Itinerary Najera - Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Today’s stage is easy, it’s not very long and has no significant hills. The main challenge is a stretch of almost ten kilometres without any towns, which will give the pilgrim a good opportunity to do something quiet thinking and self-reflection.
Nájera (Km. 0). Beginning of stage
Practical tips for this section: There are only 6 kilometres between Nájera and Azofra. That’s about an hour and a half of walking. In both towns, you will find places to have breakfast. Buen Camino!
Our exit from Nájera is fast. Mercado street takes us next to the monastery of Santa María la Real, where we take Castanilla street and leave the town on a clayey road.
Shortly after, we pass an agricultural warehouse and cross the Pozuelos stream (km 1.8). On asphalt and then dirt, we reach a paved trail (km 3.8) that will take us directly to Azofra, where we can visit the church of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.
Azofra (Km. 5,7)
Practical tips for this section: You won’t find any towns when walking the 9.3 kilometres that separate Azofra from Cirueña, so make sure you get enough water and food before leaving Azofra. Before arriving at Cirueña, you will find a picnic area where you can stop for a snack. Buen Camino!
We cross Azofra along main street and then continue to a park. There we will have two options: follow the traditional path that continues to Cirueña or turn off to San Millán de la Cogolla to visit the monasteries of Suso and Yuso, both declared a World Heritage Site.
If we choose to visit San Millán, we follow the LR-206 road towards Alesanc. After the visit, all we have to do is follow the LR-204 road to Villar de Torres, which meets up with the Jacobean path a little further on.
If you decide to follow the traditional path and not visit the monasteries, we will follow the LR-206 road to get to the Romeros fountain, which is somewhat hidden under the road.
At this point, we turn left to take a trail for just over a kilometre that will lead us to a pillory (stone column) from the mid-16th century. This type of structure was used for bringing criminals and bandits to justice (km 7.2).
In the following kilometres, the Camino de Santiago occasionally gets close to the N-120 road and crosses the paved road of Alesanco (km 8.9). The landscape that accompanies us in this section is characterised by a greater presence of grain fields, which announce our entrance into Castile, although this will not officially occur until tomorrow.
During these depopulated kilometres, we will pass by a picnic area (km 13) and shortly after, near a golf course and a housing development, we will reach our next town centre, which is built on the outskirts of Cirueña.
Cirueña (Km. 15)
Practical tips for this section: The French Way passes through the residential area of Cirueña. After so many kilometres without passing through any town centres, you may want to make a stop here. In the town, you will find a bar and a pilgrim shelter. Buen Camino!
Unless we stray away from the French Way slightly, we will only catch a glimpse of Cirueña. The route runs along Bario Bajero street that leads to a small stretch of road that quickly turns into an agricultural trail.
After a small hill, Santo Domingo de la Calzada appears. We will have to pass several warehouses and industrial buildings before reaching it (km 19.5). Next to the town’s access roads, we enter the town on 12 de Mayo and Mayor streets.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada (Km. 21). End of stage
Practical tips for this section: In this town you will find all kinds of amenities and services, enjoy it and don’t forget to learn about the legend that surrounds the town. See you tomorrow!
Santo Domingo de la Calzada is a mythical town on the Camino de Santiago. Apart from the numerous places of historical and cultural interest, the town is famous among pilgrims for the legend of the rooster and the hen.
In this town you can take a stroll along Mayor street, where you’ll find various homes of illustrious people such as: the home of Lorenzo de Tejada, the home of the Mayor Martínez de Pisón or the home of Trástamara. The house of the Marquis of Ensenada and the palace of the Secretario de Carlos V are not located on this street, but are also worth visiting.
In Plaza del Santo square and Plaza de España square, you will also find some of the town’s emblematic buildings, such as the town hall, the Cofradía del Santo pilgrim shelter, the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Plaza and the old pilgrim hospital. You can also visit the Alameda square, where the current pilgrim shelter is located.
Other religious buildings that you can visit in the town include: the convent of San Francisco and the hermitage of the Mesa del Santo. If you have the strength to travel the two kilometres that separate Santo Domingo de la Calzada from Sonsoto, you can also visit the hermitage of the Virgen de las Abejas.
The town also has a Camino de Santiago interpretation centre, and the Carrera and Espolón walkways.
What to do stage Najera - Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Although there aren’t many towns during today’s stage, we do pass by various churches and will end up in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where its cathedral and various civil buildings await us, as well as its famous legend of the rooster and the hen. Below, we will go into greater detail on each of these places.
Azofra is a town with 200 inhabitants located in the valley of the Tuerto River. The homes along its main street are covered with noble coats of arms. The village is mainly agricultural, and pilgrims have made their way along its streets in the direction of Santiago de Compostela for centuries.
Proof of its long Jacobean tradition is that this town has had a pilgrim hospital and cemetery since 1168. In the village you can visit the church of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.
Church of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles
The church of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles is located in Azofra, right on the Camino de Santiago. The building dates to the 16th and 18th century. It is made of rough and smooth ashlar stone.
Its structure is formed by a nave divided into three sections and topped with an octagonal chevet. Outside, you can see an attached tower divided into three floors and built out of ashlar masonry.
Inside, we can highlight the main altar, composed of three sections and an upper part. It is where the carving of the Apostle Saint James is placed, along with the images of Saint Joseph, Saint Roch, Maria Magdalene, Pedro and Pablo, Saint Bonaventure and Saint Anthony of Padua.
Monasteries of Suso y Yuso
The monasteries of Suso and Yuso are located on the top of Mount San Lorenzo, in San Millán de la Cogolla. They are also known as the monastery of San Millán, even though they are two buildings that are managed independently. Both have been declared a World Heritage Site.
The monastery of Suso is the highest building and dates back to the 6th century. It later on was subjected to numerous expansions, which explains the presence of various architectural styles such as the Visigoth, Mozarabic and Romanesque.
What most stands out about this monastery is the large collection of manuscripts and codices, such as that of Quiso, dating back to the year 664; the Emilianense Codex of the Councils from 992, or a copy of the Apocalypse.
The monastery of Yuso was built with the intention of expanding the capacity of the Suso monastery. It was built in the 11th century and underwent numerous restorations over time, meaning it includes a combination of both Renaissance and Baroque elements.
Inside, we can highlight the paintings by Juan Rizzi, as well as gold and ivory chests that protect the relics from San Millán. The library and the archive rooms are considered to be some of the best in the country. The Gospel by Jérôme Nadal is kept in one of them, dating back to 1595, with polychrome sheets of paper.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada
This town of 6,520 inhabitants was founded in 1044 by Domingo García (Saint Dominic de la Calzada), who built a bridge that allowed pilgrims to cross the Oja River, along with the old road between Nájera and Redecilla, hence the town’s name.
The most emblematic building in the town is the cathedral, which was built on the tomb of Saint Dominic. A rooster and a hen live inside the cathedral in memory of the legend that made this town famous in the Jacobean tradition.
The Tourism Parador hotel has held onto various elements from the old pilgrim hospital that was built by Saint Dominic. In the town you can visit other attractions such as:
Santo Domingo de la Calzada Cathedral
The Santo Domingo de la Calzada Cathedral was built in 1158 to house the remains of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, who died in 1109. The temple was built following a late Romanesque architectural style, which can be observed in its chevet and in the overall design of the structure.
Of the entire building, we can point out the chevet and the three chapels, of which only the central Romanic apse remains, in which you can notice the prominence of capitals and pillars around the presbytery. The design of the Cathedral has a Latin cross floor plan, with three naves, the transept, ambulatory, three apses and a gallery.
The Cathedral’s tower is separated from the building’s main structure. Its construction took place quite a bit later, between 1767 and 1769. This superb structure is in a Baroque style and is seventy metres high, meaning it is visible from miles away and pilgrims can see it as soon as they leave Cirueña. You must pay in order to access the tower, but the views from up top are well worth it.
Inside, the main altarpiece is located on one side of the Cathedral. This Renaissance masterpiece was made by the sculptor Damian Forment, who carved the piece between 1537 and 1540. On the altarpiece, there are several scenes from the life of Jesus along with various saints and apostles, presided over by God.
Another element that stands out inside the cathedral is the Plateresque choir built in 1520. However, one of the elements of greatest interest is undoubtedly the tomb of Saint Dominic de la Calzada, due to its historical and artistic value.
The structure of the tomb is a confluence of different styles, since it is formed by three different sarcophagi. The tombstone in a Romanesque style, on which there is a representation of the Saint, and a table in a late-Gothic style, in which the miracles of the Saint and the shrine are represented.
For visitors, the most striking element is the rooster and the hen that live in a niche inside the Cathedral, presiding over the entrance to the temple. These animals are a reminder of the legend that took place within this town and that is of interest to both locals and visitors alike. It is very common to attend a mass in the Cathedral and hear the animals begin to sing midway.
Hours: Open every day. During the winter, from Monday to Friday (from 10 am to 7:30 pm), Saturdays (from 10 am to 7:30 pm) and Sundays (from 10 am to 12:20 pm, and from 2:15 pm to 7:10 pm). During the summer, from Monday to Friday (from 9 am to 6 pm), and Saturdays (from 10 am to 7:10 pm) and Sundays (from 10 am to 12:20 pm, and from 1:45 pm to 7:10 pm).
The building that is currently home to the town hall of Santo Domingo de la Calzada owes its origins to the decision made by the Council Chamber at the beginning of the 18th century to move from the Plaza del Santo square, to the space above the porticos in the Plaza de España square.
After its construction, the building was expanded on several occasions, giving rise to the structure we can see today. The construction is in a Baroque style and is formed by a rectangular floor plan with two storeys.
The central section ends in a semicircular arch with detailed decoration that faces the only gateway of the wall that it still intact.
In the upper part of the main floor, there is a belfry showing the coat of arms of Felipe V, on which there is a pediment presided over by the goddess Fama. Framing the building, you can see the two capstones that hold up the city’s coat of arms.
The House of the Cofradía del Santo
The House of the Cofradía del Santo is located on the main street in Santo Domingo de la Calzada and dates to the 16th century. It was built in a Renaissance style by the Samniego family. In the 18th century, it was restored by the Marquis of Cirueña.
In 1968, the building began to operate as a pilgrim shelter, while also being home to the “Cofradía del Santo” Brotherhood, one of the oldest of the Camino de Santiago. Another of this house’s functions is to provide shelter for the roosters and white hens that are part of the cathedral’s henhouse.
Hours: Open every day. From March to October (from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm) and from November to February (from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm).
Home of the Martínez de Pisón
The Home of the Mayor Martínez de Pisón is located at the end of the main street in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The building was built in 1633 in a Baroque style.
Behind the foyer, there is a wide staircase that leads to the first floor. It used to be covered by a dome, but a fire destroyed it. The most striking aspect of the building is the living room that occupies the entire front side and has three balconies that face the street.
The Home of the Marquis of Ensenada
The Home of the Marquis of Ensenada was built in the 18th century in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, in a Baroque style.
The owner of the home, the Marquis of Ensenada, was a renowned politician from La Rioja who was born in the neighbouring town of Hervías in 1702.
The most noteworthy part of the building are the coats of arms, the crosses of Malta and Caltrava, as well as the different military and marine emblems.
Camino de Santiago Interpretation Center
The Camino de Santiago Interpretation Centre in Santo Domingo de la Calzada offers us a sensory journey along the Camino de Santiago, using audiovisuals, simulators, sound effects, mirror screens, animations, etc.
Hours: From May to November, it is open every day (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, and from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm) and from November to May it is open from Tuesday to Friday (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm). Saturdays (from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm) and Sundays (from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm):
Hermitage of the Mesa del Santo
The hermitage of the Mesa del Santo is in Santo Domingo de la Calzada and dates to 1890. The construction began as a result of a private donation on the “Dehesa del Santo”, communal lands that were sold after the War of Independence.
Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Plaza
The hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Plaza is located on the south side of the Plaza del Santo square in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The hermitage was built slowly throughout history.
In 1428, the stonemasons Sancho and Pedro Gil built two walls and changed the position of the façade. Later, in 1527, the master builder Hernando incorporated the doors, while the stonecutter Yñigo added the roofing. It was thus completed little by little until the construction was finished in 1710, leaving it with its current appearance.
Throughout history, the hermitage has had several uses. It served as the residence for the Cistercian nuns until their monastery was finished.
Mass hours: Mass takes place every day. From Monday to Friday (at 9:30 am and at 8:00 pm), Saturdays (at 9:00 am) and Sundays and holidays (at 11:00 am and at 8:00 pm).
Hermitage del Puente
The hermitage of El Puente is in Santo Domingo de la Calzada and dates back to 1917. The temple is in a neo-Romanesque style and was built as a result of a private donation made in honour of the Saint.
The structure is built on a rectangular floor plan. The walls are made of ashlar and brick, and it has a gable roof, topped with a belfry.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada´s City Wall
Santo Domingo de la Calzada’s city wall is the most important in all La Rioja. In the 13th century, the first burg (ancient walled town) was formed, which stretched from the Old Town to the New Town, including main street.
Later on, in the 14th century, the wall that we can see today was built, which was created for defensive purposes. The wall was modified repeatedly throughout history. At one point the wall was composed of 38 towers 12 metres high and had a total length of 1670 metres.
Various entrances to the city were distributed all along the wall, and during periods of peace it came to have a total of seven gateways. In times of war, this number was reduced. This variation in the number of gateways caused the wall to undergo continuous modifications up until the 19th century.
Greenway of the Oja River
The Greenway of the Oja River is an old railway line that passes through Santo Domingo de la Calzada and that connected the towns of Haro and Ezcaray between 1956 and 1964. In 1996, the road was renamed by the Spanish Railways Foundation and given its current name and began to operate between Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Ezcaray.
In 2012, the La Rioja Mountaineering Federation added a 14-kilometre route within the GR-93 trail, which it called “Sierras de La Rioja”. This mountain trail runs for 190 kilometres, from the town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada all the way to Valverde.
The section that goes to Ezcaray is a dirt path, practically flat and easily accessible. As such, it is a section that is frequented by locals who go hiking, running or cycling.
Palace of the Secretario de Carlos V
The palace of the Secretario de Carlos V is located on Cristo street in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The building dates to 1544 and is considered to be a small palace. Today it is home to the Sacred Hearts School.
Paseo de la Carreta
The Paseo de la Carreta in Santo Domingo de la Calzada was established in 1783. It is a series of grass and gravel paths that run alongside the local road that leads to Haro.
On these paths, you can find a variety of different trees (especially chestnut trees) in the section that goes from the town hall to the hermitage of the Mesa de Santo.
Paseo del Espolón
The Paseo del Espolón walkway runs through the centre of Santo Domingo de la Calzada and separates the old town from the outskirts of town. In the 18th century, extensive work was done to rehabilitate it, giving it the appearance, it has today.
At the start of the walkway, you will find two rows of trees that shade the path during summer. The ornate pavement reproduces the Camino de Santiago, with the names of all the towns that the French Way passes through.
Plaza de España
The Plaza de España square is located behind the Santo Domingo de la Calzada Cathedral and is considered to be the city’s main square. During the Middle Ages, this square was just outside the city wall and was used to set up the market in the village. After the wall was expanded in 1367, this space became part of the fortified area and was therefore protected.
Over time, the square gained importance thanks to the construction of public buildings, such as the town hall. Currently, this space has recovered part of its previous use and the medieval market now takes place in this square, along with “The Miracles of the Saint” theatrical show that is performed here.
Plaza de la Alameda
The Plaza de la Alameda square in Santo Domingo de la Calzada was built in the 16th century. It was the last square to be built and was therefore known as a new square.
The square is full of holm oaks and in it you can find the city’s coat of arms, which shows a sickle cutting an oak. The coat of arms is in honour of the old oak forest, in the middle of which the city grew.
Currently, the square is a place of leisure and is usually full of pilgrims, since it is where the House of the Cofradía del Santo is located as well as the pilgrim shelter.
Home of Trastámara
The Trastámara home is located on main street in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, right on the Camino de Santiago. It was proclaimed a Historical Monument in 1983. Its name is due to the fact that it was the main residence of the monarch Enrique de Trastámara, place where he died in 1379. Since 2010, the municipal library is located in the building.
Plaza del Santo and the Old Pilgrim Hospital
The Plaza del Santo square is located in front of the Santo Domingo de la Calzada Cathedral, in the heart of the old town. This square is where some of the most important institutions in the city were located, such as the cathedral, the pilgrim hospital and the old prison.
The old pilgrim hospital was built in the second half of the 11th century at the request of Saint Dominic, who cut the wood that was used to build it with his own hands. Up until 1840, the building fulfilled its function, with the hospital moving to the Convent of San Francisco after this date.
Since then, the building has been home to various families and the Cofradía del Santo pilgrim shelter. It became a National Parador hotel in 1965 after an extension rehabilitation.
Hermitage of the Virgen de las Abejas
The hermitage of the Virgen de las Abejas is located two kilometres from Santo Domingo de la Calzada, in the town of Sonsoto. The temple is surrounded by trees and a small stream, with a picnic area next to it.
In 1763, there was a fire in the temple that destroyed the roof, the doors and the imagery. A year later, it was completely rebuilt.
Convent of San Francisco
The convent of San Francisco in Santo Domingo de la Calzada was founded in 1535 under the order of the archbishop of Zaragoza, Fray Bernardo de Fresneda. Inside it, we can find a church with a crucifix where the founder’s grave is located.
The hospital of the Saint was also located inside the convent and was run by the Daughters of Charity (an order of nuns). In 1840, following the Confiscation of Mendizábal, the aid that was provided to the sick and poor was moved here.
Currently, the convent is home to a diocesan workshop in which works of art are rehabilitated, along with a hospital and a Tourism Parador hotel.
Legend of the Rooster and the Hen
According to the legend of the town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, in the 14th century, a small German family wanted to make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The family consisted of the father, the mother and their son, Hugonell, who at that time was around 18 years old.
When the family arrived to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, they stayed at an inn in the town, served by a young woman who fell madly in love with Hugonell right upon seeing him for the first time. However, the young German boy did not feel the same way and rejected her that same night.
The young woman, faced with the shame of rejection, decided to get revenge on Hugonell, placing a silver cup in the young man’s bag and accusing him of theft. The next morning when the German family was about to get back on the Camino de Santiago, the local authorities showed up at the inn asking to check the boy’s possessions who had been reported for theft.
Upon reviewing the bag, the authorities found the silver cup that the girl had hidden the night before. The young man was officially accused of robbery and sentenced to hang, which was the punishment applied to thieves at that time.
The parents were desperate and didn’t know what to do, so they decided to pray to the Apostle Saint James, feeling confident the Saint wouldn’t let them down. However, the punishment imposed by justice was execution, and the young German boy was hanged.
The next morning, before leaving the town, the boy’s parents went to see the body of their son, who was surprisingly alive and said to them: “The blessed Saint Dominic of La Calzada has brought me back to life”. The parents rushed to tell the whole story to the magistrate, who at that time acted as judge.
When they reached his house, the magistrate was enjoying a chicken dinner. The incredulous magistrate, taken aback by the story the German couple had just told him, replied to them: “Your son is as alive as this rooster and chicken that I was feasting on before you interrupted me.”
And in that moment, the two birds jumped off the plate and began to crow as if they had never been roasted. Seeing what had just happened, the magistrate had no choice but to heed the requests of the father and mother of the young man and let them go.
Since then, the following verse is recited along the Jacobean path: “Santo Domingo de la Calzada que canto la gallina después de asada” (Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where a chicken sang after being roasted). In memory of this event, a live rooster and hen are kept in the city’s cathedral, being the only temple where animals are allowed inside.
A very similar legend happened on the Portuguese Way: the legend of the Rooster of Barcelos. The story isn’t the same but is very similar.