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Day 24 Continued
Friday 31st May 2013

Astorga is a small market town with a population of 12,000 set on a steep ridge with a long history back to Roman times. It sits at the cross roads of several major routes, hence its importance.


  Currently administered by the Redemptorist Priests, the convent of San Francisco partially retains its Gothic structure. It is said to have been founded after San Francisco passed through the city on a pilgrimage to Santiago. In one of the lateral chapels the Junco family coat of arms alludes to the 17th century Astorgan nobility.  


Iglesia San Francisco


Plaza San Francisco


  The town hall is located in Plaza Mayor.. This main square is a typical example of the Spanish city square with an arcade lined with shops on the interior side and the Town Hall in a prominent position. The building was constructed in response to the alderman's need for a place to meet in the city's main square, as an alternative to the primitive San Bartolome Square. Construction started in 1683 under the guidance of Francisco de la Lastra and was finished in 1704. The current structure is the result of various renovations and was completed in 1994, following the plans of Andres Lozano Ferraras. The central decoration depicts the maragatos Juan Zancuda and Colasa who have been marking the time of day since 1748, when Bernado Franco received the commission.  


The town hall


  The Cathedral is situated on the top of the previous Romanic church. Construction began in 1471, and was not completed until the 18th century. The Renaissance facade of the Bishops and the Baroque main facade are good examples of this evolution. The interior structure, mainly Gothic, is host to the main altarpiece done by Gaspar Becerra, which is considered to be the first done in the Romanic renaissance style in Spain. We can also find the Inmaculada by Gegorio Fernandez, the 16th century choir-stalls, the hispano-flemish San Miguel altarpiece and the group of Baroque altarpieces in the chapels at the end of the side naves.  


The Cathedral

The Cathedral Facade




Detail of woodcarving on Cathedral side door


  The Church of Sain Marta is dedicated to the patron saint of the city and was inaugurated in 1741. Its ceilings are richly decorated with geometrised and figurative plasterwork. Inside are a group of panels by Gaspar de Palencia, an assistant to Gaspar Becerra.  


The Church of St Marta

  In 1886 a fire destroyed the former Episcopal residence and the bishop of Astorga, Juan Bautista Grau Vallespinos, ordered the construction of the new palace to Antonio Gaudi, who was born in Reus just like the bishop. In 1889 the brilliant architect started the works but after the death of the bishop, he discontinued in 1893, and it was Garcia Guereta who had them finished in 1913. It was never used as an Episcopal residence and was opened to the public in 1964 as the Museum of St. James' Way. The building belongs to the Art Nouveau European Route as it is considered a masterpiece in terms of organisation of space and light.  


Palacio Episcopal (Gaudi's Castle)







The House of the Mosaic of the Bear and the Birds

Known as Domus del Mosaico del Oso y los Parajos, this Roman residence is an example of the civilian architecture in Asturica Augusta. A high powered city official built one of the city's embematic residences decorated with a mosaic deoicting the myth of Orpheus and including thermal bath hypercausts.




Roman mosaics


Accomodation Notes

I had intended to stay at the San Javier private albergue near the cathedral, but by mistake I went into the Siervas de Maria albergue at the beginning of the town. As it happens I was pleased with my choice as it was a nice and welcoming albergue, and by chance many of my walking companions stayed there as well. It had a kitchen, and Bart decided to cook a meal for the group in the evening.... fish soup, chicken with ratatouille, followed by strawberries........ and copious glasses of wine! It was an excellent meal and a really fun evening. Nice one Bart!



Siervas de Maria albergue

I was in a small room with 2 bunk beds

Some of the other rooms are larger and have more bunk beds

Washing facilities are a bit spartan

The dining room

Bart's Dinner Party. Bart directing operations with (L to R) Regina, Jean, Petra and Michael

(L to R) Gary (just visible), Anna, Beth, Katie and Klaus


Jean enjoying a glass of tinto

Regina said that Bavarian girls look for men with big calf muscles so that they look good in lederhosen; Francisco was not going to miss the chance to prove his attractiveness through his sexy calf muscles.

But Francisco was not so interested when Regina stated that he would have to
have his legs shaved or waxed to qualify!


The other albergue in Astorga, where Digby and Jane stayed, the San Javier private albergue, is at the far end of the town near the cathedral. It looked to be quite good, although the building is much older and slightly quirkier.