The fact is that the current Oviedo Cathedral – previously known as Basilica of San Salvador- was in the early Middle Ages a very important destination for pilgrims, because inits Holy Chamber was the Holy Ark of the relics. It is a cedar wooden box that is supposed to have inside the relics of Jesus of Nazareth and his mother Mary, and the shroud of Jesus known as “hawl of Oviedo” and relics of several saints; it was subsequently coated with silver. The ark was made famous throughout the Christian world since 1035, when the news spread that when they tried to open it `rejected’ miraculously with flashes the Bishop Ponce and church dignitaries who accompanied him. It reached such prestige, that the saying “Whoever goes to Santiago and not to San Salvador, honors the servant and neglects the Lord” became popular. Therefore a detour way by Oviedo was developed of the French Way; many pilgrims leaved the city of Leon to take the old Roman road through the mountain pass of Pajares which communicated with the city of Oviedo. There, after visiting San Salvador and praying before the ark, the pilgrims continued by the Primitive Way to Compostela.
A second reason for the popularity of this Primitive Way was the insecurity of the French Way in the early centuries of the pilgrimage, as to found a military order to protect pilgrims; many foreigners who had read the Codex Calixtinus – and were aware of the risks of French Way – chose the Northern Way, straying shortly before arriving to Gijon to go to Oviedo from where they took the path now known as Primitive Way.
The natural environment is predominant in this area, as the Primitive Way runs mainly by sections of the ancient Roman road that connected Oviedo with Lugo (some of these are now roads). Villages and other places are crossed and are sparsely populated.
The journey through valleys and mountains with slopes of 5% is tough for the pilgrim; this could usually be compensated by planning shorter stages. Toughness is further enhanced by the presence of clay in abundance by the rains of spring and autumn; it is a way which relatively have little asphalt to walk over, mainly in the portion running through Asturias. In the case of cycling it increases the difficulty in the muddy paths.
KEY TIPS OF THE PRIMITIVE WAY TO SANTIAGO
This traditional way is the shorter and with less monuments, being nature (rivers, forests, panoramic views), the main visual appeal. We highlight -in the order of the march- the most interesting heritage assets of the Primitive Way and its immediate surroundings (in bold the most importants):
Oviedo. Slow visit of the Cathedral of San Salvador. With special emphasis on the Holy Chamber, a Pre-Romanesque building that has been guarding the Holy Ark of the relics, diverting pilgrims from Leon to Oviedo and then continuing to Santiago.
Around Oviedo. At the foot of Mount Naranco, at an accessible distance by bicycle where are the extraordinary pre-Romanesque churches of Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo.
Mount Premoño. About 300 meters of the Way are the Roman baths of Santa Maria de Valduño.
Grado. Its historic center is declared of cultural interest; look at the mansions built by emigrants who returned rich from America (called `indianos’).
Mount Fresno. Sanctuary of the Virgen del Fresno.
The Dóriga. Doriga Palace (XIV – XVI Centuries).
Cornellana. Monastery of San Salvador.
Quintana. Church of Santiago de Villazón.
Salas. City walls, Collegiate-Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, Tower and Palace Valdés-Salas (hosts the San Martin´s Museum of pre-Romanesque).
Tineo. Town Hall Square. Chapel of San Roque on the outskirts.
Monastery of Santa María la Real de Obona (350 meters from the Way).
At a height some distance from Pola de Allande. Cienfuegos Palace (XVII century) cannot be visited.
Puerto del Palo. breathtaking views.
Village of Montedurado.
Berducedo. Church de Santa María.
Boca de la Ballena. Viewpoint hanging over the valley.
Grandas de Salime. Ethnographic Museum. Church of San Salvador.
Castro. Ruins Of Chao San Martin (fortification of the Bronze Age).
In the alternative way to A Pobra de Buron, Tower of the Vastle.
Peñafonte. Church of Santa María Magdalena.
Vilabade. Church of Santa María (National Monument), Castle (XIV Century), `Pazo de Vilabade´ and in A Fontaneira the church of Santiago.
Vilas de Cas, deviation to the village of Soutomerille, pre-Romanesque church of San Salvador.
PHYSICAL TRAINING. You should train and warm up every morning, doing stretching at the end; because the Primitive Way is the steepest of all, tempered with shorter stages and is a full less traveled.
DRESSING. The very high chance of rain and cool temperature required to carry at least one thermal underware and more than one waterproof dress.
FOOTWEAR. It is sure to find quite muddy, you should wear waterproof boots with thick soles and ankle height to. It can be combined with other lighter shoes for the dry soil.
WALKING BY ROADS. Primitive Way has some road sections usually with little traffic. But because this roads are very narrow roads most of them without wayside, you must have extreme care; It is also very important to walk on the left side and being ready to jump into the open field and vegetation if necessary. In bends with very poor visibility, you may better move to the right side of the road to be visible before.
IDENTIFYING. Bring a raincoat and reflective identifications or with very bright colors.
ACCOMMODATION. Being very few resting places indoors in high season, we recommend booking in shelters and private houses to avoid having for the pilgrim to call a taxi to move to a remote location.
COMMUNICATION. You must carry a mobile phone to get a place to sleep and be able to call a taxi to make the transfer.
SLEEP AND EAT IN THE PRIMITIVE WAY TO SANTIAGO
We have collected the gastronomy and selected local places to eat and sleep that are on the way and its vicinity. Since prices are cheap and are scarce, we recommend booking in the months of July to September. In areas of villages and open fields there are stages of the way where the municipal shelter only one we can find and you may need to call a taxi to move to another town to sleep.
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