September 14, 2018
My one night stay in Astorga was after walking 31.5 kilometers (19.7 miles) on day 22 of the Camino – so not a light day. In fact, it was quite an uphill into the actual town, I was quite tired, plus of course, my feet hurt. I surely Did Not want to venture out to “explore”.
Yet, eventually after my pilgrim duties were dispatched, I shuffled through the twelve blocks of Old Town, through lively outdoor tapas tables and I was very pleased with my decision!! I bought (and ate) a chocolate bar, since the city has quite a reputation in this confection dating back to an industry that particularly flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. If the daily temperatures were not so high and if I had refrigerated transport I would have loved to buy more – they even have one made with the local cecina sausage! Probably a good thing in the long run… There is a Museo del Chocolate in town with a tasting section that I passed up with wavering discipline!
Astorga was first a Celtic settlement eventually developing into an important Roman city given its crossroads of the Vis de la Plata (my first Camino route) and the Via Trajana. It was also a significant Christian center. From my guidebook, “A Village To Village Guide To Hiking The Camino De Santiago” by Anna Dintaman and David Landis, “St. James and St. Paul preached here. The bishopric of Astorga was one of the earliest Christian titles. The city passed to the Visigoths in the 5th century and was destroyed by the Muslims in 714, then reconquered by Ordońo I in the mid-9th century. After León was destroyed by Al-Mansur’s army, Astorga acted as the capital of the kingdom. The city flourished with the pilgrim trade and housed 21 pilgrim hospitals, the second most on the Camino Francés (after Burgos). One of these hosted Saint Francis of Assisi on his pilgrimage in 1214.
The 15th-century Astorga Cathedral features an impressive Baroque façade and one of the best Renaissance retablos on the route, completed by a disciple of Michelangelo and Raphael (Gaspar Becerra).”
I paid the meager “pilgrim” charge of €3 for an opportunity to go inside and was indeed awestruck! Considerable time passed as I wandered through the works of art and collection of historical pieces and ultimately into the sanctuary. Wow-Wow-Wow!!
I also paid (a bit more) to enter the Palacio de Gaudí which was the palace of “Archbishop Juan Bautista Grau Villespinós until his death, when it sat empty until serving as a military headquarters for the Falange movement. In 1963 the current Museo de Los Caminos was installed inside with an impressive collection of religious art associated with the camino.” (A Village To Village Guide To Hiking The Camino De Santiago” by Anna Dintaman and David Landis).
What a beautiful city!!!