After so much flatness and asphalt, on today's stage, we return a little to tracks that run through low hills that bring us back to the ups and downs. The pilgrim who started the Camino Frances from the beginning shouldn't fear them. Those who have recently joined in León may end up with slight leg pain, but nothing to worry about.
In today's stage, we finally move away from the asphalt of the N-120 and go onto agricultural landscapes. That will be our decision, because, at Hospital de Órbigo, we can choose between following the traditional path, which does not move away from the road, or takes the alternative and loses, at least, the sight of the asphalt.
Throughout the day we will have to face several climbs, but nothing to worry the pilgrim, who will face a day full of interesting places to visit, including the famous Passo Honroso Bridge and the emblematic Astorga, our destination for today.
Itinerary San Martín del Camino - Astorga
We expect a stage full of interesting places to visit and stories to discover, as well as attractive gastronomic suggestions. This is a stage without great difficulty, except for some stretches with continuous ups and downs, which at this point will not be a challenge.
San Martin del Camino (Km. 0). Beginning of stage
Practical tips for this section: We are waiting for a day full of interesting places to visit, have a hearty breakfast so that you won't lack energy. Buen Camino!
We cross the locality following the road N-120. Once past the Canal del Páramo and the sign that indicates that we are leaving San Martín del Camino, turn right and immediately then turn left to take the gravel track that runs along the road. On our right, we will find small vegetable and corn fields.
After three kilometres of walking, we find the detour to Santa Marina del Rey and Villavente (km. 3), which we ignore. Following the same path, we find the Canal of the Cerrajera Dam, a watering channel of the River Órbigo (km. 4.2).
About two kilometres later, we start to get away from the N-120 on the right and we find a nice brick-built water tank. Then the path crosses the road in Puente de Órbigo (km. 6.9), next to the Church of Santa Maria.
Puente de Órbigo (Km. 6,9)
Practical tips for this section: Do not forget to discover the love story that hides the Passo Honroso Bridge. The bridge is beautiful and it is worth stopping to read its history on its driveway or in one of the pleasant cafes in the vicinity.
Hospital de Órbigo has exquisite gastronomy based on trout, if it is not too early, it is an ideal place to enjoy an exquisite lunch. Buen Camino!
Immediately, the Órbigo River cross our path our path, flowing under the Bridge of Passo Honroso, where a love story awaits us, worthy of a film. We cross the bridge to enter Hospital of Órbigo, where the Church of St. John the Baptist awaits us.
After visiting the Church of Hospital de Órbigo, continue along the main street to the exit, where a sign hanging from a pole indicates two possible routes (km. 8). If we go straight ahead, we take the historical path, which runs parallel to the N-120. On the right, the route directs us to Villares de Órbigo and Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias, through fields and low hills.
Both routes converge in Santo Toribio. The historical route is somewhat shorter, but the alternative is more enjoyable as it moves away from the main road. Since we have many days walking next to the N-120 and we want to lose sight of it, we opt now for the alternative route and we head towards Villares de Órbigo.
Then we take the detour to the right. The track runs through an agricultural landscape with a multitude of ditches that irrigate the vegetable crops. Surrounded by this environment, we arrive in Villares de Órbigo, where we can visit the Church of Santiago.
Villares de Órbigo (Km. 10)
Practical tips for this section: Until the next locality we are separated by less than 3 kilometres to Justo de la Vega, you will find a large stretch without intermediate urban areas. Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias is a perfect place to make an intermediate stop. Good way!
Once we have crossed the locality, on the outskirts, we take the path that advances next to a brick warehouse. We go along the side of a picnic area and start the climb down a low hill. On our left, we have the views of the fertile plains of the Órbigo River. Following the path, we reach the local road (km. 11.5) which leads to Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias (km. 12.6).
We entered the town along Camino de Villares Street, followed by Real Street and we turn right onto Carromonte Bajo Street. At the end of this, next to a cattle warehouse, we leave the village using a wide stony track.
Between fields of crops dotted with small plots of vines, we climb about thirty metres until reaching the carved cross. There, we will find various figures, like that of a scarecrow (km. 13.8).
From the cross, we start a small descent of about seven hundred metres, leaving on the left a small ravine, and then descending through an area protected by Chaparral and gall oaks. Then comes a descent down several slides through an uncomfortable stone track.
A short descent follows a fast climb and then, another descent, somewhat longer. After this last descent, the pilgrim's path ascends again, this time, during a much longer stretch. The result will be sore legs with so many ups and downs.
So, we reach a plateau known as Majada de Ventura (km. 17.5). There we find a warehouse, which we leave to our right. It is known as the Casa de los Dioses and is run by David Vidal.
Then we cross a road and take a long straight that leads us to the crossroads at Santo Toribio, where we find some tables to rest and we can enjoy a wonderful view over San Justo de la Vega. We descend and enter San Justo de la Vega.
San Justo de la Vega (Km. 20,3)
Practical tips for this stretch: we're almost at today's destination. In this small villa you will find a bar where to take a short break before facing the final stretch. Buen Camino!
We cross the town and outside we find the River Tuerto. We cross it by a metal walkway located parallel to the Stone Bridge. A few metres later we leave the promenade and we move onto a track that runs next to a warehouse.
The track leads us to the Jargon River, which we pass over using a small bridge. At the exit, we turn left and do not approach it until we find a metal walkway that allows us to cross the tracks of the train line Palencia-La Coruña (km. 23).
We pass the dismantled way after the roundabout in which you can read the Roman name of Astorga, Asturica Augusta, ascend to Perpetua Socorro Street and turn left. A hard climb leads us to the ensemble formed by the Chapel of Vera Cruz, the Church of San Francisco and the Convent of the Redemptorist Fathers.
Astorga (Km. 20,3). End of stage
Practical tips for this section: Do not forget to enjoy this emblematic town that invites you to spend more than a day in it. And, above all, don't forget to taste the famous "Maragato stew". See you tomorrow!
We arrive in one of the most interesting cities on the Camino de Santiago, Asturica Augusta, just as the Romans knew it. In the afternoon, we will not be missing places to visit. The most emblematic are the Cathedral of Santa Maria, which houses the Cathedral Museum, and the Episcopal Palace, where the Museo de los Caminos can be found.
But you can also approach the Plaza Mayor and contemplate the beautiful façade of the City Hall, as well as contemplate the Forum, centre of all activity in Astorga. Visit the two remains of the medieval wall, as well as the moat of the military camp that gave rise to the city, the Roman Gate, the Domus del Mosaico, the Roman Baths or the old sewers.
If you didn't get to the entrance, you can take the afternoon to visit the monumental collection of the Redemptorist Fathers, with the Church of San Francisco. And if you have time and desire, do not forget to visit the Easter, Roman and Chocolate Museums.
If it is Tuesday, take advantage to go to the market that takes place on the same day in the Plaza Mayor, where you can find artisan and fresh products, elaborated on the land, for example, cheeses or cold cuts.
Comments San Martin del Camino - Astorga
Today's stage is probably part of one of the pilgrim's best days. A day without much difficulty, except for some slopes, and full of places with historical, cultural and artistic interest. And to contemplate the perfection of the day, gastronomic suggestions that will give us enough energy to enjoy the day to the limit.
Precautions stage San Martin del Camino - Astorga
This is not a very long stage, although it is not short, at almost 24 kilometres. The layout does not contain great difficulty, except some slopes that are crossed on stone tracks and that could play tricks on us. Caution, especially on descents!
Many tracks that run along the pilgrim path today are stony, so that the people who make the Camino Frances en bicicleta or have a disability, may suffer at some points.
Food stage San Martin del Camino - Astorga
Today's route is waiting for us with numerous gastronomic possibilities, typical of some of the localities that we will go through today. Take note and do not forget to enjoy them.
The dishes made from common trout or (Fario trout) from Hospital de Órbigo, among which you will find its famous trout soup, trout with ham or marinated trout.
Cocido Maragato. A peculiar dish in which meat is first served, then vegetables and beans; and it ends with a soup.
Conger eel “al ajoarriero” (a vegetable sauce with lots of tomato and garlic)
Puff pastry and biscuits from the capital of Astorga, small biscuits made with cow's butter. We can find them in traditional patisseries or in various shops in the city.
Chocolates from Astorga.
What to do San Martin del Camino - Astorga
Puente de Órbigo
The town of Puente Órbigo belongs to the municipality of Hospital de Órbigo. It is situated on the right-hand side of the Passo Honroso Bridge. The town has a population of almost 200 inhabitants.
The small village originated in the Middle Ages around the church of Santa Maria, which you can visit today.
Bridge of Passo Honroso
The Passo Honroso rises on the River Órbigo, at the exit of the locality of Puente Órbigo and enters Hospital de Órbigo. It is one of the most famous bridges on the Camino de Santiago, both for its beautiful architecture and its history.
It is a medieval bridge from the 13th century, although it has undergone several renovations during the following years. At first glance, it seems that the bridge is too big for the size of the river that crosses, but before the construction of the Barrios de Luna reservoir, this river transported a huge volume of water.
The historical fact that makes this construction famous, and the reason for its name, Passo Honroso, occurred in the Jacobean year of 1434. At that time, Suero de Quiñones, a noble Leonese Knight tried to honour the woman he was in love with, Doña Leonor de Tovar.
To do this, he had to fulfil a vote that consisted of putting an iron ring around his neck every Thursday until he was freed from his imprisonment of unrequited love. To get rid of it, he had to survive a jousting tournament, which consisted of individual combat on horseback and with spears; and then a pilgrimage to the heart of Galicia, to pay homage to Santiago the Apostle.
To fulfil his vow of love, on the dusk of the first day of 1434, Don Suero de Quiñones, with the ring around his neck and accompanied by nine other knights, was presented in the Hall of the Castillo de la Mota to address King John II of Castile. He asked permission to hold a jousting tournament on the Hospital de Órbigo Bridge.
The challenge was to prevent the passage of any knight who dared to cross the bridge, one of the busiest points of the kingdom since it was located in the middle of the Camino de Santiago.In particular, the clashes would take place over the course of a month, 15 days before the 25th of July (the feast of Santiago the Apostle) and 15 days later.
Don Suero de Quiñones, got permission from the King and on July 10th 1434 the tournament began. For a month, fighting took place every day, except for the feast day of Santiago (July 25). Every day there was a mass very early in the morning and at the end of the day, a great feast was organized.
In the fighting there was only one death, that of a Catalan knight, Asbert de Claramunt, to whom a spear pierced his eye to the brain. Suero de Quiñones suffered only minor injuries on the last day of the tournament.
On 9th August, when the tournament was completed, Don Suero de Quiñones and his 9 Knights fulfilled their promise of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. In the cathedral, erected in honour of Santiago the Apostle, they placed the iron ring that Suero de Quiñones wore around his neck, a blue ribbon in which one could read: "If you are not happy to be mine, there is really no bliss for me."
At present, you can still visit the ring that Don Suero de Quiñones left there, it is made of gold and guarded in the Shrine of Santiago the Apostle in the Catedral of Santiago de Compostela. Next to the neck of Santiago Menor's sculpture, in the Chapel of the relics, you can see the Blue Ribbon.
In one of the monoliths on the bridge can be recorded the name of Suero de Quiñones and the 9 knights who accompanied him in his vote: Lope de Estúñiga, Diego de Benavides, Diego de Bazán, López de Aller, Sancho de Rabanal, Pedro de Nava , Gómez de Villacorta, Suero Gómez and Pedro de Ríos.
Several centuries later, in the year 2012, an LED lighting system was inaugurated on the bridge that can be seen at the end of the day. This system of illumination floods the stone of the bridge, offering a great spectacle, to which one can go without fear of being reached by the lances of Suero de Quiñones.
Hospital of Órbigo
Hospital de Órbigo is a municipality of León, located at an altitude of 823 metres high. It has an area of 5 square kilometres and a population of almost 1,000 inhabitants.
At the end of the 16th century, before the influx of pilgrims who crossed the Passo Honroso Bridge, the Order of Knights of St. John of Jerusalem constructed a Pilgrim's Hospital on the right bank of the river.
In front of the existing town of Puente de Órbigo and around the hospital, a new urban nucleus was constructed. This settlement, on the left side of the river, received the name of Hospital de Órbigo.
Even before the battles that gave the name to its famous bridge, the Passo Honroso Bridge, the locality witnessed several historical clashes. One of them was the 19th century when the inhabitants of the town destroyed both ends of the bridge to prevent the passage of Napoleon's troops.
In the town you can visit the Church of San Juan Bautista.
Church of San Juan Bautista
The Church of St. John the Baptist appears in Hospital de Órbigo. The original construction dates from the 12th century, when Mencia ordered the erection of a temple for the pilgrims. In the year 1184, the temple was ceded to the Knights of the Order of St. John, who built a house and hospital next to the church.
The church was rebuilt in the 18th century. The highlight of the building is the principal door, where you can see a Cross of the Order of Saint John. Inside there is a plateresque style altarpiece of great beauty.
Villares de Órbigo
Villares de Órbigo is a municipality of almost 26 square kilometres that has a population of 650 inhabitants. The small village of Villares de Órbigo belongs to the municipality that bears the same name.
In ancient times, the town had a pilgrims' hospital, as it is a villa with a strong Jacobean tradition. In fact, its town festival is celebrated on 25th July, feast day of Santiago the Apostleand its church built in honour of the Saint, Church of Santiago.
Church of Santiago
The Church of Santiago de Villares de Órbigo was erected in the 18th century in the centre of the town in homage to Santiago the Apostle. The temple is formed by a plant in Latin cross and shows, attached to the church, a belfry tower about seven metres high.
This tower, oriented west, was built in stone masonry and with brick walls. The sacristy of the church is attached on the south side and the parish hall is located on the north façade.
Inside you can visit a carving of the Virgen del Carmen, made of wood, and also a valuable chest of chestnut and oak wood.
Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias
Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias belongs to the municipality of Villares de Órbigo, along with the locality of the same name. The village has 150 inhabitants.
During the Middle Ages, this villa, like the rest of the municipality, was a manor belonging to the Quiñones family, which was involved in the feat that gives its name to the bridge of Passo Honroso.
San Justo de la Vega
The municipality of San Justo de la Vega is located in the valley of the River Tuerto, which allows the locality to focus much of its economic activity on agriculture. It has an area of 48 square kilometres and with almost 2,000 inhabitants.
Regarding its origins, it should be noted that, given the proximity of the locality with San Justo de Astorga, it is thought that during Roman Times La Vega del Tuerto was exploited by the Asturians, although its perimeter was probably not inhabited.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the dispersion of the inhabitants of the big cities, during the 5th and 6th centuries, would allow the establishment of the first settlers in San Justo de la Vega. Its consolidation as an urban nucleus responds to the increased popularity of the Camino de Santiago,so it is believed that many of its first inhabitants were pilgrims.
On the outskirts of the locality, and by which the pilgrim must have passed to access the town, is located Monte Teleno, 2,188 metres high, the highest peak in León. In that place, the Bishop of Astorga, after being expelled from his headquarters in the 5th century, pronounced the famous words: "Astorga, not even dust."
The locality of Astorga (Asturica Augusta, in Roman times) is located on a hill, between the Rivers Jerga and Tuerto. The capital of the municipality that bears the same name, has a population of 12,000 inhabitants.
In its origins, it was a military camp built during the Cantabrian Wars between the years 29 and 19 B.C. The growth of the military camp was quickly driven by the location of the place, close to some gold mines, that allowed control of the mining.
Later, in the 11th century, thanks to the impulse that showed in the increase in popularity of the Camino de Santiago, the locality experienced great growth, in which its church played the leading role. Finally, in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the arrival of the railway, the locality experienced an important industrial development, especially in the chocolate industry.
Santa María Cathedral
The Cathedral of Santa Maria appears in the city of Astorga. Its construction began during the last third of the 15th century but was not completed until the second half of the 17th century.
Of the elements of the temple in its first stage of construction, only the remains of the Romanesque Chapel, located in the section of the entrance, and the Chapel of Santa Marina, are preserved in the current Cathedral Museum.
The current façade, on the western side of the temple, is Plateresque style. You can see two towers that communicate inside through the chapels of the side naves, attributed to Gil de Hontañón.
Both towers date back to the 17th century but have different construction times. The oldest dates from the year 1678, while the new, pinkish in colour, is from 1692. In its corners, you can see an ornament inspired by the animal world and on the intermediate bodies, the impressive shields of the chapter and the monarchy are located.
Inside the temple, we find the main Altar, where the Chapel de la Majestad is located that houses an altarpiece of the 17th century, with the image of the Virgen de la Majestad. On the back of this figure, the Cross of Calvary is depicted. At the bottom of the Cathedral is the altarpiece dedicated to San Miguel, in Hispano-Flamenco style.
The interior of the Cathedral also highlights its chancel, which has pinnacles and finely decorated buttresses, as well as the image of Pedro Mato, patron of the town.
Mass times: Every day, Monday to Saturday (10:00), Sundays and Holidays (12:00).
The Cathedral Museum of Astorga exhibits numerous pieces of great historical and artistic value. Inside we find the Chapel of Santa Marina, which houses a large number of graves and busts of local bishops.
Among the most valuable pieces, the Cruz de la Victoria and the Casket de San Genadio stand out. You can also see invaluable paintings such as the Spanish-Flemish panels from the 16th century and the altarpiece of Valdevieja, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
Timetable: Closed on Mondays, except for the month of August when it opens every day. From March 16 to October 11 (from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00), from October 12 to November 1 (from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00) and from November 2 to March 15 (from 11:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00).
Entrance price: General (€3.50); Reduced for groups of more than 15 people, persons over 65 years, students, persons with disabilities and young cards (€3); Children under the age of 12, unemployed and city residents (free).
Domus del Mosaico
The Domus del Mosaico is the first excavation found in the city of Astorga and dates back to the 1st century A.D. In it we find a third part of the house that centuries ago was located under the Cathedral.
The house is formed by the old sewer and some rooms spread around the atriums. The rooms were fully decorated with murals depicting vegetal motifs.
The most well-known room is decorated with a complete mosaic floor in which two scenes are captured. The autumn, represented by branches of vines and clusters chopped by birds, and the Myth of Orpheus, illustrated by eight medallions of wild animals.
Astorga's first Roman sewer was built in the first third of the 1st century A.D. and was remodelled in the year 80 A.D. The original construction was made with mortar materials and its remodelling allowed to increase its capacity by building a vaulted part on top of the primitive construction.
However, the growth of Astorga soon demanded the construction of a second sewer, which dates from the 5th century, although it was not used until the year 1866 when it was rediscovered and on which the current sewer of the city is based.
The Episcopal Palace of Astorga is completely rebuilt, after being devastated by a fire. The reconstruction dates back to the year 1961.
The building stands out for its cubic shape, consisting of four cylindrical towers that rise in each of its corners. From them, two parts protrude the access doorway, with flared arches, and the apse of the Chapel. The building has a pinkish colour that stands out against the colour of the granite stone of its towers.
Inside, you can see a large number of stained glass windows that give the place, of little decoration, a great luminosity. Inside we can only find pottery by Jiménez de Jamuz, located on the edges of the arches.
The building currently houses the Museum de Los Caminos. Its objective is to collect, preserve and disseminate pieces related to the Camino de Santiago. Some of the pieces that stand out in the interior are the Cruz del Santuario de Castrotierra de la Valieran, the Crucificado de Poibueno and the altarpiece of San Bartolomé, from the end of the 15th century.
On the main floor of the building there is a varied collection of processional crosses, made in silver and over gilded silver. There are also the different areas of the old bishop's office, the private dining room and the Throne Room, with the canopy designed by Gaudí.
Timetable: Closes on Mondays. From 16 March to 11 October (from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00), from October 12 to March 15 (from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00).
The original wall of Astorga was built in Roman times, between the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th. At that time, it was a kilometre and a half long and its function was to defend the historic centre of the city.
The construction has undergone many modifications, especially from the 9th century. Currently, two of its sections can be seen, which are in a perfect state of conservation. One of them extends next to the El Melgar Park and the other is located between the Jardin del Sinagoga and the Paseo de la Muralla.
The walled enclosure is one of the most emblematic complexes in the city since in its interior are located two of the constructions with the most interest: The Cathedral of Santa Maria and the Episcopal Palace.
Around the wall, you can see the moat of Astorga's former military camp. A defence system that goes back to the Cantabrian wars, between the years 29 and 19 B.C. The moat was built with the main purpose of protecting the mineral points that settled in the place.
None of the doors that gave access to Astorga's walled enclosure is preserved. However, there is a door of Roman origin, which is known from the archaeological excavations made at the end of the 20th century, which are preserved ruins. This is the so-called Roman gate.
A door that at the time was four metres wide and was formed by an arch that rested on two towers. The towers were each eight meters high and were built in granite.
Forum and plaza Mayor
The forum is located in Astorga's main square, in the heart of the Old town. It is a floral enclosure where the political, economic and religious activity of the city is concentrated. It is built in Roman concrete and draws your attention by its great proportions.
Later, the Plaza Mayor was built. The square dates back to the 17th century and is presided over by the Town Hall and surrounded by arcades and ancient buildings. Among them, is the pharmacy of Primo Núñez, which dates from the 18th century, is considered the oldest in León. Every Tuesday there is a market with artisan products from the land.
Town Hall of Astorga
Astorga's Town Hall was erected in the year 1675. The building has undergone several subsequent remodellings at the end of the 19th century and in the year 1995. The architect Manuel de la Lastra was responsible for the construction of the building and to equip it in its current Herrera style.
On its façade, you can see a peculiar clock in which two "local" automatons, Juan Zancuda and Colasa, ring the bell every hour. The clock is the work of Bartolomé Fernández. You can also see, under the towers, the dungeons where the prisoners were locked up before they were tried.
The Roman Museum of Astorga has its headquarters in the building known as La Ergastula, although two more floors have been built on top of the original structure. The objective of the museum is to bring the visitor closer to life in the ancient Roman Empire.
In the interior of the original construction, numerous archaeological excavations were carried out, in which a varied number of elements were extracted, which are currently being exposed in the Museum.
Timetable: Closes on Mondays. From Tuesday to Saturday (from 10:30 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00), Sundays and public holidays (from 10:30 to 14:00).
Entrance prices: General (€3), reduced for groups (€2).
Monumental Collection of the Redemptorist Fathers
The monumental collection of the Redemptorist Fathers is located in Astorga, in the Plaza Romana. It is formed by the Church of San Francisco, the Convent of the Redemptorists and the Chapel of Vera Cruz.
The Church of San Francisco is gothic in style, although from this period only a bow is preserved, a part of the presbytery and various corbels. The temple was built in stone and draws your attention to its enormous belfry. Inside, stands the image of San Alfonso Maria de Ligorio, located in a niche.
The Roman Baths of Astorga were accessed by swimming pools and gymnasiums to receive scented massages before bathing. Then people entered the baths with water of varying temperatures, first cold and then temperate. And the tour ended in the sauna.
The hot springs opened at noon when the water had acquired the right temperature for the bathroom and closed at dusk. In this way, the bathrooms occupied the time between the end of work and dinner.
Nowadays, in the complex, you can see the remains of the bathrooms, the sauna, the rooms and the façade of the building.
The Easter Museum of Astorga was built with the purpose of preserving and disseminating the religious heritage of Holy Week, which is of great importance in the city.
In the Museum, you can contemplate pieces such as the passage of the Golden Cross, attached to the column, the recumbent and articulated Christ, the crucified one or the carving of the Nazarene.
The Chocolate Museum of the city of Astorga was founded in 1994. Its aim is to show both local residents and visitors the varied machinery used to work chocolate, as well as the factories that were created when cocoa arrived in the region.
The exhibition is considered the most unique in Spain and the second in Europe, given the great variety of its collection. In it are exposed primitive pieces such as stones to knead cocoa and the later machinery, which was used for this function, among other pieces related to the development of the chocolate industry.
On the second floor of the Museum, you can visit a gift-card exhibition of the chocolate makers, the engraving plates that were used to stamp the labels, as well as lithographic stones.
Timetable: Closes on Mondays. From Tuesday to Saturday (from 10:30 to 14:00 and from 16:30 to 19:00), Sundays and public holidays (from 10:30 to 14:00).