Day 17 Carrion de los Condes – Sahagun -37.3km
This is another long day, however it is easy going and almost all flat. The few ups and downs of the Camino today are not steep or hard going. The first part of the route is somewhat incongruous as it feels very remote but a motorway runs close by on the right hand side, though it is generally far enough away to remove the traffic noise.
Before leaving Carrion de los Condes make sure you have plenty of water, some food, and money as you might not find a bank machine until Sahagun. There is a small village, Villotilla, after about 4km but the Camino does not go into the village, it is 16km before you are guaranteed water and food at Calzadilla de la Cueza. There was a water fountain built halfway along the route during 2005, it is easy to miss though and is said to be sometimes dry.
The 12/13km stretch between Villotilla and Calzadilla is along an old Roman Road, the Via Traiana, which linked Astorga back to Bordeaux. I was stunned the first time I was walking this as I had just finished my first year at University and part of my study was Greek and Roman history. I was walking where Julius Caesar had once walked, amazing. There are no sign posts informing you of the path, but it is obvious by its level straight nature. It is interesting that all the stones and the rocks needed for the road and foundation had to be transported here as this was marsh land with no available building materials. Not surprisingly remains of a luxury Roman villa have been discovered nearby at Quintanilla de la Cueza.
About 4km out of Carrion lie the ruins of the Abbey of Benevivere, which was founded in 1065 and run by the Augustins. It contained a pilgrim hostel of which no remain survive. After Calzadilla the Camino follows the N129 again. Every 4 – 5kms there is a small village. We finish this day in the province of Leon.
Calzadilla de la Cueza 16km, water, bar
Albergue Municipal, 1 Calle Mayor, €5, 34 beds, W, D, bike, Tel: 670 558 954, open all year.
Albergue Camino Real, End of Calle Mayor, private, €7, 80 beds, W, D, M, @, Bike, Tel: 979 883 187, open all year.
During the summer months pilgrims more than double the fifty residents of this tiny village. One of the first buildings in Calzadilla is the Albergue, they have some drinks for sale and a small swimming pool.
The unremarkable Parish Church of San Martin houses a 16th century retable which was relocated here from the now ruined Monastery of Santa Maria; the monastery was once a a pilgrim’s hospital run by the Knights of the Order of St James.
Ledigos 6.2km, water, bar, shop
Albergue El Palomar, Calle Ronda de Abajo, private, €6, 52 beds, W, K, M, @, bike, Tel: 979 883 614, Feb to Nov inc.
The local church dedicated to St James contains a statue of Santiago in pilgrim dress.
Terradillos de Templarios 2.5km, water, bar, shop
Albergue Jacques de Molay, Calle Iglesia, private, €10, 50 beds, W, D, M, B, @, Bike, Tel: 979 883 679, open Feb to Dec inc.
Albergue Los Templarios, end of village, private, €10, 52 beds, W, D, M, B, Bike, @, Tel: 667 252 279, www.alberguelostemplarios.com, open Apr to Oct inc.
It is argued that the town at point belonged to the Knights Templar, however no records remain to prove this. The parish Church of San Pedro has an Gothic crucifix.
Moratinos 3.1km, water
Albergue San Bruno, 9 Calle Ontanon, private, €9.5, 18 beds, M, B, W, @, Bike, Tel: 979 061 465, www.hospitalsanbruno.com, open Apr to Jan inc.
It is believed that at some point the town had a Muslim population. Even after the wars between the Moors and Christian in many places Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived for long periods together without many problems. However in the 1560’s, after all Jews had been killed or expelled from Spain, Muslims were forced to convert to Catholicism. This obviously caused problems and many Muslims were expelled from various regions in Spain, eventually in 1609 the Church and monarchy considered them so much of a threat all were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula.
The small Church of Santo Tomas holds little of artistic interest.
San Nicolas del Real Camino 2.5km, water, bar
Albergue Laganares, Plaza de la Iglesia, private, €8, 22 beds, M, B, W, D, @, Bike, Tel: 979 188 142, www.alberguelaganares.com, open mid Mar to Nov inc.
There are records that show the Knights Templar owned this village until 1183 when they sold it in exchange for land elsewhere. The parish Church of San Nicolas was rebuilt in the 18th century, however it contains a 13th century Baroque retablo of Virgin and Child.
Half Way on The Camino Frances
Between San Nicolas and Sahagun is the Ermita de la Virgin del Puente an example of Sahagun Mudejar architecture. It is directly after the medieval bridge over the Rio Valderaduey. During the middle ages there was a pilgrim’s hospice and cemetery here. If you find the building open there is an image of the Virgin del Puente inside.
The hermitage is considered by the Spanish as the halfway point on the Camino Frances, it is though half way between Roncesvalles and Santiago de Compostela – not from St Jean Pied de Port.
By the time you reach Sahagun you have entered the area of Leon.
Sahagun 7km, all services
Albergue de Peregrinos Cluny, municipal, Iglesia de la Trinidad, €4, 64 beds, W, D, K, @, Cred, Bike, Tel: 987 782 117, open all year.
Albergue Viatoris, 25 Calle Arco Travesía, private, €7, 50 beds, K, W, D, V, @, M, B, Tel: 987 780 975, www.domusviatoris.com, open March to Oct inc.
Albergue El Labriego, 42 Calle Antonio Nicolás, private, €5, 16 beds, M, @, Bike, Tel: 987 781 057, open unknown.
Albergue de la Madres Benedictinas, Monastery of Santa Cruz. 40 Calle Antonio Nicolas, €7, 16 beds, W, D, @, M, B, Bike, Tel: 987 781 139, http://www.hospederiasantacruz.net, open Apr to Oct inc, double rooms €40, single €30
The Camino Madrid joins the Camino Frances from the south in Sahagun. Today Sahagun is a small dusty market centre on the Meseta, with a population of less than three thousand, a shadow of its former past. Sahagun due to its position of the pilgrimage route and centred within a rich farming area was wealthy, this commerce attracted more people to the town and it grew rapidly from the 11th century. Most of the Christian and Muslims at that time were farmers that supplied the city. These farmers were poor and could easily lose their land to the monastery due to unpaid loans; there are records of farmers bowering as little as one bushel of wheat from the Abbey to be repaid after harvest. However these small loans were secured on the property and borrows they easily lost their land to the Church which expanded rapidly; at its height the Abbey controlled more than ninety other monasteries.
A halfway compostela can be purchased at Santuario de Virgen Peregrino where you can visit the museum and walk around the restored convent. The church restoration was completed in 2011 and the building is now an education and cultural centre for the Camino de Santiago. It sits on the highest point on the outskirts of the town.
Many of the building in Sahagun were built in the Mudejar style, which is strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship. The style can be recognised quite easily in towers as they often have elaborate and geometric design. Unfortunately this style uses brick instead of stone for buildings which does not last nearly as well.
The town takes its name from as the place where Saint Facundo and Saint Primitivo were martyred after being betrayed as Christians during the years of persecution under Roman rule. There was a monastery dedicated to the two saints as far back as the 9th century, which was razed to the ground by Moors, rebuilt, razed again, and once again rebuilt – such is the history of Northern Spain. Once again Charlemagne is associated with the founding of the monastery, however this is only considered legend; other legends have him as the founder of the town which had been here since Roman times. The patron Saint of Sahagun, St John of Sahagun, along with the children of the nobility, including King Alfonso VI, were educated in the monastery. Between the 11th and 16th century it was considered the most important monastery along the Camino Frances, and was run by the Benedictines of Cluny, until the Kings started to favour the monastery San Benito at Valladolid. This together with the disentailment, freeing of land from the Church, and a devastating fire in the 19th century reduced the monastery to only a 12th century Chapel of San Mancio and the church tower, (often you will come across the monastery erroneously referred to as San Benito).
The Romanesque Mudejar Church of San Tirso was built during the 12th century is typical of this period, however the portal is 19th century. Inside there is a 13th century tomb, thought to be one of Alfonso X’s granddaughter. It is worth seeing to note the iconography of the period.
The 13th century Romanesque Church of San Lorenzo contains an important piece that was transferred here from the now defunct monastery: the Capilla de Jesus is a 1730 retablo by Juan de Juni which is worth at least a few minutes of your time.
The Neoclassical Chapel of San Juan de Sahagun houses the urns with the remains of of Saints Primitivo and Facundo.
Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred = Credential, Bike = Bike Storage
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