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Saint Jame’s way

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Saint Jame’s way

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12 Elements of the PROPOSALS IN THIS TOWN
Follow the path of the Saint James' way, which passes through Olot, as the pilgrims used to do many centuries ago, from the valley of Hostoles until the Collsacabra.

Description

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The Saint James’ Way is a waymarked route which leads pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, where there are the vestiges of Sant James apostle. Along this route we will learn about its origin and will visit the comarca of La Garrotxa. Therefore, we will have the chance to visit many important historical points of interest.
Saint James was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and he is thought to have preached in the Iberian Peninsula. In the year 44 he was beheaded in Jerusalem and a legend says that his body was taken to the end of the world. At that time the world was thought to be flat. People also thought that the end of the world was in Finisterre, since America was not discovered until 14 centuries later. The legend of the apostle continues in 814 when a shepherd called Pelai saw a star that showed him the location of Saint James’ sepulchre. Thanks to that, the bishop Teodomir managed to find it. This discovery started to get people’s attention from all over the world and many of them decided to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Therefore many routes leading to Santiago de Compostela were created. In Catalonia, the waymarked Saint James’ Way starts in Port de la Selva and goes up to Sant Pere de Rodes to cross L’Empordà and reach Girona. From here it goes up to Olot and passes Vic to get to Montserrat and continue to Lleida.
Although there are several routes in La Garrotxa that lead to the Saint James’ Way we will start by the easiest one. It shares the route with the Green Road and goes by the old railway now turned into a path which is exclusive for pedestrians and cyclists.
We reach the comarca by the Hostoles valley and the first village we will find is Les Planes d’Hostoles. The path crosses the village and continues along the valley until Sant Feliu de Pallerols. In this village there are several routes which get deep into the woods, as well as several interesting elements such as the ones that take us back to the Remença times. Once inside the town we will come across Sant Sebastià chapel, which might have been built in the 16th century. The parish church is also worth a visit. It is Gothic style and was built after the 1427 and 1428 earthquakes had destroyed the previous construction.
After leaving Sant Feliu de Pallerols we will see a turning that leads us to Santa Cecília chapel, documented since the year 1176 and rebuilt in the 17th century. Right beside the Green Road there is Sant Miquel de Pindea church, which was also destroyed by the earthquakes and later rebuilt. Sant Iscle de Colltort church is further away from the road. It was documented in 1020 but destroyed by the 15th century earthquakes. The present ones dates from the 18th century.
Then the path becomes steeper until reaching the Coll d’en Bas, located 620 metres above the Green Road between Olot and the Mediterranean Sea. At this point we will descend to the Vall d’en Bas.
The first village we will find is Sant Esteve d’en Bas. Located on a fertile plain it is the most populated village in the municipality of the Vall d’en Bas. Its history is very old, since it is thought to have been inhabited since before the Christianisation. During the 12th and 13th centuries it became the capital of the viscountcy of Bas.
The Saint James’ Way separates from the Green Road in Sant Esteve. The Green Road leads to Les Preses and Olot, whilst the Saint James’ Way follows the old royal road from Vic to Olot, which was already used in the Middle Ages.
This road will lead us to Hostalets d’en Bas. A village which was born near the lodging house located beside the road. This proves that, although in the 17th century there were not as many pilgrims as in the 11th or 12th, the road was busy enough to create a village. Els Hostalets is one of the most picturesque villages of the region and the Teixeda Street appears in Olot’s most typical postcards.
After Hostalets the road leaves Vall d’en Bas and goes up to the mountains. Following the path, in the middle of an oakwood, there is the Romanesque chapel of Sant Simplici.
It is believed that another Saint James’ Way of the comarca of La Garrotxa is the Via Annia, the Roman Road which separated from the Via Augusta. Apparently, it starts in L’Empordà and goes deep into La Garrotxa following the river Fluvià. Although there are very few remains of the Roman roads, none is as well preserved and long as the Capsacosta one. In any case, we know that 1,000 years after the Romans the pilgrims still used the Roman Road.
In Besalú we can also visit the hospital/church of Sant Julià. Built in the 12th century by the counts of Besalú it was a hostel for pilgrims. It was run by Benedictine monks of Sant Pere. It was consecrated in 1003 by the count Bernard I, also called Taillefer. The present building in the square is the old monastic church, built in the 12th century. This church is unusual in having an ambulatory or aisle used exclusively by pilgrims in Medieval times, where the relics of Saints Primus and Felician were venerated.
A few streets away there is the Romanesque church of Sant Vicenç, probably the first one that was built in Besalú. It was first documented in 977. All these temples prove the importance pilgrims had in the life of Besalú at the beginning of the millennium. Pilgrims, like Jews, contributed to creating our historic heritage as well as the town’s personality.
We will now follow the river Fluvià and pass by Castellfollit de la Roca, where there was a Roman Road which may have been used by the pilgrims going to Vic. We will finally reach Sant Joan les Fonts, a village full of interesting historic elements to discover. There elements are already included in other routes, but this one will be focused on the Medieval buildings. We will start then with the monastery of Sant Joan les Fonts. Only the Romanesque church dating from the 12th century is left, located in a place near the river protected by the mountain. Its rosy colour is of great interest.
Almost on the other side of the town there is the old Medieval bridge which was a very important construction at that time since it was used to cross the river Fluvià. It was first documented in the 13th century. However, the present one was built at a later date since the first one was destroyed by the 15th century earthquakes. The volcanic stone that was used to build it turns it into a characteristic element of the area. The Estada Juvinyà house, a Medieval construction dating from the 14th century which still has a tower of the 12th century is also worth noting. This building was classified as an asset of National Interest in 1972 and, nowadays, it is home to several exhibitions about the building and the village’s history.
After leaving Sant Joan the pilgrims could continue to the west along several paths. Some could have taken the old Romand Road which goes to Capsacosta and others could have gone to Girona or Olot and Sant Esteve d’en Bas to cross the Collsacabra in the direction of Vic.
In the first centuries of the last millennium Saint James’ Way was a spiritual road, but also cultural, since it contributed to the communication between the pilgrims and the people that was living in the villages.
In this route we will walk or cycle along the same path that many people have used for centuries: Saint James’ Way! It is a route that, from many places in Europe leads to Santiago de Compostela. One of those routes crosses La Garrotxa, but before let’s learn a bit about its history… A legend says that Saint James, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, preached in the Iberian Peninsula more than 2,000 years ago. When he came back to Jerusalem, though, those against his ideals imprisoned him and condemned him to death. Once dead, he was then beheaded, and his body was taken to the end of the world. At that time, in the year 44, the world was thought to be flat. America hadn’t been discovered and people also thought that the end of the world was in Galicia. There were sure that after the Atlantic Ocean there was nothing. The legend of the apostle continues almost a thousand years later when a shepherd called Pelai saw a star that showed him the location of Saint James’ sepulchre. From then on people from Europe started making pilgrimages, that is to say, travelling on foot to the place where Saint James had been buried: Santiago de Compostela. Some of these people had to travel for years walking every day without mobile phones or cars. It must have been hard but very exciting too! Some of the paths along which these people walked cross La Garrotxa and meets, in some places, some parts of the Green Road. There were others paths used by the pilgrims in La Garrotxa like one in Besalú, Sant Joan les Fonts and Olot. In this case, though, we will focus on the first one because it is safer and more accessible. So get your trainers and bikes because, as we were saying, Saint James’ Way follows the route of the Green Road. It is a path where cars or motorbikes are not allowed, you can only go there on foot or riding a bike. According to our age and cycling ability we will choose the starting point between Girona and Les Planes d’Hostoles and will follow the green signs which show the way to Olot. Les Planes d’Hostoles is the first village of La Garrotxa that we find coming up from Girona. We can stop by to visit the village, its Modernist schools, its cascades, its gorges, etc. and we will start cycling again. We will go up to the Vall d’Hostoles and, on the right, we will see the castle of Hostoles at the top of the mountain, the military base of the Remença peasants. If we continue the path, we will reach Sant Feliu de Pallerols, where we can walk around the village or some hermitages. From here on, the Coll d’en Bas begins, located at a height of 620 metres, the path is very steep. Then, the path goes down again until the Vall d’en Bas and, once in Sant Esteve d’en Bas, if we have some strength left, we can follow the Saint James’ Way in the direction of Hostalets d’en Bas or the Green Road leading to Olot. Saint James’ Way, like the Green Road, is a magnific place to enjoy being outside. Also, it doesn’t matter which section we choose to do because it will surely be less hard and tiring than the ones pilgrims had to do more than a thousand years ago. Bear in mind that they had to walk from very far away to the end of the world!

Curiosity

The scallop shell has become closely intertwined with the Saint James’ Way. It is found on the signs which mark the roads going from places in Europe to Santiago de Compostela. In the past only the ones who had arrived in the sepulchre could have it and, when returning to their homelands, everyone knew they were pilgrims.

Additional data

Recommendation: Before starting the route make sure you know which path to take and the interesting places you will find. This tour will allow you to discover elements of the historic and cultural heritage of great interest, as well as villages such as Sant Feliu de Pallerols, Sant Joan les Fonts, Besalú or Vall d’en Bas.