Day 19 – Ventosa to Nájera

  • Distance today:                      6.6 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017:    125.8 mi

Between Ventosa and Nájera is the village of Alesón where the legendary knight, Roland had camped in July 778 with his knights on his way to Santiago with Charlemagne and the French army. Early the next morning they marched to the Poyo Roldan (Roland’s Hill),

… and marched to Poyo Roldan (hill with tall thin tower), the watchtower for Nájera castle.

which was a large mound serving as a watchtower over the castle of Nájera. The Moors occupied Nájera and had sent the giant, Ferragut, of Syrian origin and 20,000 soldiers from Turkey to fight Charlemagne’s army, who was marching to Santiago and driving the Moors from northern Spain. Ferragut was reportedly a descendent of Goliath (of David and Goliath fame), was 9 feet tall and weighed over 400 pounds. (He was ugly, too!)

Ferragut came out from Nájera into the open field between Poyo Roldan and Nájera, challenging any of the opposition to fight him one-on-one. Many tried and failed. Finally, Roland insisted on having his turn and fought with the giant for three days. In between spurts of fighting the two conversed about their respective faiths, and Ferragut revealed that his one weak place (his Achille’s heel if you will) was his belly button. A final duel ensued, having both agreed that the winner would be the one espousing the true faith. Ferragut tried to fall on Roland to crush him to death, but Roland stabbed him in the belly and won.

The duel lost, the Moors vacated Nájera and moved south, clearing the way for Charlemagne’s army to continue on their way toward Santiago. And Roland became the greatest knight in Christianity.

We must be getting stronger. Maybe not strong enough to take on Ferragut, but today’s walk seemed actually easy. We were pleasantly surprised when we stopped just outside of Nájera (pop. 8144) for our standard breakfast and weren’t really tired from our nearly 7 mile trek.


Waiting at a bar in old Nájera until we can check in to Pencion Calle Mayor.

Pencion Calle Mayor (30€) didn’t open until noon so we explored Nájera a little and hung around a bar with wifi (most every place has wifi, especially bars) and made like efficient pilgrims waiting for their room.

Our twin bed room is small and shares 2 bathrooms with 5 other private rooms and a communal bedroom with 6 twin beds (not bunks).

There is a communal kitchen which is large enough to include a washing machine and racks to dry clothes near several windows. Being the first pilgrims to arrive, we had the bathrooms to ourselves for showers and washing socks and underwear, so we didn’t actually share.

Late afternoon (4:30-5:30) we walked around Nájera and discovered as we often do in Spain, that a meal like dinner, is not offered by restaurants before 8:00 p.m. We finally found a bar and ordered pasta.

Before calling it a day we walked to the Monasterio de Santa María la Real.

According to legend, in 1044 Navarran King Don Garcia III was hunting partridge with a falcon. The two birds entered a cave and the king followed them in and deep inside he found a statue of the Virgin Mary, with a vase of fresh lilies and a burning oil lamp.

He saw this as a blessing on the Reconquista and used some of the money he had plundered from the Moors to build a church around the cave leaving the statue in place. At one point the statue wore a crown of jewels, which were later stolen and divided. The Black Prince Ruby made its way to England’s coronation crown.

The church is also a burial place for Navarran royalty and also contains the remains of monarchs going back to 918 AD.

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