as I referenced in my last post, Domingo de la Calzada had a disciple named San Juan de Ortega (known to us English speakers as John the Hermit). born near Burgos in the late 11th century, he helped construct bridges in Logroño, Santo Domingo and Nájera. when Domingo died, Juan went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and nearly died in a shipwreck on his return. his prayers to San Nicolas to save him from death apparently answered, Juan devoted himself to improving the Camino between Villafranca Montes de Oca and Burgos.
|Church in San Juan de Ortega|
he erected a monastery about 50 kilometers west of the one Domingo established and attracted the patronage of Alfonso VII of Castilla. the King supported the monastery with tax money from around Villafranca and visited several times, going so far as to choose Juan as his personal confessor. following in that vein, Pope Innocent II offered his personal protection which proved useful for some 25 years before Juan’s death.
despite the royal patronage, the monastery and hospice struggled through the Middle Ages following Juan’s death. he’s buried in the church and serves as the patron saint of hospice-keepers, children and barren mothers (this line in my book made me wonder: are they already mothers who have become barren, or are they women who wish to be come pregnant and thus not yet technically mothers?). among those who received his aid was Isabel (I) la Catolica, Castillian queen of the 15th century who conceived following two separate visits to the San Juan’s tomb. the church is built in such a way so that the rays of the setting sun on each equinox fall on the statue of the Virgin Mary, which some see as bolstering his fertility-aid claims. by 1756, some 114 miracles were granted according to monastery records. no mention of how many have been granted since then …
|Villafranca Montes de Oca|
while our guidebook recommended we stop over in San Juan de Ortega, the reality of the situation (in which there are some 58 beds in the only albergue in town, all of which were taken by noon) prompted us to merely pause, refill our water and push on to Agés. we weren’t alone in stopping in at the only bar in town, though; in addition to many peregrinos there was a group of Spanish troops stopping for lunch. first and only people we saw in military uniform while in Spain which, it turned out, wasn’t terribly surprising as there’s a military training installation in the hills between Agés and Burgos.
|cloisters of the monastery|
in contrast to the tumbleweed quiet of Cirueña, Santo Domingo de la Calzada was positively bustling. based on the fact it has not one but three Parador hotels it’s something of a destination.
|not your average hotel bar|
the Parador we stayed in was the newest of the three, converted from the San Francisco monastery; the guest rooms are located in what previously held the hospital de peregrinos and consist of an array of twin and double rooms. as I stood looking out the hatch-like windows in to the courtyard, I had to wonder what previous occupants looked like, how they lived, and what brought them to the room in which I now stood.
a 16th century Franciscan gave his name to the monastery, presumably because he was buried in the monastery after dying here while on the road. in addition to being a comisario general de cruzada (acting on a bull granted by the Pope to help bring Christianity back to Spain and expel Muslims), Bernardo de Fresneda was confessor to King Philip II and bishop of Cueneca. he was traveling to Zaragoza to take up the newly bestowed position of archbishop when he died in Santo Domingo en route.
we had some good food here; while we’d enjoyed a wonderful spread at the Palacio Guendulain in Pamplona, this hotel introduced us to both a wonderful bottle of wine, consumed while waiting for restaurants to re-open for dinner, and the magnificent breakfast spread offered by Paradores. *nomnomnom*
we saw our fair share of bodegas (wineries) along the Camino — but only one had a fuente de vino for peregrinos. we left Estella relatively early and got to Irache at the thoroughly-inappropriate-to-drink-wine time of about 8:30 a.m. did that stop us? of course not. we were the first in a wave of peregrinos walking past it, the rest of whom seemed uncertain about whether it was ok (morally or sanitation-wise) to drink wine from a spigot coming out the side of a winery. we took the initiative and tested the non-waters and found the resulting liquid pretty good, especially considering the method in which it was dispensed.
the winery is located at the site of a former monastery that began serving peregrinos in the 10th century. the abbot when the first hospice was constructed, San Veremundo, worked with King Sancho Ramirez to build Irache into one of the richest and strongest abbeys in Navarra. he is also reputed to have donated the vineyards from which Bodegas Irache now harvests its grapes. while the strength of the city didn’t last (due to righting between religious factions), the town recovered enough by 1605 to warrant the relocation of the Benedictine monastery from Sahagun to Irache.
the university operated for two centuries, but closed in 1824; the monastery closed in the 1980s due to a lack of novitiates, a century after it received protection as a national monument. today it houses a museum. the winery opened several decades after the university closed and the fountain began dispensing wine in 1981, a century later, aimed primarily at peregrinos, one would imagine as it’s mere feet from the Camino. if you’re so inclined, you can watch the fuente de vino webcam and see how and whether the peregrinos stop for a sip before continuing along the way to Villamayor du Monjardin and Los Arcos.