Itinerary Bercianos del Real Camino - Mansilla de las Mulas
This stage of the French Way has a distance of a little over 25 kilometres. There are no major difficulties and it will only cross through small towns with close ties to the Jacobean tradition.
Bercianos del Real Camino (Km. 0). Beginning of stage
Practical tips for this section: The next town is almost eight kilometres away and offers you the option of going through it or around it. So we recommend having breakfast before leaving Bercianos del Real Camino. Buen Camino!
To return to the Jacobean path, we get back on the trail with sycamore trees, on which we arrived to the town yesterday. Once again, small plots of vines appear before our eyes, dotting the fields around us. After two kilometres, we arrive at a rest area, next to the El Olmo stream (km 2.1).
The route continues along a wooded trail that leads to the viaduct of the A-231 motorway (km 5.7) and then continues to El Burgo Ranero. When we reach a cross that is dedicated to children, we cross the road to enter the town (km 7.6).
We have two options: continue straight and cross the town on Real street, or go around the town following the road.
El Burgo Ranero (Km. 7,6)
Practical tips for this section: In this section, you will find several rest areas, however the next town, Reliegos, is more than 10 kilometres away. Although there is a drinking fountain half way, make sure to bring enough water with you and a snack. Don’t forget to learn about the beautiful legend of the Lake of the Apple. Buen Camino!
When exiting El Burgo Ranero, we find the “Lake of the Apple”, used until recently as a watering hole for animals and famous for the legend that surrounds it. In the town, we can visit the church of San Pedro.
Two and a half kilometres after leaving the town, we will arrive at a rest area next to the Valle de la Granja stream (km 10.1). In another two kilometres, we reach another stream, called Valdasneros (km 12.1).
In a little over a half an hour, we pass by a school for ultralight planes, which will be on the left (km 14.6). A kilometre later, we reach the turnoff to Villamarco (km 15.6). At this point, the trail curves and crosses under the train tracks (km 18.2).
At the next ravine, we pass by the Valdearco stream and, after a small hill, we head downhill to the town of Reliegos, which remains hidden until the very last moment.
Reliegos (Km. 20,6)
Practical tips for this section: You are almost at the end of today’s stage. We recommend visiting some of the picturesque wineries in the town and taking the opportunity to try the wines from the region. Buen Camino!
At the entrance to the town, we’ll find the traditional brick and adobe cellars, used to preserve wine and also as a meeting place. We cross the town from one side to the other on Real street. Here we can visit the parish church.
Next to the fronton court, we get back onto the trail with sycamore trees surrounded by plains with grain crops, on which we’ll see giant irrigation sprinkler systems. Nearly four kilometres after leaving the town, we pass under the towers of power lines and come to a rest area located at the edge of a wooded trail (km 24.3).
On a viaduct, we cross the N-601, the road from Adero to León, and go over the irrigation channel to enter the last town for today, Mansilla de las Mulas.
Mansilla de la Mulas (Km. 26,3). Final de etapa
Practical tips for this section: This is a quiet town, the perfect place for recovering from today’s stage and preparing for tomorrow, when we will enter León. See you tomorrow!
When crossing through the Castilla gateway, we’ll see an old walled city that opens up before our eyes. Heading down Santa María street, you can see the tower of the church.
In the town, we can visit the wall, the church of Santa María, the monument to the pilgrim and the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Gracia.
What to do Bercianos del Real Camino - Mansilla de las Mulas
Even in the more isolated stages, the Camino de Santiago always surprises us with interesting places of cultural and historical interest. We will discuss each of them below.
El Burgo Ranero
El Burgo Ranero is a municipality that covers an area of 98 square kilometres, with a population of 740 inhabitants. This town has strong ties to the Camino de Santiago, and its main street was formerly known by the name of Camino Frances (French Way), although today it is called Real street.
There are several theories as to the origin of the town’s name. Some say it is due to its founder, Ranarius. Others point out that the name comes from the number of frogs that lived in the lakes (frog in Spanish is “rana”), which are related to the famous legend of the “Lake of the Apple”.
In this inviting town, lost in the plains, you can visit the church of San Pedro. The sunsets from the “Lake of the Apple” have served as inspiration for many photographers who have wandered around the town’s streets.
Legend of the Lake of the Apple
According to the legend surrounding El Burgo Ranero, the lake known today as the “Lake of the Apple” was a lagoon with dark waters full of all kinds of reptiles and amphibians.
Such were the feelings of disgust and fear that these animals provoked among the local population, that the residents decided to move their houses away from the lake.
They say that one evening a pilgrim came to the town looking for a place to spend the night. A boy offered him his home, but told him that it was located next to the noisy lake. The pilgrim paid no attention to the young man’s warning and settled into the bed he had offered him.
After dinner, the pilgrim excused himself to go rest. That night, like every night, the noise of the frogs and toads was deafening. The next morning, when the pilgrim said goodbye to the young man, he gave him an apple as a token of gratitude.
When he handed over the fruit, he told the young man that when he had finished eating it, he should throw the core into the lake, saying it would allow things to be seen more clearly. The young man took the apple but did not understand the pilgrim’s message.
Still, he followed the instructions he had received and when he finished with the apple, he threw it into the lake.
Upon throwing the apple core into the lake, the water was transformed and became clean and clear, and the countless reptiles that once lived there disappeared, leaving only a few frogs behind.
Even today, there is still a part of the lake that is completely clean with no weeds and with the quiet murmuring of frogs in the background. This caused the pond to become known as the “Lake of the Apple”.
Church of San Pedro
The church of San Pedro is located in the town of El Burgo Ranero, right on the path of the French Way. Inside, this Renaissance temple houses an altarpiece with polychrome wood, dating back to the 16th century.
Hours: From June to September, it closes on Mondays. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday (from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm).
Mass hours: Every day (11:00 am).
Reliegos, or Reliegos de las Matas according to its historical name, is a town in the municipality of Santas Martas. The town may have been a Roman settlement of Pallantia, a place where several Roman roads converged. Right now, a little over 220 people reside in the town.
This town is known for the L5-type meteorite, weighing almost 9 kilos, that hit Real street on December 28, 1947. Currently, the remains of the meteorite can be found in the National Science Museum.
There are several caves at the entrance to the town, which were once cellars that nobody used. However, they have been recovered in recent decades and are being used once again to store wine and as a meeting point. This recreational use has led to the opening of charming wineries, where you can taste modern varieties of the Prieto Picudo grape.
In the town, you can also visit the parish church dedicated to Pope St. Cornelius and the bishop of Carthage, St. Cyprian.
Parish Church of Reliegos
The parish church of Reliegos dates back to the 9th and 10th century, although the building that we can see today is the result of the reconstruction that took place in the 15th century.
The temple is dedicated to St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, both important figures from the Christian church in the 3rd century, who suffered martyrdom between the years 253 and 258.
Only the tower had remained of the original building, however it began to deteriorate until eventually disappearing in 2000. Inside it has numerous carvings that come from the original temple.
Among them is the carving of St. Lazarus dressed in pilgrim’s clothing, that of the patron saints, St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, as well as the the carving of Christ, the Christ Child of the 7th Sorrow, and a small carving of Our Lady of the Pillar with the child in her arms.
Hours: From June to September it is closed on Mondays. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday (from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm).
Mass hours: From Wednesday to Saturday (1:00 pm and 5:00 pm), and holidays (1:00 pm).
Mansilla de las Mulas
Mansilla de las Mulas is a small municipality located next to the Esla River, with an area of 39 square kilometres and just over 1,500 residents. The name of the town has to do with the many livestock fairs that were held in the town for a long period of time (“mulas” means “mules” in English).
Mansilla de Mulas is a walled city that dates back to the 12th century and belonged to the county of Benavente until 1594. In its heyday, it had seven churches, two convents and three hospitals, but now all that’s left is the parish church of Santa María and the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Gracia. You can also visit the monument to the pilgrim.
Two kilometres from the town are the two architectural gems in León: the monastery of San Miguel de Escalada, in a Mozarabic style and built by the Cordoban monks in the 10th century, and the monastery of Santa María de Gradafes, built at the end of the 12th century by the Cistercian nuns.
People say that the Esla River was originally the Astura River, which gave the region of Asturias its name, whose inhabitants came to occupy much of the province of León.
Church of Santa María
The church of Santa María is located in Mansilla de las Mulas and dates back to the 18th century. It was built on the site of an older temple, from the 13th century, and was restored in 2002, giving it the appearance that we can see today.
The temple has a basilica plan, three naves with a transept and a dome placed on pendentives, all of which are in very good condition. Through the presbytery you can access two sacristies and a choir, located in the central nave. Inside we can point out the main altarpiece that dates back to the 18th century in a Baroque style, and the seven bas-reliefs from the same time.
Hours: From June to September it is closed on Mondays. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday (from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm).
Mass hours: In winter, weekdays (8:00 pm) and holidays (12:30 pm). In summer, weekdays (8:30 pm) and holidays (12:30 pm).
Monument to the Pilgrim
The monument to the pilgrim in Mansilla de Mulas was built in honour of all pilgrims who have passed through its streets. The sculpture was built in stone next to the Castillo gateway.
The work is composed of three figures, symbolising the pilgrims sitting on the steps at the base of the statue. In the centre there is a cross with images of Mary and Christ.
The wall in Mansilla de las Mulas predates the year 1181, when King Ferdinand II ordered the fortification of the town in order to guarantee the safety of its residents. The castle, however, was probably built way before.
Unlike the rest of the walls in the province of León, this one has a solidly fortified appearance, with high and voluminous walls. Some sections are more than 14 metres tall and more than 3 metres thick. The site was declared a Spanish “Good of Cultural Interest” in 1931.
The wall has six towers (known as “cubes”). These semicircular towers are attached to the wall and are about 40 metres apart from one another. Communication between the towers was done via an outer wall, which has since disappeared.
One of the cubes is in such good condition that you can still visit it and enjoy the magnificent views of the town. The wall and the cubes were built of stone and lime.
The walled enclosure was accessed by four gateways. At present, only the
Concepción gateway (or Santa María arch) has been preserved in perfect condition, and the ruins of the Castillo gateway.
The Castillo gateway, located at the foot of the French Way, was the main entrance to the town of Mansilla de las Mulas. It is here where the monument to the pilgrim is located, since it was a crossroads where the Camino de Santiago and the old Roman road converged.
The side walls have been preserved, but the arch between them has disappeared. It is the largest gateway in the wall, measuring 17 metres high and 3.3 metres wide.
The Concepción gateway is the one that has been best-preserved. It is located on the northeastern side and is also known as the Santa María arch. It was through this gateway that the old Roman road entered the town of Mansilla de las Mulas. It is made of ashlar masonry, which has allowed it to stay in such good condition.
Bridge over the Esla River
The bridge that crosses the Esla River in Mansilla de las Mulas has a medieval style. It was rebuilt in 1573, providing the structure with eight barrel vaults and a length of 141 metres. Pilgrims coming from Mansilla de las Mulas on their way to León must cross the bridge.
Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Gracia
The hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Gracia dates back to the 13th century, although it was rebuilt in 1898, after being totally destroyed in a fire. It is currently in good condition, whose ochre colours with red brick are very striking to visitors.
Its structure has a rectangular shape and consists of a single nave and a bell tower. The most remarkable feature of the temple are the decorated stained glass windows that light up the altar, where there is a carving of the patron saint of the church, next to the Christ Child and a crown.
Religious worship is no longer practiced in the church, except on September 4th, the day on which the pilgrimage is celebrated in honour of the Virgin of Gracia, when the temple is filled with pilgrims.
Hours: From June to September, closed on Mondays. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday (from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm).