just before arriving in Castrojeriz are ruins of an old monastery and hospital de peregrinos — San Antón de Castrojeriz. Alfonso VII helped underwrite the original hospital and church in 1146, though the remaining buildings date primarily from the 14th and 15th centuries. hospices run by the Order of San Antón (Saint Anthony), sprung up all over Europe — first in France and later in Spain, Italy, and elsewhere — were known for their success in alleviating or curing various ailments, though ergot poisoning was chief among them. (ergot poisoning stemmed from eating fungus-infected barley bread and improved by a change in diet — i.e. no more barley bread and an increase in wine consumption — and physical activity — i.e. Camino.)
although the building is mostly ruins, it does still function as an albergue during milder months when Camino traffic is heavier. the most impressive remnant of the original monastery is the archway spanning the Camino. peregrinos arriving too late to gain access to the hospital shelter under the archway for the night and monks would leave food in the niches that line the walls. while residents no longer leave vittles in the alcoves, peregrinos often leave notes to one another, held down by stones or other weights. we saw notes left for people in quite a few places, but nowhere as many little scraps of paper as here.
my books reference the remarkable artistry of the carvings lining the opposite side of the archway — in archivolts (curved ornamental moldings along the underside of the arch), which must have been truly spectacularconsidering how impressive they remain in spite of centuries of deterioration. at the west end of the ruins plaques featuring the insignia of the Order of San Antón remain, near what remains of the rose window and coats of arms from French and German families.