La Rioja Attractions
Monasterio de ValvaneraAt the heart of this industry is the town of Haro which can make a good base from which to explore the region. Logroño, the region's largest city, is situated on the Río Ebro and the Camino de Santiago, making it another popular stop for travelers.
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Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain
The little town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, on the Río Oja, was one of the principal staging-points for pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela on the Way of St James. Its old 24-arched stone bridge is a memorial to the hermit, born in the nearby village of Viloria, who built this bridge, a church, a hospice and a stretch of paved road for pilgrims and is now revered as Santo Domingo de la Calzada, St Dominic of the Causeway.
The Romanesque/Gothic Cathedral (1180) occupies the site of an earlier church built by Santo Domingo. The free-standing Baroque tower was built in 1767, the doorway in 1769. The high altar has a magnificent retablo by Dami Án Forment. To the right of the altar is a Gothic baldachin over the 12th century tomb of Santo Domingo.High up on the wall opposite the saint's tomb is an unusual feature for a church - a Gothic-style cage containing a cock and a hen. This commemorates a remarkable miracle attributed to the saint. A young man traveling to Santiago with his parents was wrongly accused of theft and was hanged; but when his sorrowing parents returned from their pilgrimage they found him still alive on the gallows. They hastened to the local judge, who was at dinner, with a roast cock and hen on the table before him. He refused to believe that the boy was still alive, declaring that he would as soon believe that the cock and hen were alive: whereupon the birds jumped up from the dish and crowed. The boy was returned to his parents, and since then a cock and hen have been kept in the Cathedral to commemorate the miracle. The most notable of the side chapels are the Capilla de Santa Teresa, with the sarcophagus of a knight; the Capilla de Santa Verónica, with a 15th century statue of the saint; and the Capilla de San Juan Bautista, which has a magnificent Late Gothic retablo.
Hospital del Santo
Opposite the Cathedral is the old pilgrim hospice, the Hospital del Santo, now a parador.
Convento de San Francisco
The 16th century church of the Convento de San Francisco has a carved stone retablo (also 16th C.) by Bernardo de Fresneda.
The old town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada is enclosed by a 14th Century wall built by Pedro the Cruel and contains a number of handsome old houses.
Logroño, chief town of the province of La Rioja, situated on the banks of the Ebro was originally the Roman settlement of Varea Lucrosus. It is an industrial town, with few historic old buildings. The main industries of Logroño are textiles and metalworking.
Santa María del Palacio
The church of Santa María del Palacio, on the banks of the Ebro, is a relic of the palace of Alfonso VII, which he presented to the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in 1130. The most striking feature of the church, which was much altered in the 16th century is the 45m/150ft high spire over the crossing, the Aguja del Palacio. It has a fine high altar by pupils of Berruguete.
A short distance away from Santa María is the church of San Bartolomé (12th C.), which has one of the finest Romanesque/Gothic doorways of its kind in Rioja.
Santa María la Redonda
The Cathedral of Santa María la Redonda in Logroño (15th-18th century) - the name is a reminder of its original circular ground-plan - has a handsome twin-towered Baroque facade. Notable features of the interior are the finely carved altars and choir-stalls.
Santiago el Real
The façade of the church of Santiago el Real is dominated by a monumental statue of Santiago Matamoros (St James the Moor-Slayer).
On the Way of St. James
The pilgrims' road to Santiago de Compostela runs west from Logroño on N 120 to Navarrete and Nájera (alt. 481m/1578ft), a little town on the Río Najerilla which was once a royal residence.
Monasterio de Santa María la Real
Legend has it that in the 11th century King García Sánchez, while hunting in this area, discovered a hidden cave containing an altar dedicated to the Virgin and thereupon founded the monastery of Santa María la Real. The church, which dates from the 15th century, has fine choir-stalls. Much more important, however, is the Panteón de los Reyes (Royal Pantheon), the mausoleum of the kings and princes of Navarre and León. The finest of the tombs is the stone sarcophagus of Queen Blanca of Navarre (12th C.); the other sarcophagi mostly date from the 15th and 16th centuries. A small 13th Century figure of the Virgin marks the spot where García Sánchez is supposed to have found the altar of the Virgin. The cloister of 1522 (in which historical plays are performed in June) has flamboyant Gothic tracery.
San Millan de la Cogolla
16km/10mi south of Nájera, on the northern slopes of the Sierra de la Demanda, is San Millán de la Cogolla (alt. 738m/2,421ft), which was visited by many pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. It takes its name from San Millán de la Cogolla (St Emilian of the Cowl), a hermit who died here in 574. The little town is famed for its two monasteries, both of which have been declared national monuments.
Monasterio de Yuso
The Monasterio de Yuso (Lower Monastery), in the valley, was founded in 1053; attached to it was a hospice for pilgrims. The present buildings, which have been called the ''Escorial of Rioja'', date from the 16th-18th centuries. Until 1835 it was occupied by Benedictines, and thereafter lay empty until it was reoccupied by Augustinians in 1878. The 16th century church has a retablo with paintings by Juan Rizzi. In the sacristy are two finely wrought reliquaries with ivory decoration (11th century) containing the remains of San Millán and San Felice. There are several cloisters, the finest of which is the Claustro de San Agustín (1572). The monastery library possesses valuable incunabula and manuscripts.
Monasterio de Suso
The Monasterio de Suso (Upper Monastery) is built into the rock higher up the hill, and is older than the Monasterio de Yuso. The small Mozarabic church, which is divided into two halves by horseshoe arches, was consecrated in 984, and contained San Millán's sarcophagus until its transfer to the newer monastery in 1053. It still preserves the tombs of the Seven Infantes of Lara (who were treacherously murdered in the 10th century while trying to free their imprisoned father), and also an effigy of San Millán. From the monastery there is a fine view of the valley of the Río Cárdenas.
Monasterio de Valvanera
From Nájera there is an attractive excursion (30km/19mi south on C 113) up the beautiful valley of the Río Najerilla to the 11th century monastery of Valvanera, on the edge of the Sierra de la Demanda nature reserve. The pilgrims' route continues west from Nájera on N 120 and in 19km/ 12mi reaches Santo Domingo de la Calzada.
The Town Hall and Church of Santo Tómas are places of interest for visitors.
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