After my trip to Northern Spain last week, I honestly have so much to tell you about I don’t know where to start. I’ve been sat here pondering what over the week had the most impact, and there are so many things that I loved learning about and being involved in, and hope you will too. I think one afternoon really stands out, and it was an impromptu meeting of a couple in the gift shop that was beside the Monastery – Monasterio de Sto.Toribo. They had just completed Caminos a Santo Toribio, which is a 72km pilgrimage walk from San Vincente de La Barquera. They had been walking for 6 days, and were having the last of the stamps being placed into their Pilgram Card, which is a little bit like a passport, and you are able to collect stamps as you follow each of the stages of the walk.
Having these stamps enables you to receive a certificate once you complete the walk, as well as cheap and sometimes free accommodation and food along the way.
We (a group of international journalists and bloggers) also did a section of the walk as well as stay in places and ate where Pilgrams would walk on their journey, Potes for example. So we really did get a flavour of the gorgeous Cantabria area. I really don’t think you actually need to be religious to enjoy this as a break. I think a love of trying something new and walking would be a must, but the rest is just a fantastic cultural experience. Whilst I was looking into that couples faces, I saw a combination of wonder, happiness and tiredness (LOL) I thought what an amazing 6 days this must have been for them. The scenery is so beautiful in that area. A real mixture of different terrains from pasture and rugged coast line, to beautiful beaches and mountains. It was so unspoilt, not touristy at all.
You can see below, the green path (guiding you on your way) which is part of the Caminos a Santo Toribio pilgrimage walk that we did along a coastline section. What a way to have a holiday visiting new places, immersing yourself in the Cantabria area along the way.
Cantabria is a crossroad for several of the Caminos. It is the only region with two Ways of Jubilee, one leading directly to Santiago along the northern coast, and one passing by the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, and also into the Picos de Europa mountains to visit the Relic of the Cross.
We met up with a few friends along the way!
Though I mentioned its lack of a touristy feel, I honestly can’t fault how well organised Caminos a Santo Toribio feels. You download the app which enables you to get free wifi (essential for all those instagrammable things you see along the way) as well making it really easy to find your way as you can always see where you are on the map. It’s also so clear where the next stop is to get a meal, or visit the cash machine even where you can pick up your pilgram card.
We visited a church that was on route the church of Santa Maria, in the town of Lebeña.
The church of Santa Maria, in the town of Lebeña.
Founded in the 9/10th Century, its interior is stunning and in a Mozarabic style, with horseshoe arches and floral motifs on its columns and the most beautiful gold altar piece. Apparently, the yew tree outside, was over 1,000 years but unfortunately was hit by a storm in 2007, it has now been replaced with a new tree, as the local people believe that the tree was such an important part of the church and area.
On the last part of the walk, as you head up towards Monasterio de Sto.Toribo, I spotted this on the floor.
From April 23rd 2017 for one whole year, the Door of forgiveness at the Monastery is open. If you pass through this door all sins are forgiven.
This door opening doesn’t happen often, only if the 16th of April lands on a Sunday, so it’s 11 years since it opened. So the next year is incredibly important one.
The monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana is with Santiago de Compostela, Rome, Jerusalem and Caravaca de la Cruz one of the 5 places in the world where the jubilee holy year is celebrated.
Christian refugees, fleeing from Muslim-occupied Spain to Liébana in the 8th century, brought with them the Lígnum Crucis, purportedly the single biggest chunk of Christ’s cross and featuring the hole made by the nail that passed through Christ’s left hand. The Santo Toribio Monastery, 3km west of Potes, has housed this holy relic ever since. The monastery is also famous for being the home of 8th-century medieval monk and theologian Beato de Liébana, celebrated across Europe for his Commentary on the Apocalypse.
The Lígnum Crucis is kept inside a 17th-century crucifix of gold-plated silver in a lavish 18th-century baroque chapel.
I bought a medal for my daughter (who has just made her Holy Communion) and placed it on the wood within the cross, something I’m going to put in a locket for her to wear.
I really enjoyed visiting the region, and learning more about this walk and the monastery, which I knew very little about before. I’m also going to write a little more about the area, the food. Oh and I might even have brought home a couple of ingredients with me, to share a recipe I enjoyed whilst I was in Spain. More of that in a few days!
For more information about the area, Caminos a Santo Toribio and the jubilee year, visit : www.caminolebaniego.com/inicio