Maria at Casa Victoria made us toast with butter and honey (two kinds, one very dark and tasty) and marmalade for breakfast, and coffee and orange juice. We bid farewell to Francisco and her with European double kisses on the cheeks and “Buen Caminos” following down the early morning quiet of Ciruena streets. Our road to Santo Domingo de la Calzada led mostly downhill through wheat fields and patches of woods; many fewer vineyards now. The low clouds threatened rain, but never produced any — we were deeply grateful, both for the cool morning walk, and for the dry morning walk.
The town and cathedral at Santo Domingo are the source of some of the best Camino lore. Born in 1019, Santo Domingo (the story goes) was not allowed into a nearby monastery because he was illiterate, so he spent his life building roads, bridges and hospitals for pilgrims on the Camino — thereby of course gaining much more fame than he ever would have as a monk. He built the original church, and the story is that he prepared his own tomb in the road outside the church — it is now all part of the cathedral that was begun in 1158, and like many cathdrals has been worked on since (we took photos of people busy restoring sections of it today).
The other story for which the town of Santo Domingo is known is the cock and hen:
“A German family-father, mother and son-on pilgrimage to St. James´ tomb stopped to spend the night at an inn in Santo Domingo. The innkeeper´s daughter fancied the son and propositioned him, but he rejected her advances. Furious at the refusal, she hid some silver vessels in the young man´s bag and notified the authorities of the theft the next morning after the family had left the inn. The boy was promptly arrested, hanged and, as was the custom in the Middle Ages, his body left hanging on the gibbet as warning to others who would commit similar crimes. His parents, meanwhile, continued their sorrowful journey to Santiago.
On their way home again, they once more arrived at Santo Domingo. Approaching the square where their son´s body still hung, they were startled to discover that he was still alive! Their son, calling out from gibbet, hailed them and told them that his life had been spared by Santiago (in some versions it is Santo Domingo who saves the boy), who had kept him alive by supporting his weight the entire time. The astonished parents ran to report the news to the city official, who was just sitting down to eat his lunch when they arrived. Scoffing at their story and unwilling to abandon the table, he replied that their son was as alive as the roasted chickens on his plate. No sooner had he said this than the chickens leapt up, sprouted feathers and flew away cackling! Needless to say, their son was quickly cut down from the gibbet and pardoned of the crime.”
To commemorate the event, a cock and hen are kept in a cage built high into one of the walls of the cathedral, and the rooster’s crow can be heard throughout the sacred spaces. The pair of hen and cock get switched out periodically so that they don’t have to always stay indoors.
The church itself was crammed with exquisite and very interesting sculptures and paintings. One altarpiece incorporates centaur fights, sirens and other pagan images that the Council of Trent banned from use in Catholic churches in 1545. It isn’t clear why the artist was allowed to get away with this, but many of the Greek and Roman images were used earlier in the church’s history as references to the Resurrection.
We caught a bus from Santo Domingo to the big city of Burgos — a total of three days worth of walking done in a little over an hour. Our Aussie friend from the first day in Pamplona was on the bus with us; we arranged to meet her for dinner. We walked to our hostel about a mile from the bus station (distance enough to persuade me again of the wisdom of shipping my bag), ate sandwiches that Maria had made for us, and nectarines and chocolate from a Najera grocery for lunch. Then we headed out to find the post office, because I had unthinkingly walked away from the Casa Victoria with the room keys in my pocket and we had to return them to Maria and Francisco. Mailing them was much easier than we expected — the postal clerk handed us a padded envelope; I wrote the address and gave her a couple of dollars (in euro equivalent) and the package was on its way.
Mission accomplished, we played tourist, walking around the Cathedral of Santa Maria, an enormous Gothic structure (we had paid several euros already to see the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, so didn’t go into this one, just admired the sculptures on the outside.)
Dinner with Lisa from Perth was at a slightly more upscale restaurant than we’ve all been accustomed to — not super fancy, but one requirement all around was that it have vegetables on the menu in some form other than tuna fish (“vegetal”usually connotes tuna fish and “other” vegetables, not just the green things that we usually imagine). You can’t get much in the way of veggies other than potatoes, onions, and mushrooms at the typical Spanish eating place. Our waiter accommodated our every (strange) request, and we tipped him accordingly. He brought out gazpacho, several vegetable dishes including remarkably excellent grilled zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc. The main dishes were fish for Lisa and Jim, spaghetti for me and vegetables scrambled/fried with egg for Anthea. Dessert was cheese cake for Jim and big slices of melon for the rest of us (and, of course, bread, water and wine). We were pleased.
A late crop of raspberry flowers on the road down from Ciruena. We pick little handfuls of the tiny black berries every day; they are still ripening everywhere along the Camino.
Sunrise over the Camino west of Ciruena.
A pilgrim sculpture in the courtyard of a convent in Santo Domingo.
Pilgrim kitsch in Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo in his cathedral. The silver was donated by Mexicans in 1763 (the word “donated” is used in the text of the guide without any indication of irony).
The famous chickens in their coop built into a wall of the church, about 16 to 20 feet from the main floor of the cathedral.
Centaurs fighting, in a frieze of the main altar in Santo Domingo.
The Resurrection, another scene in the same altarpiece.
Restoration work in the cathedral at Santo Domingo.
More restoration, outside the cathedral on the cobblestones. It seems likely that the techniques for this work are much the same as they were a thousand years ago, and probably in the time of the Romans as well. The broom is a little brighter.
Chocolate chickens in a shop in Santo Domingo (sorry that I can’t send these to my family in Michigan).
Anthea thinks that this is the Starbucks mermaid holding up a statue of the Virgin and child over a fountain in the plaza of Santa Maria cathedral in Burgos.
One the lower left, St. Michael the Archangel is letting people into heaven (including St. Dominic and St. Francis); on the lower right, people are being sent to hell.
Jim and Anthea with a bronze pilgrim in a plaza in Burgos. They don’t look quite as pilgrimesque without their packs and walking sticks.’
A promenade near the river in Burgos.
Somewhat grotesque burghers (well-off middle-class folk) of Burgos.
A Spanish group drinking and eating tapas at a bar in Burgos.