The El Salvador Way is fundamental to the relationship between Asturias and the pilgrimage routes. Let's return to 1075 when King Alfonso VI opened the Holy Ark and the relics that had been hidden inside it for several centuries were revealed.
The value of the discovery, due, fundamentally, to the symbolic aspect of the Holy Shroud, not only made Oviedo/Uviéu reinforce its status as a point of departure for all those who made a pilgrimage to Santiago, it also made the Asturian capital into a pilgrimage centre in its own right. In the remote times of the Middle Ages, a popular stanza became famous that exemplifies well the importance of this journey and it is recited even today by many of those who arrive in Asturias, following the track that leads to the tomb of the apostle:
Whoever goes to Santiago
and doesn't go to Salvador
visits the servant
but forgets the Lord.
The El Salvador Way began in León, at the gates of the former pilgrim hospital of San Marcos. From there, the official route establishes five stages, of which the last three pass through Asturias. As with all routes, both sections can be lengthened or shortened depending on the needs of the pilgrims and the possibilities of accommodation available at the different points of the itinerary.
- 1. Puerto de Pajares - Campumanes 22,1 km
- 2. Campumanes - Mieres del Camín 19,0 km
- 2. Mieres del Camín - Oviedo/Uviéu 18,4 km
That is why there were many pilgrims who, when they arrived in León, chose to head towards the Asturian mountain to visit Oviedo/Uviéu and from there continue their journey through the lands of Las Regueras, Grado, Salas, Tineo, Allande and Grandas de Salime; indeed, no small number made the same return trip, once they had completed their prayers in Compostela, when, on the way back home, they passed through the Holy Chamber to prostrate themselves before the "Lord" who they had by-passed on the outward journey.
The El Salvador Way thus stands as a detour from the French Way, which allowed those who took it to connect with the Original Way if they wished, but it also proposed a route end full of meaning in itself.
The two elements that bear witness to the importance of this itinerary in medieval Asturias are the traces left by the pilgrimage tradition in some place names (perhaps the most important is that of the town of Mieres del Camín, which is still called "del Camino" – "of the Way") and the existence of remains that speak of pilgrim hospitals or old temples built to give spiritual shelter to the travellers who came to the region from the other side of the hills.
The route that leads from León to Oviedo/Uviéu is, mainly, a mountain route. Although the greatest difficulty in an upward direction is found in the León slope, the Asturian part of the route also presents a difficult orography. Although the most difficult part, the ascent to the port of Payares, has lagged behind, the climbs to Chanos, El Padrún or Picullanza and La Manxoya -from where it is said that the ancient pilgrims exclaimed "My God!" when seeing the tower of the cathedral on the horizon- require good fitness. In return, the itinerary will show places of majestic beauty, especially as it descends from Payares, and invites us to make a singular journey through the mining basin that follows the course of the Lena and Caudal rivers and leaves some industrial archaeology remains in view.
Under the old railway station of Payares, suspended between the fog in an almost unbeliveable landscape, a route begins in which not very many medieval traces remain. The first, however, is of great importance.
This is due to the elegance of its shapes and, above all, the superb iconostasis that characterises it and makes it an unmissable visit. On the section from La Pola -where the poet Vital Aza's birth house is located- to Mieres del Camín, the church of Santa Eulalia de Uxo, which preserves a Romanesque apse and portico, is worth a visit.
The church of Santa Cristina de Lena, built during the era of the Asturian Monarchy and attributed to the Ramiro period, is one of the most paradigmatic pre-Romanesque buildings in Asturias.
The Way enters Mieres del Camín through the famous bridge of La Perra and leaves it through the no less popular Requejo square. A few kilometres away, in La Rebollá, there was a hostelry and the parish church still conserves a few corbels of Romanesque design. At the foot of the village, and as a curiosity, there is a small Protestant cemetery where the remains of Numa Guilhou, founder of the Mieres Factory, rest. The Baroque fountain of the Llocos is another place where it is worth stopping before finishing in Olloniego/Lluniego, a village that, inevitably, draws attention due to its Romanesque bridge and the group that make up the tower and the castle, also built in medieval times. The Way ends in Oviedo/Uviéu cathedral, whose Holy Chamber marks the end of the journey.
Puerto de Pajares - Oviedo/Uviéu: 59,5 km.
Puerto de Pajares - Campumanes - 22,1 km
Puerto de Pajares | Samiguel | Santa Marina | Chanos | Fierros | Fresneo | Erías | Campumanes
Campumanes - Mieres del Camín - 19,0 km
Campumanes | Santa Cristina de Lena | La Vega'l Ciigu | La Pola| Vil.layana | Uxo | Mieres del Camín
Mieres del Camín - Oviedo/Uviéu - 18,4 km
Mieres del Camín | La Rebollá | Alto del Padrún | Olloniego/Lluniego | Picullanza | La Manxoya | Oviedo/Uviéu