Five hundred meters before Villafranca on the right sits San Felices Apse. The ruins are all that remain of a 10th-century monastery dedicated to San Millan’s mentor.
A memorial stone has been placed in remembrance of Count Diego Rodriguez, the reconquer and resettler of Burgos, who tradition says is buried here.
Villafranca Montes de Oca
3.4 km, water, bar, restaurant, pharmacy
This village is one of several named Villafranca along the Camino due to the settlement of Franks. It is believed there has been a settlement here since Roman time, however, no traces remain of this or the early settlement from 589 of which some records remain.
The earliest pilgrim’s hospital was built in the 9th century, but the oldest remains in the village are part of the current municipal albergue from the 14th century. Hospital de la Reina was founded in 1380 by Queen Dona Juana Manuel; the building has been reconstructed, however, the main entrance wall and archway are 14th century.
The Church of Santiago built in the 18th century over the site of a previous church houses a statue of Santiago Peregrino, a fine retablo brought from the Church of San Francisco in Belorado, and a huge 65kg shell from the Philippines which is used as the holy water font.
From here you walk steeply uphill into the Montes de Oca; this was considered the natural boundary of Castilla. However, for pilgrims of the past, this was a treacherous stretch of road inhabited by bandits who would rob and kill pilgrims.
This is the second of two fountains between Villafranca and San Juan, however, I suggest filling your water bottle before leaving Villafranca.
The first fountain is only 1.4km from Villafranca and is a rest area. The next monument of significance along this section is dedicated to the fallen during the Spanish civil war.
At Valdefuente there was a small pilgrims hospice from 1187, during the Middle Ages this grew to include a small village and Cistercian priory, today, however, there are only the Gothic ruins which houses some modern statues of Santiago, San Juan de Ortega, and Santo Domingo de la Calzada.
San Juan de Ortega is 6.4 km from Ermita Valdefuente.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.