What to see, how to get there, where to sleep and everything you need to know
There are many beautiful villages that are distributed by the Leon region of La Maragatería, but Rabanal del Camino, where we have our accommodation El Descanso de Gaia, is our favorite. Located 20 kilometers from Astorga and 35 kilometers from Ponferrada, Rabanal del Camino is a mountain town (standing out in the near horizon El Teleno) surrounded by nature, with lots of charm, diverse services, heritage and for centuries being a mandatory stop in the Santiago’s road.
With better and worse moments over time, today lives a new era of splendor. Then we leave you with his story, charms that you will find in him and in general everything you should know.
History of Rabanal del Camino, history of the Camino de Santiago and muleteers maragatos
To talk about Rabanal del Camino is to talk about the Camino de Santiago, because although there are already references to the existence of the town in stories dating from the eighth century, both are very related and when it really begins to take on relevance it is not until the eleventh and twelfth centuries , coinciding with the peak of pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela.
And it is that Rabanal del Camino is very well located to be the last population before the ascent to Foncebadón, which today is hard and at that time a real challenge with very real danger of death, which quickly made it one of the stops forced for those who made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
So much so, that in 1,120 the town is now considered the end of stage IX of the road in which it is the first guide of the route of the Camino de Santiago, the popular Codice Calixtinus, and the thing goes further. A few years later, specifically on September 7, 1169, King Fernando II and his wife Mrs. Urraca grant him a Fuero, composed of eight provisions and several concessions, derived from the Fuero de León of 1,017. For example:
- The people of Rabanal were given the power to choose the lord they wanted (excluding the bishop of Astorga)
- Regulation of penalties in cases of homicide
- Prohibition to the “merino, sayón, owner of the land or any other lord” to enter other people’s houses for any reason or to tear the door from them
In parallel, the very important by those times order of the temple established a commission of gentlemen in the town, with the purpose of guarding and protecting the pilgrims, who also built hospitals and churches, including that of San Gregorio, of which he was part today still standing Casa de las Cuatro Esquinas where Felipe II himself stayed in the 16th century on his pilgrimage to Santiago.
In successive centuries, the splendor of Rabanal del Camino continues, with special mention to what happened from the 17th to the 19th, during which its inhabitants become muleteers and what we now know as maragata culture (with their own clothes, styles of construction and customs, many of which still last). And not in any type of muleteer, in Rabanal there were several of the most important and experienced, which based on transporting salted fish from Galicia to the interior of the peninsula and around sausages and dry products, amassed tremendous fortunes that were translated, among other things, in stately constructions and cult buildings such as the Hermitage of San José (its construction paid for entirely by the owner José Calvo Cabrera).
But then, progress came, in the form of a train to Astorga, and the activity of the muleteers began to diminish, until it disappeared, and interest in the Camino de Santiago also declined, giving way to very hard years, characterized by the forced emigration of the maragatos to the cities and other countries.
Many villages in the area disappeared, and Rabanal was also very close to being completely depopulated. However, thanks to the resurgence of the Camino de Santiago in the last 20 years, and to the affection for this beautiful land of Maragatería in general and Rabanal in particular by natives and foreigners, it has now come back to life.
What to see in Rabanal del Camino
Buildings of interest
There are several buildings of interest in Rabanal del Camino that we advise you to see. From the beginning of the town up we have:
– Hermitage of the Bendito Cristo de la Vera Cruz: Just before entering the town there is the chapel of the Bendito Cristo de la Vera Cruz, a cult building dating back to the 18th century, with an image of Christ crucified of great beauty.
– Hermitage of San José: Already inside the town, going up Calle Real, the main one that crosses the whole town and is Camino de Santiago, on the right hand side is the Hermitage of San José. Also from the XVIII, it is small, but it is crowned by a very beautiful Baroque altarpiece.
– House of the Four Corners: When continuing to advance along Calle Real, we advise you to do it with peace of mind and looking at the details. And you will see several typical houses of the maragata construction, especially highlighting the House of the Four Corners, in which King Felipe II spent the night when he made a pilgrimage to Santiago (hence the “real” name of the street).
– Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción: Already reaching the end of the street is the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, from the 12th century, declared as a Site of Cultural Interest and one of the few remaining temples of the Leonese rural Romanesque.
Rabanal del Camino belongs to the region of Maragatería, and borders that of El Bierzo. Its situation is perfect to use it “as a base” and visit the many places of interest around it.
Nothing better to enjoy nature than to make a small route. The Hostería Refuge has a map with three of them marked, La Route of the 6 Sources, that of La Cascada de la Fervencia and another to the mythical Cruz de Ferro, all of low complexity.
Yes yes, as it sounds, rest. In El Descanso de Gaia, hence the name, we are fans of rest and total disconnection. Both our establishment itself, as Rabanal del Camino as a whole, are quiet places, with a leisurely pace of life, ideal for relaxing and doing something that has been almost completely lost in modern society: NOTHING, or very little and just for enjoyment.
Rabanal del Camino monastery
Rabanal del Camino how much with the Monastery of San Salvador del Monte Irago, one of the 19 spread throughout the world that has the Benedictine Congregation of Santa Otilia of which they are part, in turn composed of about 1000 monks of various nationalities.
In the case of the community of Mount Irago, it is composed of several monks whose lives revolve around prayer, work and hospitality to the pilgrim, and every day they make prayers in the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción to which anyone can attend (these liturgies, following the monastic tradition, are celebrated in Gregorian chant).
Prayer schedules of the monks of the Monastery of San Salvador
- 7:30 am, Laudes – Morning Prayer
- 9:00 hours, Eucharist
- 7:00 p.m., Vespers – Evening Prayer
- 21:30 hours, Complete and Blessing of pilgrims
Where to sleep in Rabanal del Camino
You have several options, we recommend you our house, El Descanso de Gaia, a small but cozy family-run pension, very well located within the town and with affordable prices.
Where to eat in Rabanal del Camino
Rabanal del Camino has several bars-restaurants, all with their charms and all served by lovely people. If you feel like socializing, eating or having a few beers, we suggest:
- La Candela: it is located on the outskirts of the town, but it has great views and a beautiful garden terrace. The kitchen is homemade and you will be treated great
- El Tesín: is at the beginning of the town. It is small but cozy, with a simple and quality kitchen, and has tables outside, at the foot of Calle Real. It is run by very nice people.
- El Refugio: well located, towards the center of town and in front of the Church of the Assumption. Very good food, with menu and menu worked. Attention of 10.
- La Posada de Gaspar: a little above El Refugio following Calle Real. It has a great covered terrace, quality food and also 10 staff.
- Albergue El Pilar: near the previous two but on the other side of the town is the Albergue El Pilar, which has a bar and offers simple but rich and economical meals. It is very beautiful, has a great interior patio-terrace and is a “party site”. Always full of pilgrims and attended only by women, with Isabel and her lovely mother Esperanza at the head. All cracks.
Rabanal del Camino Services
- Restaurants-bars: yes, diverse
- Butcher shop: in the various grocery stores available
- Bakery: in the various grocery stores available
- Pharmacy: Yes
- Massage service: Yes, at El Pilar and La Senda
Rabanal del Camino weather
How to get to Rabanal del Camino