Santo Domingo de la Calzada


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What to see in Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Santo Domingo de La Calzada ©Panoramio Bach Quatre Bach Quatre

Santo Domingo de La Calzada ©Panoramio Bach Quatre Bach Quatre

The pilgrims will wait until arriving to the Calle Mayor to see the majority of monuments of this enclave. After the first few meters they will arrive at some hotels that occupy historic buildings and various noble houses, the walkers will approach a junction with Calle de las Monjas where the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation is situated.

This is a Cistercian Abbey, which conserves a large Baroque altarpiece with a pretty Annunciation. Hikers can visit the church and see the alabaster tomb of three bishops, among which is that of Pedro Manso from Zuniga, the Bishop of Calahorra and La Calzada, the founder of this monastery. After reaching Plaza de la Alameda, the pilgrims can see the Casa de la Confrada del Santo, the seat of the oldest brotherhood on the Camino, founded by Santo Dominic in the XI century.

Today, in addition to preserving the memory of the saint and traditions associated to him, it has pilgrim hostel, which has its own museum, including paintings, documents, photographs and books relating to the saint and the Jacobean pilgramage. Within the enclosure they also breed roosters and chickens, which are then moved to the cathedral. They are replaced every 15 days. On arriving to the Plaza del Santo, the heart of the ancient city, where the majority of institutions of the enclave are located, the hikers can contemplate the Torre Exenta, the baroque tower of the cathedral, which is separated from the rest of the building.

The first temple was constructed in the XII-XIII century but was destroyed by lightning in 1450, while the second had to be removed due to foundation problems. To prevent underground water currents this was built (between 1762 and 1767) on a hard compact mass of concrete. With nearly 70 meters in height, it is the tallest in La Rioja. From this height there are magnificent views of the enclave and the surrounding area.

Visiting hours are from Monday to Friday from 09.00 to 20.30 or 21.00 hours, on Saturdays and Sundays from 09.00 to 19.10 hours. In front of the tower, at the other side of the square lies the current Parador "Santo Domingo de la Calzada" the hotel occupies a former hospital for pilgrims from the XIV century, originally constructed by Santa Domingo de la Calzada. It remained active as a hostel for pilgrims until 1965. Of Basilica layout with three naves, the main facade preserves a door from the XV century and, next to it, on the left, a large window from the XVIII century. In the centre there is an area with the image of Santo Domingos de la Calzada. In the courtyard part of the old well built by the saint is conserved.

On the left, but still in the square of the saint, they reach the Cathedral, a typical pilgrimage church with a Latin cross layout, three naves and an ambulatory. Its construction began in 1158 to hold the remains of Santo Domingo, originally designed by the maestro Garcion, possibly of French origin. The master planned a great, late Romanic temple, designed in line with the importance of place, and which still retains important vestiges and original design features of the temple.

With regard to architectural gems, inside the temple visitors will find the chorus area, a great plateresque piece from the 1520, and the main altarpiece by Damián Forment, a jewel of Spanish Renaissance sculpture. Despite previously being located in the main chapel, since its restoration in 1994 it was moved to a side temple. Other highlights include the many pagan and mythological motifs located between the floors.

Undoubtedly one of the most popular works of the temple is the mausoleum of Saint Dominic. According to tradition it was the saint himself who prepared the tomb at the entrance to the temple, outside the original church, it no longer exists. After the construction of the cathedral, the tomb moved inside.

The monument reflects several styles, (Romanesque, Gothic and late Gothic) possibly the result of the union of the three different graves. Below this space there is a crypt, which houses the relics. On the tomb of the saint is the sickle tool used by Santo Domingo to maintain the Camino and which is associated to another legend, the "miracle of the sickle." The saint proposed to locals residents that the oaks should only be cut using a simple sickle, normally used to reap wheat.

The neighbours agreed, amused until they witnessed the ease with which the sickle felled all kinds of trees ... In front of the mausoleum is the Gothic chicken coop of polychrome stone, built in the mid-fifteenth century and which houses a living rooster and a hen in commemoration of the miracle of the hanged pilgrim, one of the most widespread Jacobean legends throughout the Middle Ages.  

Tradition recalls how a German couple on the pilgrimage to Santiago with their son. On reaching Santo Domingo they stayed at an inn. The innkeeper's daughter fell in love with the young man but the feeling was not reciprocated and in revenge she hid a tin jug among the Germans luggage. On the pilgrims departure from the centre the girl reported the robbery, leading to the capture of the boy, who was accused of theft and sentenced to hanging.

His parents continued their pilgrimage and, on their return stopped to see the body of their son, to discover, surprisingly that he was still hanging but alive. Popular memory claims that the young man told them that it had been Santo Domingo who had helped him to stay alive while others claimed that it was the prayers of the parents for a saint to keep him alive by holding him from below. In any case the parents immediately went to the mayor to tell him about the miracle, he was sceptical and assured them that their son was as alive as the roasted rooster and hen he was about to eat. Immediately the feathers of birds returned and they came to life, confirming the prodigy and that gave rise to the famous saying: "Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where the chicken sang after being roasted."

  The presence of live animals in the temple has been documented since 1350. Currently the rooster and hen are changed every fifteen days. The eggs laid by the hen are for the sick people of the enclave. No wonder they sing in the middle of the chicken coops, this serves to distinguish the locals from the tourists and pilgrims, the resident do not turn around, while the pilgrims and tourists, surprised, turn around. Below the henhouse there are some gaps, forged over centuries by the pilgrims whom, with their staffs attempt to startle the birds in order to take a feather.

Visiting hours for the cathedral are Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 20.30, On Saturdays from 09.00 to 19.10 hours and on Sundays from 09.00 to 12.20 and 13.45 to 19.10 hours. The price for the pilgrim credential is 3 euros. There are different types of guided tours and one of them is held on Friday and Saturday nights. They need to book an appointment in advance. For more information call: 941340033 / or  

Behind the temple hikers can approach the Plaza Mayor, where they will find the town hall and the granary. Also a little further away from the pilgrim route the medieval walls of the enclave are located. At present twelve towers are preserved, pieces of the medieval wall, several doors and a section of the original wall from the XIII century. After passing a number of noble houses the Jacobean route abandons the Calle Mayor and proceeds down the Calles R and Palomarejos, leaving on the left, next to the Plaza de San Francisco, the convent of San Francisco, of Herrera style, currently, it is the second Parador of the enclave.  

The walkers exit the enclave via Santo Domingo Bridge, it spans over the river Oja (from which the name of La Rioja derives), built in the XVIII century to replace the original bridge built by Saint Dominic in the XI century. Next to the bridge is the neo-Romanesque bridge chapel, built from masonry and brick and constructed in 1917 in honour of the saint of the Camino.

Points of interest of Santo Domingo de la Calzada (3)


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