Pilgrim's Way to Santiago through Asturias. The Primitive Way.
The Original Way
A hermit had seen some strange lights in Libredón forest that indicated the location of a tomb where, according to all the signs, the remains of St. James the Apostle lay. The monarch, Alfonso II, wanted to travel with his entourage to see the discovery with his own eyes. He ordered that a burial monument be built at the site which he entrusted to a region of monks.
Stage Berducedo - Grandas de Salime.
It was during the first few years of the 9th century when the bishop Teodomiro, head of the Iria Flavia diocese, on the westernmost boundary of the Kingdom of Asturias, departed for the court of Oviedo to deliver a very important piece of news to his king.
This is how it was according to legend. The discovery of the tomb of St. James, it is worth remarking was not a bad thing for the king at all at a time when he needed to quell internal rebellions and consolidate the Reconquista war that was ongoing with the Muslims. If a servant of the Lord had chosen Asturian territory as his final resting place, it had to be because the land was blessed by divine grace. Consequently, those within had to be united and those outside had reason to be worried and to abandon their plans to conquer Asturias.
The Original Way, as it passes through Asturias, can be split into seven stages. However, these stages allow for as many subdivisions as the pilgrims wish, thanks to a sufficient number of pilgrims' lodgings and accommodation that allow pilgrims to have a rest when their feet get tired. The route runs in one direction until the fourth stage. Once there, pilgrims will have two options: to continue to Pola de Allande, as the official itinerary suggests, or to take the so-called Variante de Hospitales, in which case it is advisable to spend the night in Campiel.lu/Campiello or Bourres/Borres.
It is believed that this detour section -thus named due to the ruins of lodgings for pilgrims that are preserved within it- formed part of the initial route of the Original Way, although its extraordinary harshness, with very steep slopes that pass through completely unpopulated land, resulted in pilgrims gradually choosing to head to Pola de Allande instead. Those who follow this route will enjoy magnificent surroundings in which nature manifests itself in its full glory, although it is essential to be in good physical shape to follow this path. The Variante de Hospitales rejoins the official route in Montefurado, eight kilometres from Berducedo.
Historic sources are not very reliable and there is no data that allows us to specify the exact route that the Asturian king followed. It seems logical that he and his men would have headed towards that remote corner of Gallaecia by following the Roman road that united Lucus Asturum (present day Lugo de Llanera) and Lucus Augusti (Lugo), and that they would have connected there with the path that led to Bracara Augusta (Braga) passing through Iria Flavia (Padrón).This itinerary allows us to travel in the footsteps of Alfonso II as the first pilgrim to the tomb of the Apostle, and has also survived with the essences of the original pilgrimages intact. This explains why it has attracted the attention of an increasing number of pilgrims who choose it for venturing, in the style of the medieval pilgrims, to the distant Compostela.
This was, therefore, the first pilgrimage route ever mentioned in History, and that journey constitutes what we now know as the Original Way.
Fresno Sanctuary (Grado).
The edge of Christianity
Statue of the Pilgrim (Tineo).
The first St. James's Way ran through the land of the Kingdom of Asturias, the last stronghold of Christianity when the Muslims occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula. As this route runs along the royal headquarters, Oviedo, to the end of the known world -Compostela, in the Finis Terrae- added a strong symbolic value to its status as a pilgrimage route. This historic and sentimental dimension continues nowadays, although for different reasons. Those who know the pilgrim itineraries well do not hesitate to point out that the Original Way, with its 321 kilometres, is the one that has been most adept at preserving the essences that surrounded the early pilgrims who abandoned their homes to go in search of the tomb of Santiago. This statement, which is real, has geographical, economic and social reasons.
Grandas de Salime reservoir.
From Oviedo to Grandas de Salime, the route travels what would come to be the central strip of southwestern Asturias, crossing the municipalities of Las Regueras, Grado, Salas, Tineo, Allande and Grandas de Salime. This is an area of the region with a complex terrain. Until very recent times this hindered the development of infrastructure. This is the reason why this region remained somewhat isolated from the central area of the autonomous region, where the bulk of the population is concentrated thanks to strong industrialisation and a growing rise in the service sector. Thus, the land of that particular "end of the world" that the Original Way passes through has maintained its link with agriculture and cattle breeding. It also preserves to a large extent the environment of its towns and villages, characterized by a wild landscape of great beauty. This route presents minimal difficulties for less seasoned pilgrims and offers a unique and unforgettable experience when walking through some of the least well-known nooks and crannies of Asturias.
Cathedral of San Salvador (Oviedo).
Stones that speak to us
Interior of the Cathedral of San Salvador (Oviedo).
The Original Way begins at the door of the cathedral of Oviedo. This gothic temple is home to various architectural styles. In the cathedral, and together with its only tower, the Holy Chamber stands out in its own right, a pre-Romanesque construction that was the Palatine chapel of Alfonso II. There, the Cruz de la Victoria and the Cruz de los Ángeles –pieces of metal work from the High Medieval period- are preserved. These are the emblems of the autonomous region and the city-they are used on their respective shields. There is also the Holy Chest, where numerous relics were safeguarded, among them the Holy Shroud, that made Oviedo a stronghold of Christianity in the Medieval period. The Holy Chamber underwent a significant extension during the Romanesque period. This deprived it of its original pre-Romanesque style, but in exchange endowed it with another of its most important treasures; a superb apostolate that some have wanted to attribute to Master Mateo, sculptor of the Portal of Glory in Compostela.
Roman baths of Santa Eulalia in Valduno (Las Regueras).
Also linked to the Romanesque is the carving of the Saviour, on the southern side of the cathedral transept, in front of which many pilgrims start their journey to Santiago for obvious reasons. This route would allow us to enjoy artistic gems such as the Roman baths of Santa Eulalia in Valduno and Los Dolores Chapel, in Grau/Grado, with an external simplicity that hides almost unbelievable Churrigueresque exuberance. At its side, Miranda-Valdecarzana Palace and the medieval wall, recently reconstructed, bear witness to the importance that the village of Grado came to have, its Sunday market still being one of the most famous and most frequented in Asturias.
The cathedral is only the first of the cultural heritage landmarks this route holds. Although standing out due to its natural and scenic attractions this routes also hides artistic treasures, which would be unpardonable to pass by without stopping to admire them.
Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor (Salas).
The San Salvador de Cornellana Monastery combines Romanesque and Baroque in a natural environment which invites you to rest. The Monastery was one of the most relevant of the north of the peninsula, as can be deduced from its grandeur and its privileged location. Very nearby, in the so-called Casas del Puente, the battle in which Ramiro I took the throne of Oviedo after defeating his opponent Neopciano took place, in what would be a fundamental episode in the history of the Kingdom of Asturias. The Collegiate church in Salas, a town with an unequivocal medieval vibe, has a gothic style. Inside the Collegiate church, the superb mausoleum of the inquisitor Fernando de Valdés stands out, who came to preside over the Royal Council of Castile and founded the University of Oviedo.
It is necessary to leave Tinéu/Tineo behind to find another of the most intriguing surprises of the Original Way. The Monastery of Santa María la Real de Obona. To reach it, you have to take a detour of four hundred metres off the trail but this small effort will be rewarded.
Now in a state of abandon, the monastery has a history adorned with multiple legends. It has an exceptional Romanesque church and a beautiful Baroque cloister, and shelters a superb Christ that experts consider to be one of the best jewels left by the Middle Ages in the northeast of the peninsula.Peñalba Cienfuegos Palace, perched above the houses of Pola de Allande, is one of the best examples of noble buildings affiliated with rural Baroque that can be seen in the region. The summit of Puerto de El Palo mountain pass still shelters the remains of the Roman reservoir that gave it its name.There it is said that a group of witches celebrated the last witches' Sabbath of which there has been documentary proof in Asturias.
Grandas de Salime.
Very nearby, the village of Montefurado is found, a unique spot that owes its name to the gold mines that the Romans opened in this area. This region treasures, in turn, the last great landmark on the Original Way.
Pola de Allande.
To reach it, pilgrims will have to pass the village of Buspol -where one of the oldest bells of the region is kept- and cross the beautiful Salime Resevoir, with a dam that hides a superb mural by Joaquín Vaquero Turcios. In the village of Castro, the remarkable Chao Samartín has resisted time and inclement weather where pre-Romanesque homes and the ruins of what once was the Roman mansion of the so-called "señor de Grandas" attest the importance that these spots that are now neglected had in the golden age of the Empire. A few kilometres to the West, Puerto del Acebo mountain pass marks the entrance to the region of Galicia.
Itinerary and stages of the Original Way
Oviedo-Galicia: 145,5 km (141,9 km via the Hospitales).
Grau/Grado - Salas - 22,5 km | 7 h.Grau/Grado | Las Tiendas | La Llamiella | San Xuan/San Juan | El Freisnu/ El Fresno | Doriga | Casas del Puente | Cornellana | Llamas | Quintana | Casazorrina | Otero | Salas
Salas - Tinéu/Tineo - 19,7 km | 6 h.Salas | Porciles | Bodenaya | La Espina | La Preda/La Pereda | L'Espín/El Espín | Bedures | El Pedregal | Santolaya/Santa Eulalia | Zarracín | Tinéu/Tineo
Tinéu/Tineo - Pola de Allande - 27,0 km | 8 h.Tinéu/Tineo | Oubona/Obona | Vil.lal.luz/Villaluz | Vega de Rey | Verrugosu/Berrugoso | Campiel.lu/Campiello | El Freisnu/El Fresno | L'Espín/El Espín | Bourres/Borres | San Brismu/Samblismo | La Mortera | Colinas d'Arriba/Colinas de Arriba | Porciles | Ferroy | Pola de Allande
Pola de Allande - Berducedo - 17,4 km | 6 h.Pola de Allande | El Mazo | Montefurado | Lago | Berducedo
Berducedo - Grandas de Salime - 20,1 km | 7 h.Berducedo | La Mesa | Buspol | El Salto/Vistalegre | Grandas de Salime
Grandas de Salime - Galicia - 13,2 km | 3 h.Grandas de Salime | A Farrapa/La Farrapa | Cereixeira/Cereijeira | Castro | Padraira | Xestoselo/Gestoselo | Penafonte/Peñafuente | Bustelo del Camín/Bustelo del Camino | Puerto del Acebo
Variante por los Hospitales:
Salas - Bourres/Borres - 35,5 kmSalas > Oubona/Obona | Vil.lal.luz/Villaluz | El Freisnu/El Fresno | Bourre/Borres
Bourres/Borres - Berducedo - 24,4 kmBourres/Borres | La Mortera | Tineo | Montefurado | Lago | Berducedo