The cathedral at Santo Domingo.

Santo Domingo and feathered friends.

Remarkable things can happen in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, though the modern miracles could never be as amazing as the events of bygone days…

A young man who was walking the Camino de Santiago with his parents caught the eye of an innkeeper’s daughter. Unfortunately her feelings for him were not reciprocated, so she planted a silver cup in his backpack, falsely accused the lad of theft, and had him hanged. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

His grieving parents sadly continued their pilgrimage to Santiago, but on their way past the gallows, noticed that their son, though still hanging from his neck, was surprisingly alive.

They went to the magistrate to appeal his sentence. ‘Too late,’ said the judge, ‘The law’s the law and your son’s as dead as the hen and rooster roasting on that spit there.’ But imagine everyone’s amazement when the hen and rooster grew feathers, squawked and flew away.

Our 21st century miracles (the iPhone, coming from 0-3 behind to win 4-3, finding good coffee in a Dutch cafe) just don’t measure up to this sort of thing.

The boy was cut down and pardoned, I hope with an apology for the inconvenience. His travel insurance claim would have made interesting reading.

Saint Dominic, the patron of pilgrims on the Camino, who built a bridge over the river here to speed their progress, is believed to have been behind the rescue effort.

To acknowledge the miraculous event, there’s a small cage in the Santo Domingo cathedral in which a live white rooster and hen strut around.

Because it’s high in the cathedral and poorly lit, it’s hard to make a satisfactory photo, but I did my best.

Okay, it’s not spectacular, but it is unusual in a cathedral.

The altarpiece.

The cathedral itself has been recently restored.

It features an extraordinary 16th century gold altarpiece, designed by Damien Forment, with incredible detail in the numerous figures.

The museum adjoining the cathedral has some old, intriguing, and to my mind unusually beautiful religious art, very well displayed.

Much of it suggests stories or miracles, though unfortunately there’s nothing to tell a non-Catholic like myself what the stories are. It tempted me to make up my own.

St Veronica with her Jesus tea towel. (Maybe someone can tell me what the real story is here.)

Madonna and child. ‘Mum, spot on your nose…Mum!’

This one I really like – a 13th century work by an unknown artist. But it too would make a good subject for a caption competition – ‘You’ll never grow a well-proportioned head if you don’t eat apples.’

The Parador Santo Domingo is an admirable Spanish institution. A 12th century hospital next to the cathedral has been preserved by its tasteful conversion to an affordable 4-star hotel.

There are a number of these paradors around Spain. They’re an excellent way for the government to restore and care for historic buildings, make them available to the public, and earn some money from them.

Inside the Parador Hotel.

A little way down the road, the historic Albergue of Santo Domingo offers pilgrims accommodation, food and blister binding for donation only.

Our local guide Rosa led us to the ancient square, where we took refreshments in the early evening sun.

An excellent way to end a day.


Filed under Budget travel, Hiking, Spain


  1. The Santo Domingo battery chickens deserve a bit of sunlight.

  2. Interesting story. Did you have any blisters in need of binding?

  3. I like your explanations for the religious art! We stayed at a few parasite around Spain, some good, some not. The best was the one at Alhambra. It was ridiculously expensive, but great.

  4. shawjonathan

    I guess I’m the first Catholic, Richard. St Veronica wiped the face of Jesuswith her veil on his way to Calvary and he left a miraculous image on the veil. It’s like a mini Shroud of Turin

  5. Richard, the 13th century madonna that you liked is a Throne of Wisdom statue, in French, a Vierge Romane.

    • Gosh, thanks Dennis. I’m grateful to have such knowledgeable correspondents. Do you know the significance of the ball she’s holding in her right hand?

      • Usually it is a globe, but I’m not sure in this case. I’ll try to do some research. If you are interested, my site has lots of information on these superb works.

  6. Thanks Dennis, and yes indeed I love the photography on your site.
    I heartily commend it to anyone interested in religious art:

  7. Jeannette

    When we were in Spain I all of a sudden got inspired to follow St Dominic ‘s trail, as I teach in a Dominican school, but then realised that there are many Dominics! Our first false attempt was your chook saint, the next one was the one from Los Silos, where the monks hit the charts with their Gregorian chants. Then I remembered the one I needed was from Caleruega. Third time lucky.

    Wanneer zijn jullie in Amsterdam? We hebben zin in een fietstochtje.

  8. I should have taken a little detour and walked some of the Camino back in ’72 when it first sparked my imagination – too impatient I guess, to slow to a walking pace, when I’d just begun seeing the (rest of the) world. It’s good to walk a little of it, vicariously, with you!

  9. iain

    Just a minor correction to the miracle story Richard. According to the Cathedral handout the parents discovered their son alive the day after the hanging. If they had walked to Santiago and back beforehand their son would have died of thirst! Miracles need to be credible.

    • Oops! Thanks, Iain. I’ve made the correction. It makes it a little less amazing, but still very impressive work by St Dom. Never let it be said this blogger misreported a miracle.

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