“ LA RIOJA´S BEST TOWER”
Miles before arriving to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a tall tower can be seen on the plain. It is the Santo Domingo´s bell tower, a symbol in the region due to its great beauty. It has a singularity: the tower and the cathedral are not part of the same building, and in fact, the two are separated by eight meters. Let´s know more about this free-standing tower and let´s climb its bell tower! Are you up for it?
The free-standing Tower´s history (tower separated from the cathedral main body) has an accumulation of many past misfortunes that are worthy of being recounted. To get an idea, the tower we see nowadays, is the third one that the cathedral has had!
The first tower was built in the end of the XII century. Its style is Romanesque and was elevated next to the main entrance. But in 1450, this first tower was struck by lightning which caused a fire, burning it completely.
So, a second gothic tower was built on the same site as the previous one. This tower remained standing until its ruinous state forced its demolition in the middle of XVIII century. When they started the third tower construction on the same previous site, the architects noted that the ground was not very firm due to a subway watercourse that ran under the cathedral.
It was for this reason that they finally decided to build the third tower separate from the temple on firmer ground on the Calle Mayor (Mayor St.) on the other side. Between 1762 and 1765, the third tower was erected, resulting in a magnificent baroque building that we enjoy nowadays. The third one was the victorious!
The mighty 70 meters high (229,659 ft.), free-standing tower makes it the tallest in La Rioja. In an independent visit to the cathedral, we can go up to its bell tower and enjoy beautiful views. Its access also includes a visit to a small museum that exhibits bells and clocks.
To visit its interior, it is necessary to climb 132 steps, which are not very tiring because during the climb, we will admire the views offered by various windows. During the tour, the staircase surprises us with the admirable tower clock machinery which remains the same since its installation in 1780 and works as before.
With so many surprises we have reached the bell tower without realizing it. Its eight elegant bells welcome us and invite us to peek through its windows to enjoy magical views. Nowadays, the bells are still working perfectly, ringing every single hour or at the so-called mass.
We already know many beautiful tower´s secrets so beloved in the region and known by the locals as “La Rioja´s best tower”. All that remains is to visit it, breathe its history, walk through its entrance and savor its views.
Free-standing Tower (Torre exenta). Plaza del Santo 4. 26250, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, La Rioja.
A SURPRISING NAME FOR A SURPRISING SWEET...
In all Santo Domingo bakeries, you will be tempted with a delicious cake called “Ahorcadito”, a name that is quite peculiar...And if we also tell you that its origin is due to a miracle whose protagonists are a scorned woman, a pilgrim condemned to death, a saint and a hen, the story becomes even more bizarre, right?
This miracle is one of many attributed to St. Dominic and is so deeply rooted in the city that in many places, we will find references to this story, even in its sweets!
The miracle goes like this: during the Middle Ages, one German family composed of parents and a young boy called Hugonell, were on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. When they arrived in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, they stayed overnight in a hostel and the hostel owner´s daughter fell in love with Hugonell, but he rejected her. As she was rejected, a strong anger took over her and she prepared a revenge. She put a silver cup in Hugonell´s bag and denounced the theft...
The next morning, the authorities showed up at the hostel to investigate the robbery and discovered the cup in the young man´s pocket. Hugonell was captured, accused of robbery and sentenced to death by hanging! He was hanged on the same day...
The parents, grief-stricken, when giving a last embrace to their beloved son´s inert body, they were surprised to find that he was still alive. Hugonell whispered to his parents that he was alive thanks to St. Dominic who held his body while he was hanging on the rope, keeping him alive.
Imagine the parents´ joy! They had to inform about the miracle, which demonstrated their son´s innocence! To do so, they ran to the mayor´s house, who at that moment was about to have some roasted poultry for dinner. When the parents recounted the events and reported that their son was still alive by the St. Dominic´s grace, the mayor mocked the parents and said ironically that their son was alive as the cock and the hen that he was about to have dinner. And suddenly...Miracle! The birds came to life and began cackling and even regained their feathers!
The mayor had to admit his mistake and the pilgrim family was able to continue their journey to Santiago...Since then, there is a very popular saying that says: Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where the hen sang after being roasted.
As a tribute to justice, to the pilgrims and to this miracle, in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, they bake cakes known as “Ahorcaditos”, made of puff pastry and almond cream filling. They have a pilgrim shell shape and the Hugonell drawing. They are an attraction in the city as a gastronomy and are Santiago´s road symbol.
Delicious, do not forget to try them!
LAND WITH WINE´S NAME AND WINE WITH LAND´S NAME.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada belongs to the La Rioja Autonomous Community which is the smallest region of peninsular Spain. However, despite its small size, La Rioja has diverse landscapes and attractions with 5,000 square kilometers that make it worth visiting. There are mountains, valleys watered by the Ebro River, history, monasteries, castles, picturesque villages...but above all, it has vineyards. Infinite vineyards that give us a new harvest with an incomparable quality each autumn. Saying “Rioja” is saying wine! And what a wine!
La Rioja wines´ fame transcends borders for its high quality, achieved thanks to the exceptional natural conditions and to the man´s good work forged by centuries of oenological history. This wine has a name of its own, absorbed from its land as well as its essence: Rioja Wine.
After leaving the humid and green northern lands of Spain and traveling through this region dotted with thousands of hectares of vineyards, the traveler enters directly into the wine culture. In this wine-producing region, hundreds of wineries offer visits, tasting and the possibility of buying their products. In the wineries you can visit both the facilities and the winery history, often intimately linked to the winemaking family´s history. Generations and generations of the same family from La Rioja that follows the family tradition, continue elaborating an exceptional wine legacy, just as their ancestors did.
It was the Romans who brought the vine plant to this region and the wine excellence produced in this region from this land was already praised in the XIII century in the first Spanish poet´s verses, Gonzalo de Berceo. Its Appellation of Origin is the oldest in Spain and is regulated by a Regulatory Council created in 1925 which controls its production and its guarantee.
The most common types of grapes grown in the region are tempranillo (new) for red wine and viura for white wine. After the harvest and the elaboration, we obtain red, rose and white Riojas wines which are classified in three categories depending on the time spent in oak barrels, from less to more, which are the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
Although we must not forget the young wines´ wonderful freshness, the “rebeldes” (rebels) that have not been in oak barrels and have been bottled directly after fermentation.
Tasting a Rioja is an art that you need using the five senses. The experience began with the ear, let´s listen carefully to the uncorking of the bottle and the clinking of the wine hitting the glass. Its intense colors, a pleasure for the eyes... Then comes the pleasant oak barrels aroma, which allow us to distinguish a young wine from an aged one. The glass touching our hands will culminate the last and most powerful sense, the taste.
In many stores in Santo Domingo de La Calzada you can buy Rioja wines.
Enjoy this great gift from La Rioja land!
A CLOCK WITH A WISE MESSAGE
There is a square in Santo Domingo de La Calzada that allows us to take amazing pictures. At any point where we take the picture, it will have a spectacular background. We are talking about the Saint´s Square (Plaza del Santo), a place that is a 360° photograph by itself. In Santo Domingo de La Calzada Square, the main city monuments come together, surrounding it in its totality. So, there is no escape, whenever you take the picture, there will be someone in the picture standing so proudly to make this recreation more beautiful. Let´s know the protagonists of the square!
In one side of Santo Domingo Square, we find the spectacular Saint Dominic Cathedral (Catedral de Santo Domingo) south façade. The temple began to be built in XII century in order to house the St. Dominic´s remains. It was only after six centuries that the elegant façade was illuminated to be admired in this square. The illumination was inaugurated in 1765 and since then, the three-square beautiful images, watch over the Plaza. These are the patron saints´ sculptures Diocese, which are: St. Emererius, St. Dominic and St. Celedonius. Under them, the Forgiveness Door, decorated with five new engravings representing the Prodigal Son´s parable. This door has small windows at different heights that allow us to see the cathedral´s interior and the Saint Dominic´s mausoleum when the temple is closed from the Saint´s Square (Plaza del Santo). What a nice idea!
Turning left, we will find the sober but elegant, National Touristic Center (Parador de Turismo) façade with its three waving flags and its beautiful circular corner balcony. We continue our turn to the left and come across a small temple, also sober but with a lot of energetic charge in its interior: it’s the Virgin´s Square Hermitage, the city´s patroness. So many patterns gathered in the same place! This small church owes its strength to the fact that it was built over the Saint Dominic´s oratory. On that ground was where the saint prayed, hence his energy remains for centuries. Turning to the left, the square´s great jewel appears before us: the Free-standing Tower. The same tower, whose entrances we have already visited in a previous point, but now seen from the outside. From the square we can admire its imposing 70 meters height (229,659 ft.) with the pure baroque from La Rioja that supposed the best lighthouse for the pilgrims.
The tower is divided in three bodies, two of them square and the third, which is the bell tower, octagonal and with four turrets at the corners. All this jewelry is circled with a dome.
Look at its clock! Square and elegant...and with a message written in Latin between the Roman numerals, reminding us that we must live fully. The message says: “tempus fugit”, which means “time flies”. A very smart clock!
Plaza del Santo 26250, Santo Domingo de La Calzada. La Rioja.
A WARM SHELTER FOR PILGRIMS
Walking along the Calle Mayor (Main Street) of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, we will come across the Our Lady of Annunciation Monastery. For the visitor it is a gem, but for the pilgrims it is also a treasure because this abbey has a free hostel that provides shelter on the hard road.
The impressive monastery history began in 1610 when a Cistercian nuns´ group from “Abia de las Torres”, a Palencia village, settled in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. As the need to construct a building according to the religious order arose, then the monastery´s construction began in the main street. This construction took eleven years and during this period the nuns were housed in the house next to the Our Lady of the Square Hermitage. In 1621, the Our Lady of Annunciation Monastery construction was completed, and the Cistercian nuns moved into their new home.
This abbey´s founder was an important bishop named Don Pedro Manso de Zuniga, who was none other than the Saint Teresa of Jesus´ confessor. This bishop, rests eternally in the monastery church together with his two nephews, also bishops. The three lies in a triple richly carved alabaster sepulcher and it is a gem worthy of being visited. Another temple´s curiosity is that its low choir, located at the hill foot from the church, served as a cemetery till 1960 and in it lie more than 200 nuns. Attached to the church is a wonderfully austere cloister, very much in keeping with the Cistercian spirit.
The Cistercian Order follows the St. Benedict´s order and his motto: “ora y labora” (pray and work). This order is stricter and more austere than other Benedictine orders. The Cistercians are characterized by dividing their time between the divine office and the manual work, but always seeking to purify their spirit denying material pleasures. Summing up, they are devout, austere and hardworking.
So are the Monastery´s Bernadine Cistercian nuns: devout, austere and hardworking. Inside the abbey they work in a restoration workshop, binding documents and antique books. They are also excellent bakers. Do you know how they call the sweets that they make? “Borrachuelos”! A delicious puff pastry filled with fruit pudding sold in the monastery and also on the internet!
But all their work does not stop there...The nuns run a 78-room guest house, they are in charge of managing a spirituality center that accommodates anyone who needs some days of silence or coexistence groups, they are in charge of some large dining rooms used for many celebrations...and also, they serve in the pilgrim´s hostel located in the old chaplain´s house, receiving very good reviews for all their work.
These nuns put all their dedication to give strength to the pilgrim, filling the tired people with peace and filling the tourists with joy.
Wonderful those Bernards nuns!
Monasterio de Nuestra Senora de la Anunciacion (Our Lady of Annunciation Monastery)
Calle Mayor 31, 26250
Santo Domingo de La Calzada, La Rioja
DISCOVERING THE CATHEDRAL ´S SECRETS
The main Santo Domingo de La Calzada monument is its cathedral although in reality, we should say “Co-cathedral”. In the smallest peninsular Spanish Autonomous Community, there are three cathedrals in a single diocese! But in one diocese only one cathedral can exist. How can this problem be solved? It is very simple, changing the rank from cathedral to co-cathedral. Since 1959, this magnificent temple is officially “Del Salvador de Santo Domingo de La Calzada Co-cathedral,” a temple full of secrets. From these lines we challenge you to discover three temple´s secrets!
They say that good things come to those who wait, and that’s what happened to this temple. Its construction took six centuries! The works began in 1158 and the last great work, the south façade, was inaugurated in 1765. A total of 607 years elapsed! For this reason, we can find many different styles: romanesque, gothic, renaissance, baroque and plateresque coexisting in perfect harmony.
And speaking about Romanesque art, the first challenge we propose you to discover is to find the corbels on the outside apse on the north façade. They hide mockingly under the eaves of the façade overlooking the Spain Square (Plaza de España).
First challenge: unmask the corbels!
But let´s go inside the temple to discover the main curiosity known all over the world. Inside the cathedral there is a hen house with a white pair of live birds. A rooster and a hen live inside the cathedral honoring the Saint Dominic´s miracle. These bird specimens are very well cared and are restocked every two weeks. We will find this gothic polychrome stone hen house from XV century in front of the Saint´s sepulcher, above a door. It is the only cathedral in the world having live animals in its interior. Listening to these birds singing inside the cathedral is a unique experience.
According to tradition, these birds are descended from the protagonists´ miracles and their feathers are almost sacred. So, the feathers that fell on the ground were picked up by pilgrims with a great devotion and placed in their hats as a good luck sign. Nowadays, this tradition is maintained...Second challenge: picking up a feather!
The last secret to be discovered... There are strange and enigmatic signs carved onto the stone, both inside and outside the cathedral. They are the stonemason´s marks, symbols engraved by the masters whose meaning is still a mystery. They are small crosses, words, polygons...
A total of 54 masonry marks have been found in different areas of the temple. The apse, the ambulatory, the transept, the north and the south façade are silent witnesses of these marks. A clue...
only on the south façade, the one facing the Saint´s Square, are 15 hidden ones. Third challenge: find the stonemason marks!
Do you accept the challenge of discovering these three secrets...?
Catedral Del Salvador de Santo Domingo de La Calzada
Salvador de Santo Domingo de La Calzada Cathedral
Calle Cristo s/n
26250 Santo Domingo de La Calzada, La Rioja
GOODNESS AND LABOR FRUITS
Santo Domingo de La Calzada owes its existence to one man. Indeed, a hermit who, moved by an enormous goodness and a great working capacity, was able to build a city from nothing. This man was Domingo Garcia, a kind-hearted religious man who dedicated his life to improving the pilgrims´ lives on the Santiago´s Road in XI century.
A thousand years ago, the plain where Santo Domingo sits today was a holm oak forest on the banks of a raging river that flowed strongly down from the Sierra de La Demanda mountains. It was the Oja river, which today gives its name to La Rioja region. In the forest´s heart settled a nice man named Domingo Garcia. At a very young age, this man decided that he wanted to consecrate his life to God. But after being rejected in two important La Rioja monasteries, he decided to settle on this hill on the Oja River banks to lead a praying life combined with helping his fellow men. It was when he began learning firsthand about the hardships pilgrims went through as they traversed this region. There were no roads in good conditions in that area and the pilgrims got lost in those lands full of bandits. It was also very dangerous to cross the Oja river and also, many pilgrims need medical assistance. So, Domingo Garcia left his contemplative life and began working...
The first thing he did was to build a stone sidewalk with his own hands, without anyone´s help.
This new sidewalk was a deviation of the unsafe traditional way and at once became the new route.
Then Domingo Garcia became Domingo de La Calzada (The word “Calzada” means sidewalk).
After the creation and the construction of the sidewalk, Domingo de La Calzada built a stone bridge over the Oja river to facilitate the pilgrims´ passage. Within this hard work he did not only need moving stones and cutting down trees, but also need convincing people to join him. And he got it!
Domingo de La Calzada´s enthusiasm and faith were contagious to others and the people helped him in other works and many nobles and kings provided donations. Then many other constructions aimed at pilgrims´ helping could be carried out such as: a hospital, a well, a hermitage and a hostel. Through this way, a population was emerging...
Domingo de La Calzada died in 1109 at 90 years of age. He asked to be buried in the same sidewalk, outside the hermitage. But afterwards with further hermitage expansions, which nowadays is the cathedral, his tomb is inside the temple.
After his death, the city was renamed “Burgo de Santo Domingo”. His good deeds and several miracles attributed to his person, elevated this kind man who did so much for the pilgrims to the category of saint.
ONE TOURISTC CENTER´S ROUTE
In Spain there are high-quality network hotels located in old palaces or in historic mansions. They are the National Touristic Center (Paradores Nacionales) and are spread all over the country. These hotels offer visitors the possibility of staying in a beautiful palace with ancestry and the building is kept alive, thus protecting the historical and cultural heritage.
Santo Domingo de La Calzada has the luxury of having two National Tourist Center, a very unusual fact. What we are going to do in this point is walking 500 meters (1 640 ft) which separate both buildings and at the same time discovering its history. This walking tour takes fifteen minutes.
We will begin our tour in a place that we already know very well: the Saint´s Square (La Plaza del Santo). One of its sides is occupied by the Santo Domingo de La Calzada National Touristic Center (Parador de Santo Domingo de La Calzada), which is the palatial building located in front of the free-standing Tower. The hotel history is very valuable because it occupies the old pilgrim’s hospital founded by Saint Dominic in the second half of the XI
century, which had the purpose of attending to anyone, who, while traveling the
road to Santiago, had a health problem.
Nowadays, the building that we contemplate is from the end of XV century. It housed the hospital until 1840, when it was transferred to the San Francisco Convent. In 1965, the building was restored as a hotel, and since then it has been part of the National Touristic Center (Paradores) network. Do not hesitate to enter in this palace and admire its vestibule full of wooden coffered ceilings and stones arches. It is tremendously elegant and majestic!
We will turn the Touristic Center corner beginning our walking tour along the main street. The cathedral is on our left side and suddenly, a gothic arcaded passageway that runs along the cathedral west façade, appears in front of us. This is an incredible view! Our tour continues along the Calle Mayor (Mayor St.) and at the number 70 we will see the Public Library, which is located in the emblazoned Trastamara House, where King Henry II of Castilla, “the Fratricidal”, lived in and died in 1379.
This street is full of hostels, inns, stores and restaurants, all designed to serve the pilgrims. The Calle Mayor (Mayor St.) is part of the Santiago´s Road itinerary. So, as you see, you are doing a part of the Jacobean Route!
At the end of Calle Mayor (Mayor St.), we will find the San Francisco Convent, which was founded by the Archbishop, the Emperor Charles V´s confessor and his son Philip II.
Nowadays, this Herrerian building has several and different functions. It has a church where the founder is buried, has an important diocesan workshop where works of art have been restored and finally hosts the elegant Bernardo de Fresneda Touristic Center (Parador de Bernardo de Fresneda). In front of the convent, the magnificent Pilgrim Monument awaits us, to pose with us in an obligatory picture.
What a pleasant walking tour we have had through the Santo Domingo history with the Touristic Centers´ excuse! (Paradores).
Parador de Santo Domingo de La Calzada
Plaza del Santo 3
26250-Santo Domingo de La Calzada, La Rioja.
Casa Trasmara (Public Library)
Calle Mayor 70 26250-Santo Domingo de La Calzada, La Rioja
Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo Fresneda/Convento de San Francisco 1 Saint Dominic
Bernardo Fresneda Touristic Center / San Francisco Convent 1
26250-Santo Domingo de La Calzada, La Rioja
THE “PLAZA MAYOR”, THE QUIETEST SQUARE IN THE WORD
There is a curious thing in Santo Domingo de La Calzada: the “Plaza Mayor” (Main Square) is not called “Plaza Mayor”, even though it is the largest in the locality. Nor does it represent the municipality´s most central point, this location is occupied by the neighboring “Plaza del Santo” (Saint´s Square). The peculiar “Plaza Mayor” (Mayor Square) in Santo Domingo is in fact, called “Plaza de España” (Spain´s Square) and despite the fact that the City Hall is in it, it is like a gift in the background. This factor plays in its favor and makes it an ideal place to take a break, sit and watch the local people and the pilgrims coming and going without any hustle and bustle.
The “Plaza de España” (Spain´s Square) is a large esplanade with an irregular shape, presided over by the City Hall. It has benches, several bars with terraces, lampposts seats, even a fountain surrounded by a low wall. In other words, it has a thousand places to seat for a while and enjoy a rest. The square is so large that we recommend you changing the place where you sit to enjoy all its perspectives.
Since the square´s foundation, life in this village has been developing around the Calle Mayor (Main Street), which was its main artery, coinciding also with the Camino de Santiago. In order to protect this impressive street through which so many pilgrims passed in XIII century, a wall was built around it. The current square esplanade was then outside the wall and was when it began to be used as a market square outside the walls.
After the extension of the walled enclosure in 1367, it was already included in intramural area, so it grew securely. Over time, it gained importance and at the end of XVI century, it was built on the “Alhondiga” (Public granary), a building where grain was stored and sold. Its relevance grew even more in the middle of the XVIII century with a beautiful building construction, raised on a medieval door rich in arcades, which would house the new City Hall that moved from the Plaza del Santo (Saint´s Square) to the new location in the Plaza de España (Spain´s Square). Another building that was built at that time in the Plaza de España (Spain´s Square) was the La Rioja District headquarters, that would house the jail.
The “Plaza de España” (Spain´s Square) was gaining so much importance that the cathedral, whose main door is on the south façade, had another access door in an apse facing the “Plaza de España” (Spain´s Square) to facilitate the parishioners´ access at that time. Nowadays, besides having public buildings, there are many recreational activities, parties and cultural acts taking place in “Plaza de España” (Spain´s Square). It is the ideal place where the locals enjoy a lot.
One recommendation...do not miss the spectacular view which offers the cathedral from the “Plaza de Espana” (Spain´s Square). It is an explosion of apses, corbels, buttresses and flying buttresses that are displayed in all its splendor in this “Plaza Mayor” (Mayor Square).
Plaza de España,26250. Santo Domingo de La Calzada. La Rioja
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