Camino Francés description : 31. Sarria - Portomarín   


                                         Camino de Santiago / French Way : 31. Sarria - Portomarín

                                                                                           (21.6 km)





  To leave Sarria walk down the Rúa Maior towards the Monasterio de la Magdalena and take a left past the cemetery and cross over the medieval bridge Ponte Áspera. The track follows the railway line for a short while when you will then have to cross over it at Sancti Michaelis. The path continues parallel to the railway line and goes across a footbridge and up through some woods and passing through the small village of Vilei and eventually after about 4.5 kilometres into the village of Barbedelo.


  The village of Barbadelo has been here since the 10th century and has a 12th century church which has been given national monument status because of its frescoes. It is believed to have originally been part of a monastery that had at one point come under the control of the monastery at Samos. There is a small albergue here run by the Xunta which says it has cooking facilities but there are no utensils. A little further down the hill is the Casa del Carmen that offers accommodation and has dining facilities also.


  Walk through the village and through woods towards the village of Rente which has a private hostal and a couple of bars.


  From Rente follow a tree lined track passing a modern fountain with the water coming from a pilgrim's mouth and through the village of Marzán O Real. Walk through some more woods and through the village of Leimán and on to the village of Peruscallo where you will find a bar with a restaurant.


  The path now goes down a lane through the hamlets of Cortiñas, Lavandeira Casal and Brea.

At Brea you will spot a marker telling you that there are only 100 kilometres left on your journey.


  Continue along the path and into the village of Morgade where you will find a café that offers delicious cakes and accommodation in a private albergue next to the bar.


  Walk through the village past the abandoned chapel and walk down the track up to the villages of Ferreiros and Mirallos. They are very close together and here you can get accommodation at a couple of albergues and a couple of cafés one of which offers a pilgrim menu and is also open for breakfast. The bar restaurant is only open during the summer.


  The path now takes you through the hamlets of Pena and Couto-Rozas, both of which have fountains, then through Pena dos Corvos, Moimentos and Cotarelo Mercadoiro where there is a new albergue with its own café and restaurant.


  Back on the path you will pass through the village of Moutras when the track starts to descend and it is pretty much all downhill until you reach Portomarín. Before we get to Portomarín we will go through the villages of Parrocha and Vilachá soon after which you will spot the Río Miño and the reservoir called Embalse de Belezar. Cross the very high bridge over the Río Miño and into the town of Portomarín.


  The area around Portomarín has been inhabited for many thousands of years as the number of castros in the vicinity testifies. The Romans occupied it and named the area Portumarini but it is said to have been Don Guitierre and the Condesa Dona Ilduana who founded the town of Portomarín in the 10th century. The town was divided into two boroughs on the left bank of the river was San Pedro and on the right bank was San Juan.

With the discovery of the tomb of Saint James the town's importance grew and at one time had 3 orders of knights including the Knights Templar, Knights of Santiago and the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. This will go some way to explaining the castle type architecture of the church of San Nicolás.


  In the 2nd century the Romans built a bridge across the Río Miño which was later to be destroyed by Doña Urraca the Queen of Castilla to prevent her husband's (Alfonso el Batallor) troops from advancing. As we mentioned in an earlier stage they didn't particularly like each other and were at war. 8 years after she destroyed the bridge Doña Urraca ordered a new one to be built and the same builder would later build one of the pilgrim hospitals. If you come on the Camino when the river is low you will be able to see the old bridge next to the new one.


  The town you see before you today dates mostly from the middle of the 20th century with much of the old town now below the waters of the Miño. In the 1950's Franco decided he wanted to build a hydro electric dam 40 kilometres down river and in doing so would flood the town of Portomarín. The townspeople wanted to save some of their most important monuments and transported these stone by stone up to their new home high above the river. The monuments brought here were the churches of San Nicolás and San Pedro and some of the important 16th and 17th century manor houses or Pazos.


  As you first come across the new bridge you come to some steps up to an arch where you will find the Iglesia de Santa Maria de las Nieves, built on the site of a former pilgrim hospital. The staircase is actually the sole remaining part of the original 2nd century Roman bridge which was destroyed by Doña Urraca. Locals believed that the Virgen de las Nieves protected them from drowning and therefore built a shrine to her part way across the old bridge. When the dam was built the shrine was moved along with the span of the old bridge and placed here as the entrance to the new historical centre of Portomarín.


  As you climb the steps you can choose to continue on your way along the Camino by going left or alternatively take a right once through the arch into a park and into the remains of the old town.


  The large square in the centre of town contains most of the historic monuments including the Pazo del Conde da Maza. In front of the Pazo is a statue of Santiago indicating the way to the Camino.


  The 12th century Igrexa de San Nicolás is like many other churches found in towns controlled by Knights, a fortified church. When it was in the original town it was known as the Igrexa de San Xoan (San Juan) and was controlled by the knights of St John of Jerusalem who also controlled the bridge across the Miño and one of the pilgrim hospitals. The church was built by a student of Mateo who created the Pórtico de la Gloria in Santiago Cathedral. If you look closely you may still make out the numbers which were carved into the stone prior to them being brought here from the old town.


  Another of the churches brought from the old town was the Igrexa de San Pedro. This church was built in the 10th century and consecrated in 1182 by the Bishop of Lugo, Rodrigo II. As you will begin to see on your Camino through Galicia this church is built from granite which is abundant in this part of Spain.


  The town has at least 7 albergues to choose from and about 3 hostals. In terms of food there are a number of restaurants, many of which offer a pilgrim menu, and cafés to choose from. If you are running a little low on cash there are also a few cashpoints (ATM's).



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                                                          delhommeb at -  07/01/2014