de Santiago / French Way : 12. San Juan de Ortega - Burgos
San Juan de Ortega there are two routes
but the other, passing through the
villages of Santovenia de Oca, Zalduendo, Ibeas
de Juarros, Castrillo del Val, San Medel, Castañares,
Villayuda, is hardly used therefore,
is the standard route towards Burgos.
leaving San Juan de Ortega you head past
the church and walk down the Barrio de Colinas,
takeing a right turn towards the way marked track
through the pine woods. Not long out of the town
you pass over a couple of cattle grids, through
some open fields coming eventually to a large wooden
cross. At this point keep well left, this path will
take you through a small gate and down a dirt track
towards the village of Agés.
are 3 refugios/hostels in Agés. The Hostel San Rafael
has a café and restaurant, and for those of you
who wish it, internet access. One of the other hostels,
Casa Caracol, which can be found on the Calle la
Iglesia is supposedly to be one of the gems of the
Camino. Also in Agés you will find a sign which
lets you know that you still have 518 kilometres
to go before you reach Santiago.
most dominant monument in the village is the 16th
century Iglesia de Santa Eulalia. It is here
that the remains of King Garcia de Navarre were
originally entombed before eventually being moved
to the Pantéon Real in the Iglesia María de Real
in Nájera. King Garcia had been the ruler of the
kingdom of Navarre and his brother King Ferdinand
I was ruler of the kingdom of Castilla y Leon. The
kingdoms had at one time been part of the empire
of King Sancho III of Navarre, their father, upon
the king's death they were divided between the two
brothers. Unfortunately, as has so often happened
in history, one brother, King Garcia, being jealous
of his sibling decided to go to war against his
brother King Ferdinand. Unfortunately this resulted
in his death in 1054 at the battle of Atapuerca.
leave Agés walk down the main street past
the fountain on the right and follow the street
out of the village and down the road for approximately
2.5 kilometres until you reach the next village,
Atapuerca. On the road between Agés and Atapuerca
you will come across a 2 metre high standing stone
which marks the spot where the armies of King Garcia
of Navarra and King Ferdinand of Castile met. The
words inscribed on the stone are Fin de Rey - Garcia
de Najera 1054. In English this translates to “end
of the king - Garcia de Najera 1054.
is not a large village, having around 230 inhabitants,
but it has an impressive church, la Iglesia de San
Martín which overlooks the village from a small
hill. Atapuerca was once known as one of the first
villages to have been wrested back from the Moors
(muslims) during the Reconquista.
in the 20th century Atapuerca became world famous
for the discovery of the most important archaeological
site ever to be found, situated in the Sierra de
Atapuerca hills some 3 kilometres from the village.
The on-going archaeological dig was declared
a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2000. The site
was originally discovered in the 1960's during the
construction of a railway. However, since the 1980's
the remains of more than 32 individuals have been
found in La Sima de los Huesos, or the pit of bones.
Most of the bones found here are over 300,000 years
old. In 1994, during excavations of an old railway
cutting in Trinchera Dolina, close to Atapuerca,
more bones were discovered. These were found to
be over 800,000 years old thus making them the oldest
Europeans and the discovery of the Atapuerca Man.
of the items found during the various digs are to
be found either on display in the Museo de Burgos
or in the Museo de Ibeas in the village of Ibeas
de Juarros near Atapuerca. Visits to the site can
also be arranged. A worthwhile website to look at
before you go is www.atapuerca.net that has information
in English. However the main information site is
www.visitasatapuerca.com, which unfortunately is
only in Spanish. This does contain information on
visiting times and fees.
you wish to stay in Atapuerca there are 2 Albergues
and a hostel. There are also 2 bars, one with a
restaurant, a café and bakery.
leave Atapuerca walk through the village
and just after the second bar and bakery take a
left turn past the fountain
and following a line of fencing on your left hand
side up towards another cross. The path continues
across open heathland and as the path begins to
descend you will see the City of Burgos ahead. Keep
walking straight on passing some TV antennae and
a quarry. Soon after passing the quarry the path
starts to descend and you come to a fork in the
this point take the right hand fork and then turn
right onto a minor road which leads you into the
small hamlet of Villaval. This route is slightly
longer but it takes you through some beautiful villages.
The other route takes you mainly through stony pasture.
through Villaval keeping to the road until after
about 2 kilometres you come across the village of
Cardeñuela Riopico. There is a small municipal
Albergue here, the keys of which can be found either
in the town hall or at the bar La Parada.
road continues down towards Orbaneja Riopico
where you meet up with the alternative route. About
1 kilometre away from the village you will come
to a bridge over the A1 motorway. At this stage
you are faced with 2 options for entering Burgos,
both routes are clearly marked.
The original or
historic route takes you through Villafria an industrialised
area which follows the very busy and noisy main
road into Burgos. This is apparently the worst part
of the whole Camino.
The other, quieter route follows
the river. It's slightly longer but is a much safer
way to enter Burgos via Castañares, one of the suburbs.
We will detail both options below and it is then
up to you which route you take. A third option is
to take the Number 8 bus from Villafria into the
centre of Burgos, but then that would be cheating.
route through Villafria
the bridge over the motorway and follow the road
for about 2 kilometres until you come to the railway
line which runs parallel to the road. The road bends
and you will see a rubbish tip on your left and
a bridge over the railway. Cross the bridge and
from here you can either follow the road until it
joins the N1 or take a slight detour to visit la
Iglesia de Villafria with its resident storks.
There are a couple of bars near the church should
you wish to have a drink.
back to the main road follow the N1 towards Burgos
and after about 4 to 5 kilometres you come to a
large crossing and at this point the road becomes
Calle Vitoria. A little further on you come to another
junction which is signposted right towards Santander,
left to go to Madrid and the centre towards Burgos
city centre. At this point we would recommend that
you continue down Calle Vitoria but taking the shaded
road running parallel to it on your left which takes
you along the river and down the Avenida General
Sanjurio. Eventually this road leads you to the
pedestrianised area known as Paseo de Espolón in
the city centre close to the cathedral.
alternative route through Castañares
you have crossed the bridge over the A1 motorway
turn left past the former barracks, then take a
right onto a track through some wheat fields and
waste ground. The path is way marked but because
the authorities have had no option but to paint
them on the ground they may be difficult to see.
As an alternative guide look out for 2 large chimneys
in the distance. One is coloured red and the other
white, the spire of the cathedral can be seen behind
them to the left. After about 3 kilometres you pass
through Casteñares and will soon meet up
with the route that came from San Juan de Ortega.
Two options: Follow Calle Vitoria, down the Avenida
General Sanjurio and into the pedestrianised area
of Paseo de Espolón towards the cathedral. Or better:
crossing the Río Arlanzón and by the left bank through
city map (Rabe) -
is a place that is worth spending a whole day in
if not longer. If you are a lover of architecture
or of history you will find something to suit your
taste here. There are around 75 monuments in Burgos
with the Monasterio de Santa Maria la Real de las
Huelgas, the Cartuja de Santa Maria de Miraflores
and the Catedral de Santa Maria, Burgos all well
worth a visit. If you take into account the Atapuerca
Man, who at over 800,000 years old is considered
to be the oldest European, then Burgos could technically
be considered the oldest city in Europe. The city's
actual foundation comes some time in the late 9th
century around the time of the Reconquista, becoming
the capital of Castilla y Leon during the 11th century.
Burgos flourished through the export of wool to
Flanders during the 15th and 16th centuries however,
by the 17th century this was in decline, primarily
due to the political strife in Flanders and other
towns and cities also exporting wool. As its fortunes
declined Burgos settled into the role of provincial
capital. Burgos has been on the pilgrim route from
the very beginning and as I've said earlier it is
a place well worth spending a day, if not more in
before you start on your next stretch of the journey
through the flat plains of the Meseta.
old part of the city with the remains of the old
castle looking down onto the Gothic Catedral
de Santa Maria, declared a World Heritage Site
in 1984 and the impressive gateways leading into
it from the river are well worth seeing. People
who visit Burgos without doubt visit the cathedral.
The building of the cathedral was commissioned
in the 11th century by the then King Fernando III
and his German wife Beatrice of Swabia. The building
of the cathedral was overseen by the English born
Bishop Don Mauricio. The towers which dominate the
skyline were designed and built by Hans of Cologne,
bearing more than a passing resemblance to the great
cathedral in Cologne. Many of the sculptures within
the cathedral can be attributed to the father and
son team of Gil and Diego de Siloé, natives of Burgos.
cathedral is vast with a number of different chapels
but perhaps one of the most interesting is the Capilla
de Santisimo Cristo de Burgos. Here, behind
a pane of glass can be found the figure of a crucified
Christ dating back to the 14th century. Nothing
unusual in that, however this wooden figure is entirely
covered in buffalo hide. It also appears to have
a full head of real hair and is wearing a skirt.
The arms and legs are also moveable. Directly opposite
this chapel above the Capilla de Santa Tecla you
will find another strange sight, that of Papamoscas.
This is an automaton above a clock which opens and
closes its mouth and strikes a bell on the hour,
every hour. Also within the cathedral are buried
the remains of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, better
known worldwide as El Cid, and his wife Doña Jimena.
Their burial place, surprisingly, is marked
simply by a paving slab.
you came into the city, if you followed the route
down the Avenida General Sanjurio you will have
probably already entered the old town across one
of the two main bridges. The more eastern of the
two, known as the Puente de San Pablo is guarded
by an imposing statue of El Cid. The other
bridge is the Puente de Santa Maria dominated by
the magnificent Arco de Santa Maria, one
of the original archways of the city's ancient walls.
If you have an interest in Christopher Columbus
make your way to the Casa de los Condestables.
It is said that the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand
and Isabella received Columbus in one of the halls
here after he returned from his second journey to
the new world.
those of you who may have an interest in the Spanish
civil war you may be interested in visiting the
neo-gothic building called la Capitania.
This building, still used by the army today, was
used as the headquarters for the Nationalist Junta
during the civil war and the façade still bears
plaques to the memory of Generals Franco and Mola.
leaving the old quarter there are a couple of religious
buildings of particular merit that should be visited.
first is the Monasterio de las Huelgas which
is about 20 minutes walk from the old town. The
monastery, founded by Eleanor wife of King Alfonso
VIII of Spain and the daughter of English monarch
Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, is still
home to around 40 Cistercian nuns. Las Huelgas literally
translated means “the reposes”
and it was once a favourite place of retreat for
the Castilian monarchs. The church was partitioned
in the 16th century and a moving pulpit installed
that would allow the Priest to address both the
nuns and the general congregation at the same time.
Also in the church you will find an unusual statue
of Santiago holding a sword. You might say that
there is nothing really unusual in that as there
are hundreds of statues of Santiago as Santiago
Matamoros depicting him with a sword in hand. The
unusual thing about this statue is that the arms
move. It is said that the statue was used in the
coronation ceremonies of the Castilian kings. The
coronation ceremony of the Castilian monarchs would
involve them being knighted. Obviously, already
being of the highest rank in the land there was
no-one who could knight them, who better than the
patron saint of Spain to perform this deed. Therefore
statues of Santiago were made with moveable arms
in order that they could be used to knight the monarchs.
the nun's side of the partition is the royal pantheon
where you will find the ornate tombs of King
Alfonso VIII and his wife Eleanor showing the
heraldic arms of Castilla and England, King Enrique
I and his wife Doña Berenguela, along with a number
of other members of the Castilian royal family.
Also in the grounds of the monastery can be found
the Museo de Ricas Telas. This museum displays the
remarkably well preserved clothing and jewellery
found within the tombs when they were opened in
other monastery to visit is the Cartuja de Santa
Maria de Miraflores. You can walk there but
it takes around an hour from the centre of town
and as you have already walked several kilometres
it is recommended that you take a bus. The monastery
was built on the site of a former hunting lodge
used by King Enrique III. After his death his son
King Juan II de Castilla decided to donate the lodge
to a Franciscan order but it was a Carthusian community
which eventually established itself here. Unfortunately
in 1442 the building was destroyed by fire. The
King ordered that it should be rebuilt but regrettably
did not live to see it completed, dying in 1454.
The King's daughter Isabella, who was to become
one of Spain's most revered monarchs Reina Isabel
la Catolica, took over the building project. Like
the cathedral in Burgos, this building was designed
in part by Hans of Cologne. There is another link
to the cathedral to be found in the church, the
elaborate star shaped tomb of King Juan of Castile
and his wife Isabel of Portugal. The tomb was
commissioned by their daughter Isabel and was carved
by Gil Siloé. Also lying close by is the tomb of
Alonso XII, Queen Isabel's brother, the heir to
the throne, who died at the tender age of 14. His
tomb was also carved by Gil Siloé.
mentioned before Burgos' most famous son Rodrigo
Diaz de Vivar, known the world over as El Cid, a
name he never used in life, is buried within the
cathedral. However, his horse Babieca is entombed
in the Monasterio de San Pedro de Cardeña about
10 kilometres outside the city. This monastery is
also where El Cid and his wife Jimena had originally
been buried. Unfortunately during the Napoleonic
wars their bones were stolen and taken to France.
There is an ornate tomb in the 15th century church
marking the spot were they had been buried. The
bones were later reclaimed from the French and were
interred in 1927 in the cathedral.
of us will have at some time or other seen the 1961
film El Cid starring Charlton Heston as El Cid and
Sophia Loren as his wife Jimena. This film immortalises
him as one of the great heroes of Spain but in reality
this is only partly true. Born Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar
in 1043 he became friends with King Sancho II of
Leon y Castilla, serving him until the King's assassination
in 1072. He then served King Alfonso VI as a general
but the relationship was not a happy one.
begin with Rodrigo believed Alfonso to have had
a part in the previous king's assassination and
made the king swear, before god, that he had nothing
to do with the death of his brother at the church
of Santa Gadea in Burgos. Their initial friendship
ended when the king banished him following the battle
of Cabra near Toledo. The king believed Rodrigo
had taken it upon himself to attack the muslim stronghold,
when actually he was defending himself. Whilst in
exile Rodrigo became somewhat of a mercenary, fighting
for the man who would pay the highest price. This
included fighting for the muslim army with Almutamán,
king of Zaragoza. He was eventually reconciled with
King Alfonso VI in 1086 when the King sent him to
protect the Castilian interests on
the east coast around Valencia. This was around
the time that the Almoravid invasion was beginning.
With a combined Moorish and Christian army Rodrigo
lay siege to Valencia in 1093, first in the July
and August and then
again at the end of the year, with the city finally
surrendering to Rodrigo in June of 1094. It is also
believed that it is around this time that Rodrigo
receives the Arab title of Sidi (my lord) which
subsequently becomes El Cid. The Almoravid army,
angry at having lost Valencia to the Christians
continued to apply pressure resulting in numerous
battles, most of which were won by El Cid.
is now where the story of El Cid is mixed with fact
and fiction. If you believe the story given in the
film, the Almoravids
again besiege the city of Valencia and it is during
one of the skirmishes that El Cid receives a fatal
by an arrow piercing his heart. Upon hearing that
their hero has been wounded the Valencian troop's
morale drops so despite dying during the night,
the following morning Doña Jimena orders that El
Cid be strapped to his horse Babieca to lead his
troops to battle. That way morale would improve
as the troops believed that he still lived.
story tells that he actually died of natural causes.
I know which one I would like to believe. Either
way Valencia was taken by the Almoravids in 1102
but before the city was taken, Jimena with the help
of Alfonso VII, abandoned the city along with her
family and followers of El Cid. They took Rodrigo's
mortal remains along
with them to be buried, along with his horse, in
the grounds of the Monasterio de San Pedro de Cardeña.
you really want to explore the city in some depth
the tourist office can be found close to the cathedral.
Like any large city there will be plenty of hotels,
hostels, pensiones and albergues to choose from
dependant upon your budget. There are also a large
number of restuarants, bars, cafés etc.
à CF description
at wanadoo.fr - 13/01/2014