The 21-kilometre tramp from Frómista to Carrión de los Condes takes us further into the Meseta. Here, the villages are fewer, the land is flatter. Quiet reigns supreme. This is the time to count footsteps, the chant of the long-distance walker, as we cross this vast, open landscape at an almost imperceptible pace.
Along the way, we pass through Villalcázar de Sirga. This outpost of the Knights Templar – defenders of the Camino route – was founded after 1157. Although the Knights quickly built a substantial fortified complex and church, Villalcázar was not originally on the Camino route. That the route shifted south through town many years later is in no small part due to detouring pilgrims who experienced miracles in Villalcázar. Late in the 13th Century, numerous songs and poems (cantigas) were written about the wandering pilgrims and their miraculous cures. And, before you know it, the Camino itself itself was changed.
What remains of the Templar complex is the Iglesia de Santa María la Blanca, a rather stubby pile of stone dominating the small community. It is the victim of a 1888 earthquake that resulted in the collapse of its west end. Even earlier bad luck saw the destruction of the rest of the extensive Templar complex due to a 1755 earthquake and 1808 war with the French. For the modern pilgrim, the surviving church – a miracle in its own right – is certainly worth a visit for its monumental entrance porch and high-altar retablo.
Our day ends in Carrión de los Condes, where we stay at the wonderful Monasterio de San Zolio. Recently, the monk’s quarters have been converted into a luxury hotel, akin to a Parador. It had been a short-walk day, leaving us time to wander through the monastery’s Renaissance cloister, under elaborately carved ceiling arches that come to rest on sculptural keystones depicting a vast array of saints and kings.
The next day’s 27-kilometre walk is yet one more stretch into the increasingly sparse Meseta, with just two tiny villages along its length. But the skies are blue, the clouds puffy and the path pleasant. At day’s end is Terradillos de los Templarios, a small cluster of 80 people. It’s a quiet, rural community where the residents disappear behind stone walls, and the streets are all but empty of life. A village bypassed by the autopistas and modern life. We stay at the private albergue, the only accommodation in town. What a difference to last night’s room!
This is the twelfth of a number of planned posts to my on-going Walking the Camino de Santiago, A Photo Essay. If you have any observations or your own Camino experiences to relate, feel free to use the Comments section below.