Astorga, the old Asturica Augustea, was established as a Roman city and two important roads cross here – the Ruta de la Plata and the Camino de Santiago. The Ruta de la Plata was the road used to transport mined goods from the north (Gijon) to the ports in the south of the country (Seville), and pilgrims are still passing through the town!
Like most of the churches I have seen the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Astorga, which was started in 1471, was built on the site of an earlier Romanesque church.
The Church of Santa Marta, the Parish Church of Astorga, sits alongside the Cathedral and the small building next to the church is the Celda de las Emparedadas. In the Middle Ages there were apparently women, in an extreme expression of religious fervour, who walled themselves up in this cell and who only communicated with the Church through another small window.
The Episcopal Palace close to the Cathedral was designed by Antoni Gaudi and houses a museum about the Camino which we did not visit.
We walked down to the Plaza Mayor, once the site of the Roman Forum and where I set off on a short exploration in the surrounding streets.
The Church of San Bartolomé is the oldest church in the town, dating from the 11C and altered in subsequent years, but sadly was closed.
The Roman Museum is at the opposite end of the Plaza of San Bartolomé and round the corner you can see the remains of a Roman mansion. Several Roman remains can still be found in the city (baths, mansions, and part of the sewerage system).
Next to the Roman remains is the Church of San Francisco with the adjacent Chapel of Santa Vera Cruz. Astorga is a walled city and the Puerta del Sol is the main gate through the Roman Walls and the entry/exit of the Camino.
Opposite the Puerta del Sol is the Aljibe Park which leads to the Gardens of the Synagogue along the walls. There was a thriving Jewish community in Astorga until the Jews were expelled from Spain c.1490
Here you find the Church of St Julian whose columns at the doorway look very old – I wonder if this was the site of a Romanesque, or Pre-Romanesque building?
And that brought the brief visit to Astorga to a close!