We had spent a week in Burgos and now we were on the road again, travelling from Burgos to Zamora. We were quickly out of the town, driving through hot, flat countryside and wondering how the pilgrims managed to walk here and what they thought about as they covered the miles.
A brief history
On our last visit to Spain we spent a wonderfully memorable week in Leon and intended to visit Sahagun, but the car spent the week in the garage and so this time we decided to stop, albeit briefly. I hadn’t done enough research and the small town proved much richer in history than anticipated.
The Camino in Sahagun
Sahagun is a small town but an important one. It is considered the halfway point on the camino between St Jean Pied de Port and Santiago de Compostelo. It also seems to be the meeting point of three different caminos: the French route and the most popular from St Jean Pied de Port, the route from Madrid, and the route from Santander (camino Lebaniego). However, it seems the last route can be extended to Sahagun.
I think the sanctuary of Saints Facundus and Primitivus was on the site of what became the Royal Monastery of San Benito. Only three parts of the monastery still remain: the archway which was originally the doorway into the church and now stands over a main road, the Chapel of St Mancio (now in ruins but how did I miss it?), and the tower. The monastery was almost completely destroyed during the Peninsular Wars.
Alfonso VI introduced the Cluniac order into Sahagun and the first monks arrived in c.1070-80. He also protected the monastery and promoted the pilgrim routes through the town, which brought prosperity. He died in 1107 and was buried in the Monastery of San Benito which had become the most important and most powerful monastery in mediaeval Spain. Today his remains are safeguarded in the Benedictine Convent on the site of the former monastery.
In 1835 the monastery ended under the edict of Prime Minister Mendizabal which confiscated church property to the state.
The former Church of La Trinidad
This building of the 13th-16th centuries was formerly a church and today has a pilgrim hostel and the tourist office. The Camino Lebaniego from Santander and the main camino meet near the building. Opposite the building an old house gives some idea of what the town might have looked like in the past, with a huge discrepancy between the religious buildings and the homes of ordinary people.
The Church of San Tirso dates from the 12th century and built in the Mudejar style. Sadly photography was not allowed into the building which was housing an exhibition when we visited. Tirso was a Christian who was killed for his faith by the Romans in Turkey in the 3rd century. His relics were eventually taken to Constantinople and he became a cult figure in the Middle Ages in Europe. A rather curious story… We had also seen a Church of San Tirso in Oviedo, next to the cathedral on the cathedral square.
Sanctuary of La Peregrina
This sanctuary was once a Franciscan Friary of the 13th century. It was built by Muslims who were allowed to remain in Spain, alarifes mudéjares.1Pilgrims have their card stamped here.
And then it was time for a little refreshment in the Plaza Mayor. This was one of the few cafes where we were offered free tapas with our drinks (very good sponge cake) – and this was a big change from our previous visit, pre-Covid.
On the road to Zamora
And finally we arrived in Zamora. There were lots of sights I would have like to see but the priority was to get from Burgos to Zamora without bumps, hence the motorway, and in a reasonably quick time. Th motorways in Spain were amazingly good and not too busy, at least not where we were. Once in Zamora we squeezed into the old town, parked outside the front door of the Paradore, unloaded, and the hotel staff put the car in the underground car park where it stayed for the rest of our visit. The view from the room was just stunning, looking over the rooftops and the River Duero.
Travelling from Burgos to Zamora was an easy drive on the motorways but sadly we could not visit all the sights on my list – the priority was to get out of the car as soon as possible. I would have liked to travel cross-country, visiting Uruena and the Nature Reserve of Villafafila – next time!