| STAGE 1. SAHAGÚN - MANSILLA DE LAS MULAS
|Once we have passed the San Roque hermitage, we will have to decide if we will journey to Mansilla on the Vía Trajana (Trajan Way), taking the right-hand deviation until Calzada del Coto. This pilgrim’s path is more enjoyable, as we can drink in the sensations of this moor in León. At some point, we will come across the Roman paved road. We must take into account that this stretch of the route hardly has lodging, only the Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, and that some seasonal riverbed could overflow into ponds and lagoons that we will have to ford in order to arrive. The other alternative is to continue with the Royal French Road, a name given by Carlos III (18th cent.), as it was constructed at the expense of the State, wider than others, carriage-worthy and it connected populations of certain importance, the French name making reference to its origin. It stretches a distance of 32 kilometers with a tree-lined walkway. It has benches and rest areas.
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This town is related to the Facundo and Primitive martyrs, and since the 4th century a monastery dedicated to these saints has existed. Alfonso III the Great, the same person that raised the first basilica for the apostle’s sepulcher, entrusted it in 904 to the Abbot Bala Bonzo. However, the individual linked to Sahagún is Alfonso VI, who made the Benedictine monks of Borgoña come there. The king founded the town and constructed the stone bridge.
The church had a role in the reforms, following Cluny’s models. The importance of this order´s spread of Christianity along the road is notorious. Alfonso VI set up his court in the abbey for extended periods of time, so increasing his power. The monastery had 60 beds, and several important personages were trained within its walls, such as the town patron Sanjuán de Sahún, Brother Bernardino de Sahagún and Benedictine Pedro Ponce de León. In 1085, the church was reduced to a few scattered ruins, such as the Arch San Benito and a few other relics that can be found in the Benedictine museum in the Santa Cruz abbey. This is where Alfonso VII is buried, the monarch that introduced the liturgical reform, along with his four wives. Among the Church of San Juan’s Facundo and Primitive relics, its altarpieces stand out. Mudéjar de San Tirso Church, 11th century. Constructed out of brick, it has three storage rooms and a tower over the main chapel. San Lorenzo XIII Church, Mudéjar Gothic, stone again giving way to brick. It has a splendid tower. In the Chapel of Jesus, in the church’s adjoining wing, there are bas-reliefs of Hermit Juan de Juní Our Lady of the Bridge, 12th century, Romanic brick architecture.
Calzada del Coto
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Its name comes from Calzada Romana (Roman paved road), and contains the San Roque hermitage. Situated in the royal street is the church dedicated to San Esteban. Here we must decide which road to follow.
Bercianos del Real Camino
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Its name makes reference to a repopulation of people from Bierzo. Its hermitage, Our Lady of Perales, was donated to the Cebreiro lodge.
Calzadilla de los Hermanillos
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Here lived a group of Sahagún monks that attended to the pilgrims, from whence comes the name "little brothers" for young friars.
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Before entering the village, the "devoured pilgrim" episode took place. Laffi, a traveler from the 17th century, relates it thus: "And we went out towards the Burg, four leagues away, and when we had done three, we found a dead pilgrim, and two wolves came upon him…" He speaks to us of cabins covered by straw (pallozas), that we can still see today along the road. This burg must have been important, as demonstrated by the works of art that this town’s museum in León houses today.
Reliegos de las Matas
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The Arthurian court passed through here, and a league away we find Mansilla.
Mansilla de las Mulas
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Here, the two paths that separate in the Calzada del Coto are re-united. The most striking feature of the city is its wall, of approximately three meters, made with river rock. Of the four access gates, only the eastern one is completely conserved, the Arch of Conception, the Door of Saint Mary. We will enter the town through this gate if we decide to take the Trajan Way. Related to Mansilla is the astute Justina, since it was in this city that she opened a lodge.