Travel 2013 Day 15 Berlanga, Baudelio, Gormaz
See Travel Itinerary for a rationale of this trip, a who's who of those travelling, and our itinerary.
We left El Burgo de Osma early after a nice buffet breakfast at our hotel, II Virrey Palafox, and headed south on the C116 in the direction of the ancient town of Berlanga de Duero. The weather was again pleasantly warm, and the sky –although fairly cloudy—had enough blue for us to feel optimistic about the day. A rolling landscape of red earth, white pines, wild flowers and cereal crops flattened out as we approached the Duero River. After 24 kilometres/15 miles, we turned right and in a few minutes entered Berlanga, dominated by its massive 15th-century castle.
Berlanga forms part of the Route of the Cid, based mainly on the places mentioned in Spain’s most famous epic poem, El Cantar de mio Cid (The Song of the Cid). The poem was inspired by the life of the Castilian noble, Rodrigo de Vivar, during his second exile from the court of Alfonso VI of Leon-Castile, begun in 1089. Ironically, the second exile came shortly after Rodrigo had been given lordship over Berlanga by Alfonso.
According to the poem, the Cid’s daughters stopped in Berlanga on their way to their father’s headquarters in Valencia, after having been treacherously betrayed and whipped by their husbands.
We didn't stay long in Berlanga because our destination was the hermitage of San Baudelio,
For centuries, San Baudelio lay forgotten and was rediscovered in the late 19th century and purchased by some villagers from nearby Casillas de Berlanga. It sprang into prominence in the early 1920s when an American collector, Gabriel Dereppe, bought the contents of the hermitage, specifically a remarkable series of frescoes that covered the interior. This sparked an outcry and triggered a law suit that dragged on for four years before permission was granted by Spain’s highest court for the sale to go ahead. Fortunately, not all the frescoes were transferred, but you can see those that went to the USA in the Boston Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. A sample can also be seen in the Prado Museum in Madrid.
Margaret and I had visited San Baudelio in 2008, but much to our disappointment the hermitage was closed. This time we breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that the small horse-shoe door was open.
San Baudelio is a Mozarabic construction of the late 11th century, built over a hermit’s cave. The Mozarabs were “arabised” Christians of Hispano-Visigothic origin who lived in or fled from al-Andalus (as the Muslims called the land they occupied). Those who fled carried with them their Hispano-Visigothic traditions albeit much modified by Moorish influence. San Baudelio is an excellent architectural example of the hybridisation resulting from the close contact of these two cultures.
Behind the column and supported on a series of remarkable horseshoe arches is a small choir, accessible by uneven stone steps to the left of the column and a tiny door from the hill outside.
A shaft of light lit up the arches and, looking at them, we could have been in a tiny mosque, so much did they remind us of Moorish arches. Horseshoe arches were already common in Visigothic churches of the 7th and 8th centuries, but their repetitive use --as e.g. in Córdoba’s mosque-- is such that many people associate horseshoe arches exclusively with Moorish architecture.
As for the frescoes, what is left is still very impressive, including the traces left behind by those taken to the USA.
We were fortunate to be the only visitors while there, and were able browse at will. Occasionally, the caretaker explained what some of the pictures represented. JLAA ventured into the hermit’s cave, which burrowed well into the hillside. Not for Margaret and me … too much bending and too claustrophobic!
Once outside, we wound our way up between stones and shrubs behind the hermitage for some terrific views of the surrounding countryside. Stony hills and a green quilted valley, the distant bleating of sheep and for the rest … silence.
As we drove off, a busload of tourists arrived and the quiet was broken as they clambered noisily out of the bus. I can’t imagine what it would be like with so many inside the hermitage's intimate space, but I’m glad that we were able to experience its magic in something like the silence that its earliest users experienced.
We next headed back to Berlanga and then took a minor road, the SO 160, towards El Burgo de Osma.
As you approach it, you realise that this ancient fortress is in need of a lot of restoration.
Inside, the castle consists of a large, elongated open area (which housed the soldiers), and the alcázar which includes the keep and other administrative buildings.
Back in El Burgo de Osma, we refreshed ourselves and immediately set out for the village of Calatañazor. Margaret and I had heard about it and unfortunately had missed it in our previous trip to the area. It was still early afternoon, so there was plenty of time; Calatañazor was only about 30 kilometres/18 miles away.
John: Castle of Gormaz: This castle is really quite something although it is really only a shell. It is absolutely enormous and I simply do not understand why the Moors would have abandoned the security of its walls to fight on the open plain. The walk/drive up to the main gates is hard enough today in lovely weather. I cannot imagine how the knights would have done it while being fired upon. There is no cost to enter and the views from here are tremendous so I would recommend going there. We were there for a couple of hours which I feel was about the right amount of time. While it is fundamentally safe, I would caution those with very young hildren to be vigilant as the drops are significant.
For a more detailed study of San Baudelio, see our Mozarabic Architecture: San Baudelio.