The Camino Inglés is becoming increasingly popular. More and more pilgrims every year take this hitherto less known route, as the statistics compiled by the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago prove; according to them, last year (2018) Ferrol was the fifth most popular starting point for those who reached the compostela, beating even classic places of the Camino such as Leon and O Cebreiro. And of course, we at Caminofácil have started our luggage transfer service along the Camino Inglés.
Because of all this, we wanted today to offer a brief guide to the pilgrim who start her way in Ferrol and wishes to spend a couple of days before exploring the city.
This neighbourhood is the original nucleus of the city. The pilgrims who disembarked in Ferrol during the Middle Ages in order to reach Santiago did so here, in the Curuxeiras dock. Walking through the neighbourhood today, one can still get the feel of that original town, a typical galician fishing village.
From here we can also take a ferry for a touristic tour of the estuary.
This neighbourhood, which comprises Ferrol’s urban center today, was declared “Conjunto Histórico Artístico” by the spanish government in 1983. Its beautiful art nouveau buildings, built at the beginning of the XX century for the city’s bourgeoisie, give it an unique character.
San Felipe Castle
Built in the XVI century, this castle constituted the main defense of the city, along with the castles of Palma and San Martiño (no longer existing). Their location allowed the defenders of the city to close the estuary off by laying a chain between this castle and the Palma castle, so that no ship could enter.
Ferrol is surrounded by long beaches of incomparable beauty, ideal for the practice of surf or any other nautical sport. Several of them have the blue flag distinction, which rewards their cleanliness and safety. Some of them are the beaches of Doñinos, Esmelle or Santa Comba.
The lighthouse at Cape Prior, 14 km. away from the city, is the perfect place to observe the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. The galician coast, full of cliffs, offers us here a place of incomparable beauty.
We have some great news to share: starting today, Caminofácil provides luggae transfer services on the Camino Inglés, starting from Ferrol. Pilgrims who wish to experience the Camino in a (up to now) less known route will enjoy now the comfort of having their luggage waiting for them at the lodgings at the end of the stage, thanks to our service.
What is the Camino Inglés?
The Camino Inglés has its origins in the Middle Ages, when it was the route used by english and irish pilgrims who arrive by boat to Galicia. Their boats desembarked them at Coruña o Ferrol, and from there they walked to Santiago. Despite its name, it wasn’t used solely by english people; there is a case of an icelandic pilgrim who arrived in 1154.
The modern Camino Inglés, which Caminofácil starts to cover now, has its origin in Ferrol, and it has a length of 112 km., enough to get the compostela at the pilgrim’s arrival at Santiago. Along the route, the pilgrim crosses towns like Pontedeume or Betanzos, and can enjoy the beautiful galician scenery and coasts.
Atapuerca is one of the best known villages through which the Camino de Santiago passes. Known today mostly thanks to its archeological site, it is also relevant though for the yearly reenactment of the historical battle that took place in the town in the Middle Ages.
The battle of Atapuerca took place on September 1st of 1054, between kings Fernando I of León and Count of Castile, and García Sánchez III of Pamplona. Both of them were sons of king Sancho III of Navarre, who divided his kingdom at death between them.
A series of personal conflicts among both brothers, that had roots in part in king Bermudo III of León’s attempt to wage war against Fernando and García’s help to the latter, provoked the battle between both kings on the plain in the valley of Atapuerca.
The battle concluded with the death of García Sanchez, but Navarre’s army managed to keep calm and recover the king’s body in order to bring it back to the pantheon in Nájera. García’s son, Sancho Garcés IV, was named king on the battlefield itself.
The current reenactment began in 1996, as an initiative of a group of neighbours organised in the association “Amigos de Atapuerca”. It has now been declared an Event of Touristic Interest by the Castilla-León regional government, and it has a medieval market that takes place during the day. All the elements used in the reenactment (shields, tents, historical clothing…) are made by the village’s inhabitants.
This year (2019) the reenactment will take place on August 24 and 25. If you are interested, you can get more information at www.batalladeatapuerca.com.
One of the most distinctive regions that the Camino Francés passes through is El Bierzo. Located right before Galicia, between mountains and valleys, El Bierzo is a region with a distinctive identity that deserves special attention from the traveler. We are going to highlight here some of its wonders, so that the pilgrim can check them out in his next Camino and stop for a few minutes (or even hours) to experience the unique features that this region can offer.
Riego de Ambrós
Riego de Ambrós was a mandatory stop for pilgrims during the trip to Compostela. Being a town dependant directly from the king (“realengo”), it had a pilgrim’s hospital called San Juan de Irago, that was destroyed by a fire in the XVIII century. It has excellent samples of popular architecture, like the parish church of Santa María Magdalena with its Baroque altarpiece, the fountains of San Sebastian, Santa María Magdalena and the town square one. Close to it we also find the bridges of Malpaso, in a detour of the Camino towards Los Barrios.
Church of Santa María de Vizbayo
Probably the most ancient romanesque temple in the region, the church of Santa María de Vizbayo is in Otero, a small town close to the Mount Pajariel. Built in late XI century, it features horseshoe arches and a singular window on the front.
The capital of El Bierzo is the biggest town we’ll find in the way until reaching Santiago, and it has plenty of attractions to visit. The most famous one is obviously the templar castle from the XII century, but we can also have a look at the “Fábrica de la Luz”, a technological museum located in an old power station.
Another important symbol of the region is the basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Encina, where we find an image of the Virgin Mary that was brought to Spain, according to legend, by Saint Turibius from the Holy Land.
Los Barrios (Ponferrada)
The parish of Lombillo, which belongs to Ponferrada, forms the region of Los Barrios along with other parishes such as Las Salas and Villar. Declared as Good of Cultural Interest by the spanish government, Lombillo preserves beautiful examples of popular architecture and magnificent examples of emblazoned houses. We can also visit the ermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación and one of the most beautiful lookouts of the region, from which we can see Ponferrada, the Aquilane Mountains, Salas and Villar and the church of San Martín de Salas.
On the outskirts of the town of Cacabelos, the pilgrim can find the Sanctuary of Angustias, built in the XVIII century in the same place where there used to be an ermitage devoted to the Virgin Mary. In it, we can admire the image of the Virgin Mary and have a look at its seven altarpieces, among them the biggest one, made by Miguel Núñez and Juan de Solorzano, as well as a painting of the Nursing Madonna, a relief of Jesus as a child playing cards with St. Anthony of Padua and the organ, brought here from the monastery of Santa María de Carracedeo.
Church of San Miguel at Corullón
The romanesque church of San Miguel in Corullón was declared “Good of Cultural Interest” in 1931. Built in the XII century, it’s remarkable for its decoration full of real and fantastic animals and obscene motifs, as well as the southern door with its archivolt and blind arcade over columns.
Villafranca del Bierzo
One of the most important towns of the region, Villafranca is known among pilgrims mostly for the church of Santiago, where we can find the “Puerta del Perdón” (Forgiveness Gate), which opens only during Holy Years. Pope Calixtus III gave to sick or disabled pilgrims the privilege of getting the same indulgences when reaching this gate than if they had walked all the way to Santiago.
We can also visit the Santa María Collegiate Church, built on the old site of the Santa María de Cluniaco monastery, which belonged to the Order of Cluny. Other highlights are the church of San Francisco, with its mudejar decoration, and the “barrio de los Tejedores” (weavers’ neighbourhood), with its typical wooden galleries.
We can’t finish this text without talking about the food in El Bierzo. With two designations of origin -DO Bierzo and Reineta Apple-, three Guaranteed Brands -Conference Pear, Chestnuts y Cherries- and two european PGIs -Roaster Pepper of El Bierzo and Botillo-, this region offers a huge variety of products that can satisfy the most demanding consumers.
For all lovers of the Camino, or those who are thinking of walking it, the Monastery of San Anton is a mandatory stop in the Camino Francés. It’s a group of ruins that are worth a visit and have a lot of history behind, and which you can reach from Hontanas, right before arriving to Castrojeriz.
The Monastery of San Anton is located in the abandoned village of San Antón, a zone which used to belong to the town of Castrojeriz, in the province of Burgos (Castilla y León). It was founded in the XII century (year 1146) by the king Alfonso VII, and it was known as the “Royal Xenodochium of San Antonio Abad” (a xenodochium was an hospital for foreigners or pilgrims). The current ruins, however, belong to the XIV century.
As mentioned before, these ruins have a lot of history behind them. In the XII century the order of the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony was founded, and it opened several hospitals along the Camino de Santiago. They treated some contagious diseases, but specially the so-called “St. Anthony’s fire”, and treated the pilgrims in the way towards Santiago. This monastery was one of them.
The order gained reputation as miracle makers, since pilgrims got better one they reached Compostela…
Nowadays, the only part standing of the monastery is the arch of the tunnel, through which pilgrims passed on their way. Nevertheless, the ruins have become a mandatory stop for all those who walk along the Camino Francés.
Some curiosities about the San Antón Monastery.
Since the monastery was under royal protection for many years, the king’’s coat of arms can be seen in the church portal, as well as in the keystone.
During its heyday, the hospital had great influence, since it was the seat of the General Commendation of the order of St. Anthony in the kingdoms of Castille and Portugal, with more than twenty dependent monasteries and hospices, according to the Wikipedia. Its monks performed several ceremonies to bless objects like the so-called Tau cross, St. Anthony’s bread or the holy wine, which cured the illness. Many faithful attended these ceremonies.
Nowadays, the visitor can see the ruins of the monastery, the head of the church… and walk the road underneath the arch, which is still standing. The following video shows a reconstruction of what the monastery looked like (credits to José Antonio Peñas Artero for the magazine Muy Interesante).
There are few places along the Camino the Santiago more significant for the pilgrim than the monastery of San Juan de Ortega, in the Burgos province. Built by the saint of the same name (known in the English speaking world as Saint John the Hermit), the monument has been associated with the pilgrimage to Santiago since its foundation.
Juan de Velázquez was born in the village of Quintanaortuño in 1080, and from his youth he devoted himself to improve the Camino de Santiago, building bridges and paving roads in collaboration with Saint Dominic de la Calzada. The decision of building the monastery came from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. According to the legend, when traveling back to Spain he suffered a shipwreck, and San Juan prayed to Saint Nicholas, promising to build a chapel in his honor if he survived. He did, so back home he started the work in the zone of the Montes de Oca, close to his hometown.
The San Juan de Ortega monument is comprised by the original chapel, a romanesque church built along it (where the saint is buried), the monastery and the pilgrims’ hospice. From the artistic point of view, the church’s main highlight is the capital of the Annunciation, which depicts the story of the angel Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin Mary.
The miracle of light.
Speaking of this capital, one of the most interesting phenomenoms associated with the monastery takes place in it, the so-called “miracle of light”. Every equinox (March 21 and September 22), at five o’clock (solar time), a ray of sunlight enters the church and illuminates the capital, going from left to right, “telling” the story of the Annunciation.
There is no doubt that one of the movies that has contributed most to popularize the Camino de Santiago in the last few years around the world has been “The Way”, the U.S. film directed by Emilio Estévez starring Martin Sheen. Since its release in 2010, “The Way” has spread the word about the pilgrimage to Santiago, and audiences worldwide have been touched by the humanity and warmth of its story.
Among the main appeals of “The Way” are its sceneries. Emilio Estévez and his crew filmed the movie in real locations along the Camino in Spain, and any pilgrim will easily recognize some of its best known landmarks.
It is for this reason that we decided to satisfy the curiosity of moviegoers and would-be-pilgrims, and create an interactive map with the main filming locations of the Camino that appear in the movie. Fly around on the map, click on the designated places, and you’ll learn which scene was shot in each of them. We hope that you’ll find it interesting:
Once the pilgrim has reached Santiago, (s)he has a series of mandatory rituals and places to visit: the cathedral, hugging the statue of the Saint, taking the proverbial picture in the plaza de Obradoiro… But Santiago is a city with lots of hidden treasures that are worthy of discovery, and today we will talk about one of them.
The monastery of San Martín Pinario, located close to the cathedral, is the second biggest one in Spain, and it was founded in the X Century by the benedictine order. The current building is from the XVI century, and is therefore of renaissance /baroque style.
One of the most spectacular elements is the church’s vault, with fake coffers. Another item of interest is the main altarpiece, designed in the XVIII century by Casas y Novoa (the same architect that created the Obradoiro facade of the cathedral), which shows Saint Martin (sharing his cape with a poor) and St. Millán de la Cogolla and Santiago fighting infidels.
An interesting anecdote is that the church’s towers rise only to the same height than the facade, due to the intervention of the cathedral chapter, which didn’t want towers higher than those of the cathedral itself.
Today the monastery hosts a museum of religious art, with an important collection of jewelery, sculptures and manuscripts.