Camino Francés description : 11. Belorado - San Juan de Ortega   


                         Camino de Santiago / French Way : 11. Belorado - San Juan de Ortega

                                                                                (24.0 km)





  Leave Belorado by walking down the Calle Mayor, taking a left onto Calle Raimondo de Miguel and then onto Calle Hipoloto Lopez. As you head out of Belorado you pass by the Convento Santa Clara, built on the site of a hermitage which was destroyed by the Moors. Continue following the markers and you eventually come to the N120 where the town’s exit signs are. Cross the main road and the Río Tírón using the pedestrian bridge which runs parallel to the road bridge. Carefully following the waymarkers you soon reach the hamlet of Tosantos.


   There is a café bar here, just off the Camino route, as well as an albergue, San Francisco de Asís. Heading out of Tosantos along the dirt track and climbing a little you come across the 12th century Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Peña which has literally been dug out of the mountain.


  Continue on this track for approximately 2 kilometres until you reach the hamlet of Villambistia.


  Villambistia is a small village with a legend surrounding its fountain. called the Tradicion de Villambistia, the story tells of a pilgrim, exhausted from his travels under the burning sun, being spotted by an elderly villager. The villager spoke to him about the Tradicion de Villambistia which consisted of completely immersing the head in the fountain in the village. This complete immersion would result in him being completely cured of all tiredness. The pilgrim did as the villager said and true to his word all semblance of exhaustion was wiped away. The pilgrim continued on his way to Santiago and regaled his fellow pilgrims with the story of the fountain. Over the centuries the story has been passed on by word of mouth and to this day pilgrims soak their head in the waters of the fountain. In the town you can see the 17th century Iglesia de San Esteban Protomártir and on your way out of the village you will pass by the Ermita de San Roque. There is also a private albergue with cooking and laundry facilities.


  Cross over a stream on the way out of the village and on into Espinosa del Camino where you will find an albergue that offers dining facilities.


   Leave Espinosa del Camino taking a dirt track to the top of the hill from where you will see your next destination, Villafranca Montes de Oca.


  Following the markers you will pass by the Abside de San Felices and the ruins of the medieval Monasterio San Felices. Unfortunately, not much remains of the original 9th century building, in fact, only a single arch remains of this once important monastery. It is believed that Don Diego Rodriguez de Porcelos, the founder of the city of Burgos, is buried within its grounds.


  From here the footpath takes you through some fields and then back towards the main road, crossing the bridge over the Rio Oca to enter into Villafranca Montes de Oca.


  Located in the valley at the foot of the Montes de Oca, Villafranca is a beautiful village with a population of approximately 200. The town’s name comes partly from that of the early Roman settlement of Auca, as well as from the Frankish (or French) settlers who came to the region in the middle ages when the Camino was at its most popular. Worth visiting is the 18th century Iglesia de Santiago Apóstol where you will find inside a baroque statue of Saint James, along with a 65 kg baptismal font in the shape of a giant scallop shell which is believed to have originated in the Phillipines.


  As the next stage of the journey to San Juan de Ortega will take at least 3 hours to cover the 12 kilometre route through mountains and woods, it is recommended that you don’t set out in the afternoon, but stay the night at the 14th century albergue Hospital de Peregrinos de San Antón Abad (also known as Hospital de la Reina). This building was built by Reina Juana Manuel, wife of King Enrique II. Villafranca is also the last place on the journey towards Burgos that has a good selection of places to eat and to stock up on provisions.


  As you leave Villafranca you will pass another monument worth visiting, the 8th century Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Oca, where you can fill your water bottles from the fountain. The route from here towards Burgos takes you through the Montes de Oca, part of the Sistema Iberico mountain range which stretches from La Rioja down towards Valencia. On your journey you will pass the fountain dedicated to San Indalecio. According to local legend the waters here began to flow on the site where San Indalecio, one of St James’ disciples, was believed to have been martyred.


  The mountain range between Villafranca and San Juan de Ortega is a nature reserve full of oak, juniper, ash and pine trees. On your journey you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse some of the abundant wildlife such as foxes, otters and deer. 2 kilometres out of Villafranca you come across the Fuente de Mojapán, literally translated as the fountain of moist bread. Continuing along the tree lined path and at around 1163 metres above sea level you come across the Monumento de los Caidos, a memorial to the victims of the Spanish Civil war, one of many such monuments throughout Spain. The next stop on your journey, San Juan de Ortega, is approximately 7 kilometres from this point.


  From here the path starts to descend towards the Rio Peroja, once across the river the track begins to climb once again. From here on in the path is pretty straight passing through pine woods known as the Alto de la Pedraja, and through fields of heather. The track finally starts to descend and the countryside laid out before you is a complete change from what you have just experienced and feels as if it is straight out of a beautiful landscape painting. The path continues to descend crossing a footbridge across a stream and passing the 12th century Ermita de Valdefuentes, the only remaining part of a gothic pilgrim hospital. After a small climb the path once again descends as you enter the small hamlet of San Juan de Ortega.


  San Juan de Ortega was, like his mentor San Domingo, an architect and prolific builder. He was involved in building a number of bridges, hospices and churches, all dedicated to helping the Peregrino, or pilgrim, on their journey through the region. The recently restored was built by San Juan following a near fatal shipwrecchurch and monastery dedicated to San Nicolás de Bari. San Juan was returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when his boat was shipwrecked in a storm. The saint prayed to San Nicolás de Bari for salvation. He was spared and returned to the Montes de Oca, then a wilderness and prone to bandit attacks, where he built a hospice in honour of the saint that had saved his life. San Juan also founded a monastic order and built the 12th century Iglesia de San Juan de Ortega where you can find San Juan’s Romanesque sarcophagus. The sarcophagus had originally been in the crypt but following a flood in 2005 this was moved to the church.


  San Juan has built a reputation of being the patron saint of fertility. The legend refers to an incident when the tomb of the saint was opened and a swarm of white bees escaped from the tomb surrounded by a wonderful smell. The bees were believed to be the souls of unborn children being kept safe by San Juan until a suitable Christian woman could be found to bear that child. Queen Isabela la Católica visited the church in 1477 after having being childless for a number of years. She went on to have 3 children, the first, a boy she named Juan and the second, a girl she named Juana. The Queen ordered the rebuilding of the chapel as it had fallen into disrepair and commissioned the canopy placed over the saint’s tomb.


  The church also contains an architectural masterpiece called the Milagro de la Luz, or the miracle of the light. When San Juan built the church he included a capital of the annunciation. From around 5pm to 7pm on the day of the spring and autumn equinox, subject to there being sun, a ray of light enters through the window and illuminates the Virgin of the Annunciation.


  If you wish to stay  here, there is an albergue called Albergue del Monasterio and a café where you can get something to eat.



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                                                     delhommeb at - 07/01/2014