Day 45- Villares de Órbigo to Astorga

  • Distance today:                        9.1 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017:     329.6 mi

Today we left the meseta and begin to walk among rolling hills with more green trees and even mountains came into view, previewing the nature of our challenges for the coming days.

After walking for 6 miles in our new terrain and just outside San Justo de la Vega, we stopped at the Crucero de Santo Toribio. It is named for the 5th-century bishop of Astorga who was said to have fallen to his knees in despair at this spot, after being banished from his beloved city. We haven’t been able to determine why he was banished, but you’ll be the first to know if we find out. One clue is that he became a saint immediately after his death.

From the Crucero, we could see the spires of the Astorga Catedral.

We left the rolling hills and packed clay path and walked onto the sidewalks of San Justo and on into Astorga, after crossing the railroad tracks via another high, zig-zag pedestrian bridge.

The final climb up a very steep hill into Astorga old city was tough, especially at the end of a 9+ mile walk.

The Tuesday market completely jammed our walk from the Plaza San Francisco with a display of excavated Roman ruins

all the way to Plaza del Eduardo Castro.

The Gaudi Hotel (65€) was located directly across the plaza from Palacio de Gaudi and diagonally across from the 15th century Santa María Catedral.

The Palacio de Gaudí, was a palace for Archbishop Juan Bautista Grau Villespinós until his death. It sat empty until serving as a military headquarters for the Falange movement. In 1963, it became a Camino Museum.

The Santa María Catedral was impressive and imposingly huge in the relatively small space it occupied on the plaza. Later in the day when it was open for visitors we took a tour inside.

Astorga, (pop 12,078), first a Celtic settlement, developed into an important Roman city at the crossroads of the Via Trajana and the Vía de la Plata, as well as an important center for Christianity. According to legend, both St. James and St. Paul preached here. The bishopric of Astorga was one of the earliest Christian titles. The city passed to the Visigoths in the 5th century and was destroyed by the Muslims in 714, then reconquered by Ordoño I in the mid-9th century. After León was destroyed by Al-Mansur’s army, Astorga acted as the capital of the kingdom. The city flourished with the pilgrim trade and housed 21 pilgrim hospitals, the second most on the Camino Francés (after Burgos). One of these hosted Saint Francis of Assisi on his pilgrimage in 1214.

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