Sunday, May 10, 2015


Astorga is located in the western part of the region of León.  As it is located at the cross of the north/south Via de la Plata and the east/west Via Trainia, it was a used by the Romans to guard the roads to the mines.  This led it to be an important Roman city and therefore, an important Christian center. It is believed that both St. Paul and Santiago preached in Astorga.  In 456, the city was overtaken by Visigoths.  Then in 714 the Muslims gained control over it before the Romans reconquered it somewhere around 840. Eventually, Astorga became the unofficial capital of the region.

          Foncebadón^              Astorga^                                León^

Starting around the 11th century, the Pilgrimage began to grow in popularity bringing more and more people to the region.  Cities along the Way grew, and Astorga was no different.  With this increase brought a number of different backgrounds to Astroga, one being Jewish.  Unlike much of the rest of Spain, the Jews were welcomed and prosperous.  They held positions as guards of the city and on the armed night patrols.  This lasted until their expulsion in 1492. 

Astorga was a safe, bustling location where pilgrims could rest and regain strength before continuing on their journey to or from Santiago de Compostela.  At its height, Astorga had 21 pilgrim hospices/hostels which was only outnumbered by the city of Burgos. However, the Pilgrimage eventually declined in the 16th century which left many of these unoccupied or with very low numbers.  This led to the acceptances of the city's own poor and homeless in these hospices, which resembles that of urban homeless populations today.  

Popular to Astorga visitors today are its cathedrals, Roman ruins, a convent and monastery, a chocolate museum, and more.  We as a class had the opportunity to visit El Catedral de Santa Maria and el Museo del Chocolate. 

After the Romanesque building was constructed in 1069, the cathedral has been changed and transformed somewhat due to various happenings, one being an earthquake in 1755. While there, we were able to take in the enormous columns that support the structure. It took five or six of us standing with outstretched arms to fit all the way around one of them.  I was surprised upon entering the cathedral to find it as brightly lit as it was.  Many of the cathedrals we have visited have such thick walls and small windows that the inside is quite dark, however at this cathedral that was not the case.  In the museum, there were signs of renovations that were taking place to repair/replace the windows that did not contain stained-glass.  This seemed fitting, as the amount of light streaming in would be well-matched with more of the beautiful stained-glass that was already in some of the windows. 

The chocolate museum was one we all had been looking forward to! While there we we're able to see how production of the imported cocoa beans has changed in some ways through the years, and stayed the same in others.  Much of the process is done manually, but now electric-powered grinders are used instead of hand-powered.  Also, they still hand-wrap all of the bars with an edible paste!

                                                              Chocolate purchases :)

Astorga was a much larger city than I had anticipated. After learning that it had somewhat declined after its popularity, I had the idea that it would be a more quaint town, which was not the case.  We only had time to spend the afternoon there, so we weren't able to experience more.  Maybe next time I will!

-- Laura

Gitlitz, David M. and Linda Kay Davidson. The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin,

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