Another small village that owes it continued existence to the Camino Frances, population 68. In 1999, Hontanas was declared an “Asset of Cultural Interest.” Its romantic landscape and charming streets, a typical setting of Becquer’s stories, will make you feel as if you have traveled back in time.
The 14th century Church of Immaculada Concepcion dominates the skyline. The only piece of interest inside is a Baroque altarpiece.
Hontanas’ parish church, which is dominated by a tall and powerful tower, is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It was originally constructed in the Gothic style in the 14th century, but was later remodeled in a neoclassical design. Its architecture has a huge tower with a half-orange dome from the previous period. Fernando de la Pea, a mountaineer, created the baroque altarpiece.
Inside is a superb thirteenth-century processional copper cross with enamels and figures, whose style suggests it was made in Spain and is of late Romanesque style.
The church was built next to the Burgos prelate’s palace, to which it belonged from April 1, 1208, when King Alfonso VIII forced the Bishop of Burgos D. Fernando to buy the town of “Fontanas” with its church of Santa Mara for five hundred maravedis (gold coins) taken from cathedral assets; a Gothic arch from this palace can still be seen today.
The spectacular Fountain of the Star, composed of carved stone with a semicircular crown and a six-pointed star in relief, is located next to the church’s apse.
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Today’s Walk: 34.9 km (21.8 m)
Before setting off on the Camino nearly 35 km might look like a long distance to walk if you are not generally walking, however by this stage on the Camino most pilgrims have become trail fit and this 35 km is quite an easy day, however, there are options to walk less.
There is only one high spike in the route today and it is near the start where the Camino rises by 200 m (656 ft) and falls again quite sharply, the rest of the day is easy going along undulating paths in a wide open plain with little cover.
Underfoot the walk is a mix between very quiet country roads and farm tracks between fields. The first stage of the day is just over 11 km (7 mi) without any water stops or anywhere for breakfast or food depending on the time of year. Eat and have water before starting out.
Hospital de San Nicolas is the first place to get some water. It is a hostel – albergue run by the Italian Confraternity, they offer incredible hospitality.
There are only 8 beds; however they will lay out mats for some others to sleep on the floor. They open between 2 and 3 pm and offer coffee to passing pilgrims. They serve a communal evening meal and breakfast – they are great.
After you cross the Pisuerga River beside San Nicolas you enter the region of Palencia. Itero de la Vega is only 1 km (0.6 mi) further on and most facilities can be found there, from Itero to Boadilla it is 8 km (5 mi) and again there is no place to get water – fill up.
5.8 km (3.6 mi), water, coffee
The 14th-century Monastery and Hospital of San Anton are now mostly ruins. The hostel here is basic and very friendly, the sleeping area is an alcove protected from the outside with large tarpaulin curtains.
The route passes under a Gothic double arch where there is still an alcove where bread was once left for passing pilgrims after the Monastery had closed for the night. The alcove is used today by pilgrims to leave messages.
The monastery belonged to the Antonine order, which was founded by a Frenchman named Guerin in the Dauphine at St Didier de la Mothe in the year 1095, when relics were transferred there from Constantinople.
The founding was underwritten by Alfonso VII in 1146 but the current building dates from the 14th century. St Anthony was a third-century hermit from Egypt who was also the patron saint of swineherds.
Interesting as the main disease the order was thought to cure erysipelas, also known as ‘St Anthony’s Fire’, a contagious skin disease which affected both humans and pigs.
The nineteenth letter in the Greek alphabet, tau, was imprinted on the black habits the monks wore, additional the symbol was used in the healing ceremonies. The symbol can still be seen in the ruins as part of the architecture.
4.9 km (3 mi), all services
Castrojeriz is a reasonably sized town, with a population of around 900 inhabitants, with all services and several albergues.
The town is about two kilometers long, therefore you will have the opportunity of refreshments at least one kilometer before the 4.9km listed above. Wooden Tau crosses can be purchased from the Convent at Santa Clara, however it is about five hundred meters off the route south; there are shops within the town where the cross can also be bought.
Castrojeriz has been fortified since Celtic times, more than two thousand years ago. The hill was subsequently occupied by Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and eventually became part of Castile in 1131 after Alfonso VII won the town from the Aragonese.
For four hundred years Castrojeriz prospered as a fortified town on the pilgrimage to Santiago; during that time it attracted many merchants making it a hub of commerce. However, the decline started when the town sided with the losers in the 1521 Comunidades War.
The Collegiate Church of Santa Maria del Manzano originally built in the 13th century was remodeled in the 18th century. Inside there is a retable of the Annunciation from the 18th century by Rafael Mengs, along with an impressive statue of St James dressed as a pilgrim, and a 14th century stone statue of the Virgin.
Legend has it that the church was founded on a miracle: Santiago while passing encountered a vision of the Virgin within an apple tree. With excitement he jumped on his horse and it left hoof prints.
Apparently the hoof prints can be seen in a rock outside the south entrance. This is one of several miracles associated with the construction of the church: a man slipped while working on the vaults and the Virgin gave him strength to hold on; a falling beam which would have crushed workmen was held up by the Virgin; sand caved while the foundation was being dug killing many and the survivors prayed to the Virgin the buried were brought back to life.
The Gothic fortified Church of San Juan has an elegant and spacious interior with a masterpiece Flemish retablo, painted by Adriaen Ysenbrant in 1530, the main theme of the retablo is the Annunciation and the Mass of San Gregorio.
The Church of Santo Domingo has a small museum of religious art from the 13th century and six 17th century Bruges tapestries based on designs by Rubens; however, there is disagreement if the designs were by Rubens or one of his students.
The ruined castle on the hill is not along the Camino route, it is difficult to reach but gives great views of the surrounding countryside.
Itero del Castillo
8.5 km (5.2 mi), water, coffee
San Nicolas is not a town or village it is simply an albergue located just before the bridge over the River Pisuerga which is the border between Burgos and Palencia.
The Hospice of San Nicolas was first built here in the 12th century on land donated by Dona Urraca.
The Italian Confraternity restored the building and it is one of the most unusual and friendliest places I have stayed along the route. There is a communal meal each evening after a ceremonial foot washing. The volunteer staff offer coffee to passing pilgrims during the afternoons. The showers and bathrooms are to the rear of the main building.
The eleven arch bridge, Puente de Itero, over the River Pisuerga was built by Alfonso VI in the 11th century to aid pilgrims; the bridge has been reconstructed many times however it is still a single lane where care is required when crossing. Just after the bridge there is a small welcome picnic area with a few benches.
The current and area just after the river was known as the ‘Tierra de Campos’, Aymeric Picaud has this to say about it: [it] is a land full of treasures, of gold and silver, rich in wool and strong horses, and abounding in bread, wine, meat, fish, milk, and honey.
However, there are few trees and it is full of evil, bad men. For modern pilgrims it has changed a lot, the local population is generous and very helpful towards pilgrims.
Itero de la Vega
2 km (1.2 mi), all services
Just before entering the village stands the Ermita de la Piedad which has an excellent statue of St James the pilgrim. Itero de la Vega is a small village with a population of less than 200. ‘Vega’ means fertile valley.
Itero de la Veg is a convenient stopping point for pilgrims, however, there is little to keep you from walking on, apart from the 16th century Church of San Pedro which retains little of its 13th-century construction.
Boadilla del Camino
8.4 km (5.2 mi), water, bar
Now that we are in the district of Castile and Leon you may find yourself approached by a four by four truck occasionally. The truck travels along the Camino within this area checking on the well-being of pilgrims and helping where required.
In the 13th century, Boadilla was large enough to support a monastery and four churches, today the inhabitants’ number about one hundred.
The 16th-century triple aisle Parish Church of the Assumption is a visit to see the 16th-century high altarpiece and the 14th-century Gothic baptismal font. Behind the church is a highly decorated 15th-century Gothic cross, the decorations include scallop shells.
Canals are one of the main features of the landscape today. The construction of the canals was started in the 1750s, by the Marques de la Ensenada, and took nearly fifty years to finish.
The canals no longer carry goods but continue to irrigate the surrounding countryside. The pilgrimage route into Fromista is over one of the canal locks.
Fromista is a 5.3 km (3,2 mi) walk from Boadilla. You’ll find all services there.
Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred = Credential, Bike = Bike Storage
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.