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Hornillos del Camino was to be an interesting and memorable stop for me and my fellow Peregrinos but for vastly different reasons! Before I get into all that let me give you an historical perspective of this classic small town and iconic pilgrimage stop on the Camino.
Hornillos, in a certain way is representative of many small towns that we see along the Camino route because, like many small towns, its’ present state is no indication of the former historical significance of the town. Some of us Peregrinos sometimes pass by these towns seeing a set of ruins without knowing the significance of what we see. In a way it’s normal because of our great impulse to get to Santiago but I – as a student of history – find this state of affairs somewhat sad.
When I look at Hornillos I see a very small one-street town. Most of the town looks deserted with a few houses being modernized. I would never have guessed that the town has been inhabited since ancient times. The town’s name is a derivation of the word Forniellos, that suggests that the town was once the site of a smelting furnace or kiln. Horno means oven in Spanish and when added the the diminutive illos means small ovens. The small rise where the Church of San Román is located was once the site of a pre-Roman castro. The first documented appearance of the village is from a 9th Century document that mentions the defensive line formed by fortified towers in old Castila. This line of fortifications stretched from Tardajos, Rabé and ended in Castrogeriz. Alfonso VII founded a monastery here in 1156 that was donated to the French Monastery of St. Denis. The town in 1181 was already identified as a pilgrimage town and became the property of the French Monastery of Rocamador. Indeed, the remains of the convent and medieval hospice of Rocamador can still be found about 150 m. northwest of the town. The former Hospital de Sancti Spiritus can still be found on the right after the first crossroads.
I was fortunate to have made a reservation at the casa rural De Sol a Sol (I will write a review in my Places to Stay section) because it was the only alternative to staying at the albergue municipal in Hornillos. Because we had arrived so early (11:41 a.m.!!) Craig had to line up at the albergue and wait a half hour for them to open. I went to De Sol a Sol and took a shower and wondered what I was going to do here spending a whole day.
After relaxing a bit in my room I went down to the town square and had a pre-arranged beer and some lunch with Craig at Bar Casa Manolo (the only Bar/Restaurant in town). Craig then told me about the albergue. It was really, really, – how can I say this? – primative. He wasn’t the only one that I heard complaints from.
After eating I went to explore small town square. The square is directly opposite Casa Manolo and on the square you will see the distinctive Fuente del Gallo. Gathered around this fountain are many of those red, white and green bar chairs that you see all over Spain. Flanked by the Bar, the albergue municpal on one side of the square and the church next to it, the square was a natural meeting place for Peregrinos to drink, eat and get to know each other.
As for the church it’s name is the Ia iglesia parroquial de San Román. Construction of the church began in the 14th Century and it was constucted in the Gothic style. Inside, is a typical beautiful parish church. Of some interest was a memorial to a young priest from Hornillos that was assasinated in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.
Dinner that night at Casa Manolo was fantastic! The food was homemade and the lentil stew was to die for! I had the good fortune of having dinner with three Spanish cyclists from Madrid. We hit if off immediately and they in the coming days would email me photos and videos of the sights ahead. They would also recommend restaurants that they liked. Since they averaged 100 km a day they soon were in Santiago and from there back home in Madrid. I’m still in contact with them via email.
One bit of advice for all you future Pereginos out there; If you can avoid the albergue municipal here do so.