a day of welcome overcast skies brought us to Nájera, a town astride the rio Najerilla at the base of some remarkable cliffs. again — Roman origins, Moorish control for a while (the name of the town actually has Arabic origins), but a history of more diplomatic rather than military transitions of power. by virtue of its location, Nájera controlled both the east-west traffic on the Camino, but also the transport of goods downriver from the fertile plains nearby. 

Nájera was a multicultural city from early on and part of the first translation of the Qur’an into a European language may have originated here. much of Spanish law derives from the charter granted the town by Sancho Garces III, who also minted the first Christian coinage in Spain following the expulsion of the Moors.  as with many other towns along the Camino, Nájera hosted a sizable Jewish population but unlike persecution endured elsewhere, the 11th-century charter equalized penalty for killing a noble, a cleric, or a Jew at 250 sueldos.

there was a spot of bother with the Monasterio de Santa Maria stemming from the Castillian capture of Rioja in 1076. a Castillian king donated the monastery to the Benedictines of Cluny in 1079, which enraged the bishop of the monastery, who physically relocated the bishopric to Calahorra, downriver. when later appealed to for intervention, the Pope declined and the new bishop took matters into his own hands, raiding the monastery, assaulting monks, and stealing valuables from the altars and library. the Pope did not take to kindly to this, excommunicating the bishop, who was also barred from entering Navarra by its king. shortly thereafter Castilla and Navarra went to war over Rioja and the new prior of the monastery managed to enrich it by playing both sides. 

interesting fact for Anglophiles: Edward the Black Prince led troops at the Battle of Nájera in 1367, supporting Pedro (the Cruel) against his brother Enrique II in the Castillian Civil War (also part of the Hundred Years War). the English-backed Pedro completely routed the French-backed Enrique — the English were attacking dismounted French troops and were using longbows for the first time in the Iberian Peninsula. despite Pedro’s victory here, however, he didn’t hold onto power for very long; he and Edward fell out over money and he couldn’t sustain his throne without the benefit of foreign support.

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.