Those pilgrims arriving to Mansilla via the original French route (not the Via Trajana) will access the monumental centre through one of four ancient arches of its ancient wall. Known as Puerta del Castillo, situated to the southeast, it still preserves its original, lateral stonewall. The walls, the greatest example of medieval fortification in the province of León date back to the XII century, the period, in which Fernando II repopulated the town.
Every forty metres there were watchtowers that connected the walls, now disappeared. Remains of the fortification include large fragments of the wall and several battlement towers. Next to Puerta del Castillo there is a monument to the pilgrims, erected on the site to identify Mansilla as a junction of Camino routes.
Following a short stop, the Jacobean route continues, shortly after along Calle La Tenada and approaches one of the main monuments of the centre, the parish church of Santa María (XVIII century), the first temple that existed in Mansilla until 1220, after this year five other churches were constructed which, gradual disappeared in later centuries. The current building of the eighteenth century was constructed on the site of the original temple and is of the same period, its main altarpiece is of baroque style.
The route then reaches the Plaza del Pozo, where it unites the variant route from Via Trajana, which, arrived to the historical enclave through the Puerta de la Concepción- also known as Santa María-the gate entrance in the wall, which has been maintained in the best condition. Constructed from masonry, it has a pointed arch and is almost completely preserved.
Now with both variants joined the walkers overlook the Plaza del Pozo, which houses the town hall and several houses with porches. This typical architecture is also visible in the Plaza del Grano and in the Plaza de la Leña. Immediately afterwards, travellers move towards the exit of the enclave. On the right hand side they leave the Casa de Cultura San Martín (XIII century), a branch of the Association of Friends of the Camino of Santiago in Mansilla, and on the left the convent of San Agustín, which in the Middle Ages became a cultural centre for the first order of the chairs of grammar and Latin and contained an important archive and library, which was destroyed in 1808 by the French.
In its cornices visitors can appreciate shields, shells and the Cross of Santiago, signs of the importance it came to have as a stopping place for walkers. Currently it houses an ethnographic museum, with more than 3,000 pieces. It opens between November and March, on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10.00 to 14.00 and from 16.00 to 19.00 and, from April to October, Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00 to 14.00 and from 17.00 to 20.00. General admission costs 3 euros.
A monument, situated at the outskirts of the enclave but that is frequently visited is the Shrine of la Virgin de Gracia, a temple that houses the image of the patron saint of Mansilla, venerated in the area. It was built in 1220 and was closed for worship in 1787. In the XV century it was accompanied by the hospital of San Lazaro to accommodate pilgrims.
The walkers leave Mansilla via the bridge over the river Esla, a medieval construction from the XII century, restored in 1573. It consists of eight barrelled vaults and has a length of 141 meters. For those who want to see a great view over the river, before crossing should turn right, towards El Postigo, a small back door in the wall, from there they can appreciate a great landscape.
All those pilgrims who arrive early in the day to Mansilla and want to take advantage of the afternoon to see something in the surrounding area, there are two cultural visits that they may find suitable. However, given the distance involved, it is advisable, except for cyclists, to travel there by taxi. One of the visits is to the Cistercian monastery of Santa María de Sandoval, close to the rivers Esla and Porma, its construction began in the XII century. It Retains elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Arabic architecture, a large central cloister, and on one side a church. It is possible to visit the remains, although it is necessary to ask for the key from Mrs Munda who lives in its vicinity.
The most recommended visit is, however, the Monastery of San Miguel de la Escalada, located more than 12.5 kilometres from Mansilla. Founded in the late IX century, of Moorish-style, it is built on a Visigoth church with a portico of twelve horseshoe arches.
The arched door opens at the eastern end of the gallery and leads to the chapel of San Fructuoso. It opens between October and March, Wednesday to Saturday from 10.40 to 14.00 and from 15.00 to 17.50 hours and on Sundays from 10.40 to 14.00. From April to September, Wednesday to Saturday from 10.15 to 14.00 and from 16.30 to 20.00 and Sunday from 10.15 to 14.00.
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© Copyright LA VOZ DE GALICIA S.A. Polígono de Sabón, Arteixo, A CORUÑA (ESPAÑA) Inscrita en el Registro Mercantil de A Coruña en el Tomo 2438 del Archivo, Sección General, a los folios 91 y siguientes, hoja C-2141. CIF: A-15000649