Covarrubias is about 20 minutes away from Lerma, and lies between Burgos and Santa Domingo de Silos in the valley of the Arlanza River. It is thought El Cid passed this way.
A brief history
Chindasuinth, a Visigothic king, founded the town in the 7th century. It was occupied by the Moors but reconquered in the 9th century.
The town is twinned with Tonsberg in Norway because Princess Christina of Norway, the daughter of Harken IV, travelled here in the 13th century. She married Philip, brother of King Alonso X of Castile but died in Seville only four years later and is buried here in Covarrubias.
The Mediaeval town
The Museum of the Book2 is in the Arch of the Archive and it was fascinating, and quite unexpected. It reminded me of the stunning exhibition we saw in Potes in our pre-Covid trip. There are Mediaeval manuscripts, Egyptian writing tools, and cuneiform. It was fascinating.
Square of Dona Urraca
This is the main square in the town and it is very attractive, overlooked by the watchtower of Fernan Gonzalez. There is a crucifix and a covered fountain, and on our visit it was market day.
Urraca was the daughter of Count Fernan Gonzalez (910-970).
Collegiate Church of St Cosme and St Damian
This church, which dates from 1474, has an interesting interior, with paintings and graves. But sadly it was firmly closed.
The Church of St Thomas dates from the 15th century and hides away in the back streets of the town. It too was firmly closed.
Walking around Covarrubias
The town is quite small and it is easy to stroll up and down the streets. The houses are quite distinctive with stone bases and white walls with black beams above. Sometimes the upper floors extend over the ground floor, creating a butterwalk. And the rubbish bins look like small houses!
Covarrubias’ walls were demolished in the 16th century on the advice of King Philip II’s doctor. He believed the town needed fresh air to deal with the plague. The house are very close together so while this may not have been a cure for the plague it was probably a good idea to let in fresh air!
After exploring the town we climbed up into the hills (in the car!) towards Mercerreyes to look for a Hermitage. But it was probably down a dirt road which is a no-no for me and instead we enjoyed an upland area of grassland, probably cereal crops and sunflowers. With wide-reaching views it was very beautiful and very different from the valley below.
And up here we found a statue of El Cid whose birthplace we had visited previously at Vivar del Cid. The Camino del Cid is a tourist/historical route which attempts to trace his route to Valencia – it might be fun to retrace it…!3
Covarrubias was a fascinating visit but we weren’t ready to return to Lerma. So we decided to drive on to San Pedro de Arlanza, even though the Abbey would be closed.
- Count Fernan Gonzalez: https://www.condadodecastilla.es/personajes/fernan-gonzalez/ ↩︎
- Museum of the Book, Covarrubias: https://museosvivos.com/en/museo-del-libro-en-covarrubias/ ↩︎
- The Camino del Cid: https://www.caminodelcid.org/rutas/el-destierro-cicloturismo-516118/ ↩︎