St Domingo de la Calzada – A pilgrim’s trail

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We left San Sebastian in heavy rain which persisted through mountains and what would have been a striking landscape if only we could have seen it. The journey lasted about an hour and a half, St Domingo de la Calzada sits in the Rioja hills at a height of about 650 metres above sea level. It is part of the Camino de Santiago and has been since the time of the founder of the town, Santo Domingo. In 1044 he began helping pilgrims by improving the road, building a bridge and opening a hospital for sick travellers.

It is in this hospital, now a Parador hotel that we stayed during our trip here. I’m going to write much more about our hotels and other accommodation on this trip in a specific post. But the Paradores are a state run hotel group, that have turned historic buildings into luxury accommodation. St Domingo was one of the first when the initiative started in 1928.

Santo domingo’s tomb

Once we had settled in and had eaten some cheese and chorizo lunch in the hotel bar we set off into this small town. The cathedral is right next door to the Parador. For 9 euros each we purchased a wrist band enabling us to visit all the historic religious sites in the town. That afternoon, given the weather which was cloudy and very cool (bordering on cold) we decided to leave the others for the next day.

The cathedral is large for such a small town, often the way in Spain. It contains St Domingo’s tomb. A chicken coop high in the south transept contains a live hen and rooster. This commemorates a miracle which took place when a roasted hen and cock got up and crowed to prove the innocence of a pilgrim hanged for theft. Thankfully the chickens also have a home further up the road and are able to move about outdoors!

Chicken run

As you might imagine there are no end of souvenirs of cocks and hens in the shop, most of them tacky and not worth looking at.

The following morning was bright and sunny if a little cool first thing. After breakfast we went up in the bell tower which is completely separate from the cathedral. It was worth the climb to see the views and also the 17th century bells, still in working order.

Next we strolled around town, a mixture of old narrow streets with ancient buildings and more modern ones. There were quite a few bars and restaurants open for drinks and later for lunch. Next we went into the former monastery which houses a chapel, exhibition hall, parador (currently closed) and an elderly care home. The church was pleasant, the exhibition hall housed an odd array of exhibits.

Logrono and the Monastery at St Million de la Cogolla

We decided to go out for the afternoon given the limited attractions in St Domingo de la Calzada. Logrono is the capital of the Rioja area and is about a 40 minute drive from St Domingo. This is a big town but as it was Sunday the roads were pretty quiet. Shops in the main were closed apart from a few gift shops. The centre was busy with people having drinks and lunch which had just started. This is a large stopping point for pilgrims walking to and from Santiago de Compostela. There are a number of pilgrim hostels, we saw a few people on our way to them.

We found the church of St James, a large building that was sadly completely shut. So instead we went in search of some lunch. We sat on a restaurant terrace and had salad, fries and some lovely wine. On our way back we detoured to look at a monastery. Winding up through the hills we found the large buildings of thee monastery sitting within its own walls. Nearby were restaurants, where some visitors were having drinks. The views at that height; 750 metres were beautiful.

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