Downstairs, I opened the door and looked outside. The weather was worse than when I first woke up. It was cold, windy, and pouring, and I really didn’t want to go out. As I closed the door, a smiling, older German woman came down the stairs and asked how the weather was. I said, “Sunny and warm with a slight chance of showers.” Obviously, she hadn’t looked outside yet, and her face brightened with a big smile. Then I opened the door to show her it was a disgusting day. I don’t think she was impressed with me or the weather…. From Page 75, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days.
On my last post, On The Camino de Santiago in Spain, Logroño To Ventosa, I left Logroño along a paved path to the reservoir, Pantano de la Grajera, where I stopped for a break before continuing through vinyards and farmland all the way to Ventosa. Except for a small climb to the alto above the reservoir, the walking is fairly easy, but be ready for many short ups and downs. Now, I’ll continue with my journey on the Camino de Santiago in Ventosa, La Rioja. Even if you don’t have my book, you can still enjoy this post, and learn more about walking the French Way or Camino Francés (map from Wikipedia Commons).
I had arrived to Ventosa on a cold evening with showers. I left the next morning to pouring rain and a harsh wind blowing into me. The landscape west of Ventosa was mostly farmland and vineyards, with scrubby hills.
As an experiment, I bought a flimsy poncho for extra protection from the weather, but soon realized it wouldn’t work, as the material flapped and pulled all over with the wind. A kind woman took this photo, just before I ditched the new poncho, and put on my pack cover and rain jacket.
I’m sure on a pleasant day, the view from this spot would have been much better. However, this was not a pleasant day at all.
Long stretches of the path had horrible mud, and I especially had to take care on the hills. When walking in inclement weather, even the gentlest of slopes could lead to nasty falls.
Ruins of the medieval Monastery of San Antón. The alto was covered in fog.
After the descent, the gentle walk on a path leading alongside more farmland and vineyards.
From a village just before Nájera: In the distance, the hills covered with snow.
Crossing over the Río Nájerilla, with the old city of Nájera just ahead. Nájera was founded by the Romans, but its name is Arabic for “between the cliffs” or “between the rocks.” The town was under Muslim control for many years before being reconquered in 923. Although it’s difficult to see, the ruins of a castle are on top of the hill.
The most prominent feature entering Nájera were these towering red cliffs.
Ruins outside the Monasterio de Santa María la Real.
Although the exterior of the Monasterio de Santa María la Real was rather plain, the interior was truly beautiful. In their book, The Pilgrimage Road To Santiago, Gitlitz & Davidson reference the monastery in detail. According to legend, in 1044, King Garcia III of Navarra discovered a cave with the sculpture of the Virgen de la Rosa inside. He ordered a church to be built on site. This is definitely a must see if you’re in Nájera as a pilgrim or a tourist. Make sure you give yourself enough time at the monastery. Just seeing the amazing retablos are well worth it. Let’s go inside.
The intricate cloister that surrounded the interior courtyard. Many people important to the church were buried under the walkway and entombed in the walls.
I believe this sculpture is of the Virgen de la Rosa.
The interior courtyard.
Inside, the Pantheon of Navarran Kings held 30 tombs for kings who lived between the 10th and 13th centuries. Among them is the founder of the monastery, King Garcia III (not sure if this is his).
This was likely the most intricate tomb, displayed in front of the Pantheon. It holds Doña Blanca de Navarra, the Queen of Castile. There are many webpages devoted to Doña Blanca de Navarra, and there is even a book written about her, Dona Blanca de Navarra, by Ignacio Garcia Ontiveros. It was published in 2008 by BiblioLife.
The retablo at the Monasterio de Santa María la Real was one of the largest and most exquisite along the Camino. As I walked into the nave, I was amazed by the intricate details, the scenes, and the amount of gold. The retablo is Baroque and dates to the 18th century.
Inside the cave, sits a copy of the Virgen de la Rosa. The original is at a museum in Madrid.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Although I spent less than an hour inside the monastery, I could have stayed much longer. It was a very special place to visit and I’ll never forget it. I hope you get to experience the Monasterio de Santa María la Real one day.
On my next post, On The Camino de Santiago in Spain, Nájera To Redecilla del Camino, I walked along more farmland as the vineyards decreased, and through some interesting and ancient villages of La Rioja, before crossing the border into Castilla y Leon. Please join me.
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