The sliver plaques of scallop shells leading pilgrims out of the streets of Pamplona passed underneath my feet every ten meters. I was hiking today to Puente la Reina that was 24k away. Cizur Menor, however, is only a 20-minute hike from the outskirts of Pampleon. There I saw the first of many historical sites of today’s Camino and met the first fellow pilgrim of the day.
I met Antonio from Spain 40 meters off the Camino at the Church of Sanjuanista in the town of Cizur Menor. He explained that this city and church were at one time more important to pilgrims than Pamplona because the order of Sanjuanista protected and sheltered pilgrims even before the Knight’s Templar. Unfortunately, the church was closed and the keeper of the Church across the street was also not at home. Antonio sojourned on while I stayed to play fetch with the German Shepard tied up outside the keeper’s house. This also allowed me to meet up with a new group of pilgrims.
After the “flat as a ruler” hike to Cezor Menor and the slow assent to Zariquiegui, the site of a 13th century Romanesque church, Iglesia San Andres, I joined a group of English speakers to hike the 600 meter assent to the ridge Alto de Perdon. The scattered windmills on the ridge provided a good reference point on the climb. Near the top, we reached Fuente Reniega (Fountain of Renouncement). Legend has it that the devil offered to show a thirsty pilgrim the secret hiding place of a fountain, but only if he renounced God, St. James and the Virgin Mary. He refused and St. James, disguised as a pilgrim, led him to Fuente Reniga where he drank from the fountain with his scallop shell.
After a brief stop at the top of the ridge, we made our way down a knee jarring slope. We continued trekking to Utega, where we stopped and had a 30-minute coffee and sandwich siesta at the local Albergue. I decided to follow the English-speaking group as they made a detour to the 12th century Church of Eunata. There are two theories on the origins of this church that sits 2k outside of the nearest town – a church in the middle of nowhere needs some explanation. Scallop shells were dug from the ground leading historians to speculate that the church was a hospital and cemetery for pilgrims on the Way of St. James. Popular theory is that a queen founded the church as a stop over for pilgrims; the other is that the economically powerful Templars were in control of the church and used it to attend pilgrims.
Rousting ourselves to leave Eunata was not easy. The last four days seemed to be catching up with us. We were all tired. My shins hurt and Helen, from England, had nasty quarter sized bloody blisters on her heels. We were still 5k from Puente de Reina, but we had one more site to see. We made the two kilometer hike to Obanos begrudgingly. There we saw the Nuetra Senora de Arnotegui Shrine. Another Camino legend is of note here. Santa Felicia, the daughter of a duke, made a pilgrimage to Santiago. On her way home, she was taken with the Camino and decided to live out her days as hermit along the way helping pilgrims. Her brother came to Obanos to persuade her to return to her aristocratic duties. When she resisted, he murdered her with a knife. Seeking pentenance, the pope instructed him to walk the Camino. He obeyed and as karma would have it, he also was struck by divine intervention and decided to remain in Obanos to carry out the work that was cut short for his sister. We, on the other hand, had to keep moving down the rocky path that lead out of Obanos to our Refugio in Puente la Reina.
The Church of Sanjuanista
Along the Camino to Alto de Perdo
Fuente Reniega (Fountain of Renouncement)
At the top of Alto de Perdo The metal sculptures have an insignia that reads where the wind and the stars of the Camino cross
Church of Eunata
The cross on the left is the Nuetra Senora de Arnotegui Shrine