Day 15 Hontanas – Fromista – 34.9km
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 35km 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 200m 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 11km 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 3pm 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 1km further on and most facilities can be found there, from Itero to Boadilla it is 8km and again there is no place to get water – fill up.
San Anton 5.8km, water, coffee
Hospital de Peregrinos de San Antón, private, Convent of San Antón, donation, 12 beds, communal B&M, donation, no electricity, Bike, Open May to September.
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.
Castrojeriz 4.9km, all services
Albergue and Camping Camino de Santiago, private, Calle Virgen del Manzano s/n, €6, 35 beds, B€3, M€10, W€3, D€3, V, @, Bike, Tel: 947 377 255, 658 966 743, Web: http://www.campingcamino.com, Open from March 15 to November 15.
Albergue Ultreia, private, 77 Calle Real de Oriente, €9, 28 beds, B&B, communal M, @, Bike, Tel: 947 378 640, Web: https://www.facebook.com/albergueultreia.castrojeriz, Open from March 22 till November 2.
Albergue Casa Nostra, private, 52 Calle Real de Oriente, €5, 26 beds, K, B€3,50, W€3,50, D€3,50, @(€1/30mins), Bike, Tel: 947 377 493, Open March to mid November.
Albergue de San Esteban, municipal, 16 Plaza Mayor, donation (€5 in winter), 30 beds, B, @, Bike, Tel: 947 377 001, Web: http://www.castrojeriz.com Open all year.
Refugio Tradicional de San Juan, association, Calle Cordón, donation, 28 beds, Bike, Tel: 947 377 400, Open April to October.
Castrojeriz is a reasonable size town, population 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 were 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 is 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
Albergue de Itero del Castillo (1,1km detour from the Camino), municipal, Calle del Sol, €8, 12 beds, B, M, W, @, Bike, Tel: 697 335 012, 642 213 560, Open all year.
San Nicolas 8.5km, water, coffee
Albergue Hospital de San Nicholás, association, between Itero del castillo & de la Vega, €5, 12 beds, B, Evening Meal, Tel: 947 377 359, open June to Sep inc.
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 usual 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 are generous and very helpful towards pilgrims.
Itero de la Vega 2km, all services
Municipal Albergue, Plaza de la Iglesia, €5, 15 beds, K, @, Tel: 605 034 347, open all year
La Mochila, 3 Calle Santa Ana, private, €8, 20 beds, W, D, M, @, Bike, Tel: 979 151 781, open all year.
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 8.4km, water, bar
Albergue En el Camino, 3 Calle Francos, private, €6, 48 beds, W, D, M, B, @, V, Bike, Tel: 979 810 284, www.boadilladelcamino.com Open May to Oct inc.
Albergue Putzu, 9 Calle Las Bodegas, private, €7, 16 beds, K, W, D, V, @, Bike, open all year
Albergue Titas, 7 Calle Mayor, private, €23 inc breakfast and diner, 12 beds, B, M, W, D, @,Tel: 979 810 776, http://www.alberguetitas.com/, Open all year
Municipal Albergue, Calle Escuela, €3, 12 beds, Tel: 979 810 390, closed winter
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 asle 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 feature of the landscape today. The construction of the canals was started in the 1750’s, 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 5.3km, all services
Albergue de Frómista, municipal, Plaza de San Martín, €8, 56 beds, W, D, B, @, Bike, Tel: 979 810 089, Open all year, except between 20/12 to 31/1.
Canal de Castilla, Calle La Estación, private, €17, 48 beds, W, D, V, @, M,Tel: 979 810 193, www.albergueperegrinosfromista.com, open Mar to Oct inc.
Estrella del Camino, Avenue del Ejército Español, private, €9, 32 beds, W, D, @, Bike,Tel: 979 810 399, www.albergueestrelladelcamino.com, open March to October inc.
Albergue Betania, only open in the middle of winter when all other albergues are closed, e.g. holidays. 5 beds, call ahead 638 846 043, donation.
Fromista, population circa 800, comes at the end of the sixth stage in Picaud’s original pilgrims’s guide. It is believed the town was first inhabited by the Celts, then Romans, to be completely destroyed by the Moors during the 8th century. It was repopulated during the 10th century; aided in part by Donna Mayor, wife of Sancho III, who founded a Benedictine monastery. Today the only surviving part of the monastery is the Church of San Martin. A statue of San Telmo, (St Elmo), the patron saint of sailors, presides over the village square; he was born here in 1190 and his remain are interred in the cathedral in Tuy, Pontevedra, on the Camino Portugues.
The Romanesque Church of San Martin is an imposing building dominating the center of the plaza where it is located. The designed of San Martin was based on Jaca Cathedral, by architects from Jaca. The interior has excellent carved capitals and outside there is a series of carved corbels circling the eaves.
The church has been completed restored leaving only the 13th century Gothic Christ as the original piece.
The 16th century Gothic Church of San Pedro contains a figure of St James the pilgrim, along with some fine painting in its museum.
The 16th century Plateresque Church of Santa Maria del Castillo was built over the original 14th century church commissioned by Fernando Sanchez de Tobar; it contains a retable by the Castilian painter Fernando Gallego. For centuries a shrine containing a Host was displayed to pilgrims. This was a deathbed miracle associated with the church of a man who had been excommunicated for not paying a debt. On his deathbed he could not lift the consecrated Host from the paten his mouth until he was reinstated to the Church; as soon as he was, the Host entered his mouth of its own accord. Currently the paten and other related objects are displayed in the museum in San Pedro
Key: W = Washing, D = Drying, M = Menu, @ = Internet, K = Kitchen, B = Breakfast, V = Vending, Cred = Credential, Bike = Bike Storage
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