The heat wave was set to return and so we decided to head for the Asturian coast for a few days where it would be cooler. On the way we stopped at Castrojeriz, a small very old town which is on the Camino Santiago (France).
It was a seriously hot afternoon but after parking up and getting settled, I was not to be deterred from making my way to the back of the town and then on up to the castle ruins at the top of the largest hill for miles.
The Romans erected the original castle on this hill some 2,000 years ago but there is little more than a footprint left of that particular structure. A newer 9th century castle was built on top of the original Roman fortress and this newer castle was added to in the 11th, 14th and 16th century. It is all a bit of a ruin now having collapsed in the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.
There’s not much left of the castle but it is open to visitors and it is free to visit. Whilst up at the castle I got to talking with a German and a Chinese who met each other on the Camino and were now intent on completing it together. We were agreed that so many of the villages on the different Camino routes would probably have disappeared by now were it not for the pilgrims.
Back to the castle. It has some history too. In 1358, Queen Eleanor of Castile was captured and imprisoned in the castle by her nephew, Pedro I. He had her killed there and it is believed she is buried in the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria del Manzo down in Castrojeriz.
There are three churches in Castrojeriz; a surprisingly high number for such a small town. I didn’t get inside either the Collegiate of Santa Maria del Manzo or the Iglesia de San Juan de Castrojeriz (this latter church is I understand the most beautiful) but I did spend an hour or so in the Iglesia de Santo Domingo and what it lacks in beauty it more than makes up for in interest.
The Iglesia de Santo Domingo (Saint Dominic to us British) is now more a museum to the Camino Santiago than it is a church and, because I was the only visitor that afternoon, I was given a private guided tour by the caretaker. He appeared very knowledgeable about St Dominic (and his friend St Francis) and the church itself (and the damage caused to the church by the 1755 earthquake) but, he was exceptionally knowledgeable about the Camino Santiago. His pet line was “The end of the Way is not the end of the trip but the beginning of another one”.
After an interesting half an hour he went off on another trip and left me to the videos and exhibits which form the church’s ‘Camino Experience’. Did you know that the Scallop of Saint James is known as “Pecten Jacobaeaus”, which is very common in Galician Seas, and it was pinned to the the Apostle’s clothes to authenticate his stay in Santiago during his return journey? No, me neither.
Not a lot else to say about Castrojeriz except that Vanya wasn’t overkeen on the place but… she neither saw the castle nor witnessed the ‘Camino Experience’. Actually, I very much doubt that either of those would have made any difference at all to her.
Just one more thing. A lot of the houses in Castrojeriz had these handmade flowerpot characters sitting on their window sills. I think they look cool.