It was a long day on the road from Lerma to Soria! The weather was good, the road was smooth and it was only a half-hour drive through farmland and gently undulating countryside to our first stop. And there were always mountains or trees – pines, holm oaks and poplars.
Santo Domingo de Silos
The original monastery dates from the 7th century but what we find today is an 11th century working Benedictine monastery. It is a vast, walled complex of church, two cloisters, museum and monastery buildings. St Dominic of Silos was an 11th century saint and the patron saint of shepherds, pregnant women (!) and prisoners.
The church was open and as we pushed open the second door and edged into the gloom this is what we found. We sat quietly for quite a long time in the enveloping peace; those moments will stay with me.
A ticket then gives entry into the two-storey cloister attached to the church, and it too is breathtaking. I have seen many cloisters in Europe but I have never seen such beautiful and detailed capitals on the columns. It is the kind of site where you want to return with a camera at different times of the day, in different lights.
The floor is inlaid with patterns of stones and there are carvings on the columns and tombs.
The monastery has an infirmary, of course, and a fishpond just outside the door, but inside the walls of the town.
From Santo Domingo we drove on to San Leonardo de Yague and then cross-country to Calatanazor. The road took us through limestone gorges and thick pine forests with an undergrowth of purple heathers.
We wanted to see Calatanazor1, a small walled village on a hilltop frozen in time amid gorges. The name is Arabic, Qal’at an-Nusur, and means the ‘citadel of vultures’ and we had seen many of those, wheeling the skies above us. The village dates from the 12th century and it certainly feels very old.
‘It is said that Almanzor, a military leader of Al-Andalus and chancellor of the Caliphate of Córdoba (de facto leader of Arabic Iberia) lost a battle in this town that shifted the balance in the war between Christians and Muslims. This was the beginning of the end of the Islam in the Iberian peninsula. The town proudly tell the rime “En Calatañazor perdió Almanzor el tambor” (In Calatañazor Almanzor lost his drum).‘2
However, this may not be entirely true. Al-Manzor died here, but it is suggested defeat in battle may be propaganda…
And finally we could see Soria where we knew we would have a warm welcome – a good feeling!
It was a good day, the road from Lerma to Soria, and we knew that our time time in this sympathetic town would be rewarding.