In the 12C the Benedictine Monks built a Monastery in Villafranca with an attached hostel. Here they housed and cared for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Nothing remains of this first church which gradually declined as pilgrims dwindled from the 14C onwards.
Today’s church, the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria, started building in 1529, commissioned by the second Marquis of Villafranca, Pedro de Toledo.
The Church interior is very grand indeed, and feels rather too small – I wonder if the building was originally planned to be longer? It was quite dark inside and tripods are not allowed so please forgive the graininess of the photographs.
Someone was sitting at a small table in this side aisle (below), just inside the main door, and stamping the pilgrims’ passports. There was a regular flow of these pilgrims each time I visited the Church.
The altarpieces in the church are rich and ornate, but sometimes it is the simplest icons which are the most arresting.
I loved the atmosphere in the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria in Villafranca and visited several times, sometimes just to sit and enjoy the quietness.