A route from Madrid: The Camino de Uclés
The Camino de Uclés is a route linked to the Camino de Santiago that begins from the very centre of Madrid. It is not within the network of pilgrim routes as its destination is not Santiago de Compostela, but is the Monastery of Uclés, an impressive medieval fortress.
You will wonder then why a blog specialized in the Camino de Santiago like ours has decided to dedicate an article to a path that starts in Madrid and that goes to Uclés, rather than to the tomb of the apostle.Well, it’s very simple, the relationship of the Camino de Uclés with the Camino de Santiago is that this route joins Madrid with the second most important temple dedicated to St James the Apostle after the Cathedral of Compostela.
But if you are looking to do the most popular route of all, we invite you to make a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago from Sarria to Compostela. Leave us your details and detailed information about the trip you want to carry out and we will contact you.
The history of the Camino de Uclés
In order for you to better understand the relationship of this Madrid route, we want to explain to you the history of the Monastery of Santiago, also known as the Monastery of Uclés, by the name of the town where it is found, in the province of Cuenca. It will also be necessary to talk about Manuel Rossi, a native of Madrid, by whom, the recovery of this route was undertaken.
The origin of the Monasterio of Uclés
The Monastery of Uclés is a construction that dates back to the time of Muslim rule. However, its time of splendour was experienced from 1174, after the monastery was reconquered by the Christians and ceded to the Order of Santiago, by the King of Castile Alfonso VIII.
This order had emerged during the same century, facing the boom experienced by the Camino de Santiago at that time. Its main mission was to protect the pilgrims who at that time walked the Camino de Santiago in Madrid. A time when the Reconquest was advancing, but the roads were still highly dangerous for Christians.
The Order of Santiago turned the fortress of Uclés into its motherhouse. From there much of the military defence of Christians was centralized, until the end of the Reconquest, in the 15th century.
After the end of the conflict between Christians and Muslims, the castle lost its military function and underwent a major reform, becoming the current monastic construction. Once the works, which lasted two centuries, were completed, the Knights of Santiago settled in the monastery.
Decline and recuperation of the Uclés Monastery
The following centuries were not easy times for the Monastery of Uclés. In the early 19th century, the temple was severely damaged by the Napoleonic army during the Battle of Uclés. Later, at the end of the same century, the confiscation by Mendizábal forced the Order of Santiago to leave the monastery.
During the Spanish Civil War, in 1936, the Monastery of Santiago remained on the republican side and was converted into a hospital. Subsequently, after the end of the war, the convent’s run-down facilities were used as a prison.
Shortly thereafter, the Diocese of Cuenca claimed the monastery as its own and paid for all the works necessary to rehabilitate the building. Since then, it has been an important landmark in Cuenca, also known as “El Escorial de La Mancha”. Its facilities have remained alive, over the last few decades, training a large number of people with religious vocation.
The Camino from Madrid to the Monastery of Santiago
For many centuries the Camino linking Madrid with Uclés was a forgotten route, as were so many other routes on the Camino de Santiago. Manuel Rossi was responsible for the recovery of this route as used by the Order of Santiago centuries ago.
This retired builder and lover of the Camino de Santiago decided to dedicate his free time to recovering old routes. In 2010, on his pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Madrid, the priest Julián de Cuenca told him about the Camino de Uclés.
For a year, Manuel Rossi intensely researched the origin and layout of this route that departed from Madrid and that was directly related to the Camino de Santiago. Finally, in April 2011 the reclaimed Camino de Uclés was inaugurated.
However, Manuel Rossi’s work did not end there. Since then, this road lover devotes his time and money, in a selfless way, to the signalling of the Camino de Uclés.
He himself personally makes the signs, which are characterized by red arrows and the presence of the cross of Santiago, and places them along the route. In the following video, you can see a report prepared by Telemadrid, about the magnificent work that has been done in the recovery of this route:
He is also responsible for the official credential of the pilgrim used on the Camino de Uclés, the so-called Uclessiana. His effort, as he himself says, is rewarded by the simple fact of bringing this forgotten route back to life.
The route and stages on the Camino de Uclés
Today, the Camino de Uclés follows the original path with the greatest possible accuracy that has allowed for the presence of highways and roads that could be dangerous for pilgrims. The route is 144 kilometres long and can be divided into 12 stages, passing the villages in which the Uclessiana can be sealed.
The signage on the route is excellent, thanks to the work done by Manuel Rossi. Unlike other routes of the Camino de Santiago, the Camino de Uclés is signposted between Madrid and the Monastery of Santiago with red paint, specifically with the cross of Santiago and with an arrow indicating the direction.
To return from the Monastery of Uclés to Madrid, that is, to make the way back to the capital, the signage that you follow is a classic on the Camino de Santiago: yellow arrows and scallops. This is because from the Monastery of Uclés, you depart towards the capital, and from there, continue on the Camino de Santiago from Madrid to the tomb of the apostle.
Difficulty on the Camino de Uclés
This is not a difficult route to complete. In fact, the stage planning as proposed by the Association of Friends of the Camino de Uclés is much simpler than those for other routes of the Camino de Santiago.
On most days, you will travel less than 10 kilometres. This implies that considering that walking 20 or 25 kilometres a day is common in pilgrims, so the Camino de Uclés could be easily completed in 6 stages. The stage distribution is clearly divided according to the villages in which you can seal is as follows:
- Madrid – Rivas VaciaMadrid (26,6 kilometres)
- Rivas VaciaMadrid – La Poveda (4,5 kilometres)
- La Poveda – Arganda del Rey (5,5 kilometres)
- Arganda del Rey – Morata de Tajuña (16,5 kilómetros)
- Arganda del Rey – Morata de Tajuña (16,5 kilometres)
- Morata de Tajuña – Perales de Tajuña (9 kilometres)
- Perales de Tajuña – Tielmes (6 kilometres)
- Tielmes – Carabaña (9,4 kilometres)
- Carabaña – Estremera (15,5 kilometres)
- Estremera – Barajas de Melo (25 kilometres)
- Barajas de Melo – Monasterio de Uclés (24,5 kilometres)
Conditions and accessibilty
The journey is made along a route with good terrain, mostly within a pedestrian path and green route. So its a good idea do the Camino de Santiago by bike and accessible, almost 100%, in a wheelchair.
The start of the route: leaving Madrid
Although we find it incredible, leaving Madrid following the signs on this road, you won’t get lost and you only have to cross 3 traffic lights, awesome! You have to follow the bank of the River Manzanares to Parque Lineal and, once under the bridge of the M-40 south intersection, you will only have to follow the red arrow signs on a pleasant walk to Uclés.
Once you leave Madrid, the road is perfectly signposted with little option to lose yourself. Just follow the red marks.
If you are one of the thousands of people who have already been encouraged to do the Camino de Uclés, we would love you to leave us a comment explaining how your experience was. So perhaps many other pilgrims who read our blog will be encouraged to complete this tour.
You can also help the work that Mario Rossi is doing, sharing this article with your friends on Facebook. We can all bring this forgotten route back to life!