Stage 18 – Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagún
Total Distance – 23.0 km
Adjusted for Climb – 23.2 km (accrued ascent 50 m = 0.2 km)
High Point: Picnic Area above Legidos at 900 m (2,950 feet)
CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO ENLARGE TO FULL-SIZE
When I started walking out of Calzadilla de la Cueza I had the sensation that I was walking out of one of those Wild West ghost towns. The tumbleweeds were missing but what wasn’t missing was that feeling of desolation and vast indifference to anything that might happen there. If indeed 52 souls did inhabit this place I had only seen six of those inhabitants at the hostal.
My route would take me through Ledigos, Terradilllos de los Templarios (Templars), Moratinos, San Nicolás del Real Camino and finally to Sahagún. It would be a stage of only 23 kilometers but originally I had planned on staying in the Albergue Laganares in San Nicolás del Real Camino because it had been highly recommended to me. My plans changed when I saw that Sahagún was only 7 kilometers further.
My first stop for a water break would be the village of Legidos. Along the way into town I noticed the adobe construction of some of the houses due to the scarcity of stone in the area. There was very little of interest here except the 13th Century Iglesia parroquial de Santiago. I doubted that it would be open so early in the morning and I did not attempt to visit it even though it was reputed to have some interesting images of the Saint. Whether those images would be Santiago Matamoros or Santiago Peregrino I did not know but if I had to guess my money would be on Santiago Matamoros because this desolate area was once a highly contested border area (that’s the reason for the Templars being here) where a lot of fighting took place.
Legidos is the type of place that owed its existence (and whatever was built there) to the Camino de Santiago. The population has seen great fluctuations as a result, the high being a population of 338 in 1950 to a low of only 74 in 2011. Here once was the Hospital de San Lázaro that was demolished in 1752 and the stones, wood and nails from that demolition was used to build the nearby ermita de Nuestra Señora de Vallejera. My research into the Iglesia parroquial de Santiago (thank you Wikipedia Español!) proved that I was wrong in my supposition that Santiago Matamoros would be the only representation of Santiago in the church. Some historians say that this is the only church on the whole Camino where three representations of the Saint exist:, el peregrino, el apóstol (the apostle) and el matamoros.The church has only one nave that dates backs to the 17th century and altarpieces from the 17th and 18th centuries. The church is located on a small hill where the village of Terradillos de los Templarios can be seen.
It was while walking to Terradillos de los Templarios I ran met the youngest Peregrino I had seen to date. About 100 meters ahead of me on the trail I saw a small figure, with a small bush hat stylishly attached to a small head, skipping behind two grown men and using a switch to hit the vegetation on the side of the trail. How odd I thought and I increased my speed until I reached them and introduced myself. His name was Rhys, he was 10 years old and he was traveling with his father Jamie and his uncle Michael. All three were from Canada and I must say that Rhys looked like he was enjoying himself. We walked together for a little while and then they went ahead of me as I stopped for lunch.
Terradilllos de los Templarios (pop. 80) had once been a stronghold of the Knights Templars and one would assume that they were very active in the defense of this border area. Unlike Villalcázar de Sirga nothing of its Templar past remains unless you count the Albergue Jacques de Molay, named after the 23rd and last Templar Grand Master. The Albergue Los Templarios also serves as a reminder of the Templar legacy and is located just before the entrance to the village. The village has its own website (http://www.terradillos.net) and it states that Alfonso VIII de Castilla donated Terradillos to the Templars in 1191 and goes on to say that with the disgrace and disappearance of the Order all traces of the Templars disappeared from the village. The Church of San Pedro (pictured) was closed so I could not see the early Gothic crucifix that reputedly resides there. While this town and the next did not seem to have supported any pilgrim hospices, Terradilllos de los Templarios is the exact halfway point between St. Jean Pied de Port and Santiago. I was halfway there!!
As I was walking on the road into Moratinos (pop. 30) I saw what looked to me like caves dug deeply into a hill. I was puzzled because I could not figure out the use for them. There were no vineyards anywhere along my route so it couldn’t have been used to store wine. I was left with a mystery.
Lunch thankfully was not a mystery for me and it awaited me at the Albergue Laganares in Moratinos. The albergue is located in the shadow (literally) of the iglesia parroquial de San Tómas. Lunch was the usual pilgrim fare (in my case a jamón serrano bocadillo washed down by a Cerveza San Miguel) and it hit the spot nicely. While resting here I met a Mexican Peregrino named Juan whom I would meet later.
In case you were wondering the name Moratinos is most likely derived from the large number of moriscos (Muslims converted to Catholicism) from Andalucía who rebelled rather than strictly adhere to Catholicism. After a decade of guerrilla warfare in the Alpujarras mountains, south of Granada, the moriscos were banished from Andalucía and resettled here where the flatlands would make guerrilla war very difficult, if not impossible. After all where does one hide in the flatlands of Castilla? Moriscos rather than make war settled down to become farmers and builders and that is why you can find many Muslim-style churches in the area. The moriscos were eventually expelled from Spain in 1609.
Every once in a while you find signs along the way that lift your spirits. This one certainly lifted mine and left no doubt about which way to proceed!
Just before coming upon the outskirts of Sahagún we left the province of Palencia and entered the province of León. It was from this hill, where a highway bridge now was, that Peregrinos got their first views of Sahagún and the río Valderaduey. The Iberian name for this river – Val de Aratoi – means “flat fields” and flat the fields continue to be. This tiny, tiny river is the border between the kingdoms of Castilla and León.
I was still 3 kilometers east of Sahagún when adjacent to the río Valderaduey I saw the picturesque ermita y hospital de Nuestra Señora del Puente. It dates back from the medieval times and is a noteworthy example of the Sahagún Mudéjar style. In the Middle Ages it was also a hospital that was administered by the Augustinians. There once were 5 more ermitas in the area: Santa Marina, San Sebastián, San Lázaro, San Andrés and Cristo del Humilladero. All have since disappeared.
When I arrived there the ermita was being renovated and I could not enter to see the image of the Virgen del Puente that is located inside. Every year on the 25th of March the image of the Virgen is the focal point of a procession on the grounds adjacent to the ermita. At noon crowds enjoy bread and cheese and dance the typical dance of Sahagún: La Tantáriga. Soon I was joined by Rhys, Jamie and Michael at this beautiful spot. After a brief rest they went ahead of me as I lingered to take photos of the ermita.
The rest of my walk into Sahagún was uneventful, other than my meeting two young American Seminary students from Pennsylvania on the outskirts of town. We walked together for a very brief time and then we each went on our way. My destination was the Monasterio de Santa Cruz, run by the Madres Benedictinas. Before reaching it I saw the preparations that were being made all around the town for the fiesta would be in full swing that evening. This was a festive weekend for the whole town but I wasn’t very interested in it. What interested me was finding the monastery and resting, eating and hopefully hearing Mass that evening. My next post will tell you exactly if I accomplished my goals.