Camino Highlight: Hospital De Órbigo
In addition to the practical advice and serious topics in our blogs, we want to highlight locations and events that pilgrims on the Camino may encounter as they walk. Thanks to Camino Provisions feature writer Hunter Van Wagenen for this week's Camino Highlight. Do you have a story of a miracle or a highlight from your Camino?
A day’s walk west of León the Camino leads to a historical site of some significance. The Puente de Órbigo was, in the Middle Ages, one of the longest bridges in the world, and in the late 16th century a knight named Don Suero de Quiñones held a tournament there. Thousands of pilgrims crossed the bridge on their journeys to Santiago, but Don Suero and ten companions challenged every knight among them either to beat them in jousting and cross the bridge as a champion or leave a glove as a sign of shame and swim across the river instead. The Don's knights vowed to break 300 lances before they, too, would finish pilgrimage to Santiago.
There is nothing about the bridge itself that suggests such an exciting and romantic past, but the town of Hospital de Órbigo itself is another matter. For pilgrims during the peak summer season, the town boasts some lovely albergues, and the trees and green surrounding the area are a nice change from the dry landscape of the Meseta they have just traversed between Burgos and León. Hospital is a small town, but beginning in June it completely transforms.
Once a year, residents of the town and people from all over the area gather to host a Renaissance festival in honor of Don Suero. The town decks itself out in banners and tapestries. There are tents with falconers showing off their birds of prey, there are places to get festival food, and there is opportunity to put on authentic chainmail and other medieval dress to experience how it looks and feels. But the celebration doesn’t stop there.
In the early evening a tournament begins, a reenactment of Don Suero’s adventures. Anyone is welcome to watch from the bridge, which has plenty of room to look down on the playing field, but those in medieval dress are allowed to sit in the stands around the “king.” The horse riding is impressive, the jousting exciting, and the swordplay thrilling. There is a hero (Don Suero, of course) and a villain the crowd loved to hate. It’s everything you could want from a medieval re-enactment, and it's free!
There’s nothing particularly life-changing about Hospital de Órbigo, but when you’re on a journey as serious, difficult, and transformative as the Camino, sometimes it’s important to have some light-hearted fun.
We'd like to read about your Camino miracles and highlights, too. Let us know if you have a story and photo to share by contacting me.
Hunter Van Wagenen’s Camino experiences began in 2007, and he enjoys sharing the humorous and the miraculous stories, in addition to practical advice he has lived and collected. His dream is to live in Spain helping pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. He currently lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife Stephie, who will walk her first Camino this summer with Hunter.
Contact Hunter at hunter@CaminoProvisions.com