Stages of El Salvador Way
THE SALVADOR WAY
The Jacobean route that connects León with Oviedo is one of the routes linked to the Camino de Santiago with the shortest route, just 120 kilometers, but with a longer history, since its origins are directly linked to the promotion and rise of the cult of preserved relics in the cathedral of Oviedo, whose relevance is already evident in the second half of the eleventh century.
Already the Asturian king Alfonso II had done everything possible to provide his new capital, Oviedo, with a large reliquary, in which relics of all the apostles were deposited, a fact that contributed to an incipient cult, in principle local, to the Cathedral of San Salvador. After the transfer of the court to León in 910, this phenomenon seemed to decline, which was, however, reinforced in the 11th century thanks to the great cult that different monarchs of León and Castile professed to the reliquary of Oviedo, in the case of Fernando I, who visited in 1053, and, above all, by Alfonso VI, who in 1075 proceeded to open the Holy Ark preserved in the Holy Chamber of the Cathedral of Oviedo, in an act in which he was accompanied by the great dignitaries of the time, including the famous Cid Campeador.
That Holy Ark that was opened in 1075 was an old cedar wood box that kept relics of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the apostles. It was preserved in early Christianity in Jerusalem, until successive Persian incursions into the holy city forced its transfer to North Africa and from there to Toledo, in an attempt to protect that treasure. In Toledo, in the 8th century, the original box was replaced by another made of oak, which would be the one that traveled to the north of Spain at the time of the Muslim invasion of 711. In the first place, it found refuge in the Monsacro , mountain of the Asturian Sierra del Aramo, in the central area of the Principality, until in the time of King Alfonso II it was deposited in the current Holy Chamber of the Cathedral of Oviedo. A first attempt to open it took place in 1035, starring Bishop Ponce de Tavernoles, although according to legend a glow from the ark prevented it. In 1075 it was finally achieved in the presence of King Alfonso VI.
As soon as the Holy Ark was opened, an inventory of the dozens of relics preserved in it was carried out, making inventories that were soon disseminated throughout Christian Europe, thus beginning an increasingly notable flow of pilgrimages to the cathedral of Oviedo. To welcome these pilgrims, King Alfonso VI himself donated the old palace of the kings of Asturias in Oviedo, the “palatium frantisco” for its conversion into a pilgrim hospital, under the name of San Juan.
This same monarch and his successors, Fernando II and Alfonso IX, will try to favor the creation of an assistance network for pilgrims on the road that began to be consolidated between León and Oviedo, the germ of the current Camino del Salvador. An example of this are the different provisions to try to provide a hospital for pilgrims to the then dangerous and lonely place of Alto del Padrún and Mount Copián, between the town of Mieres and that of Olloniego, carried out successively in 1103, 1143 and 1220, although It seems that it would not be until 1267 when this intention was forged, in the La Rebollá leper colony. Other hospitals for pilgrims will emerge over time on this route to Salvador, a special case of the one linked to the collegiate church of Santa María de Arbas, in the 12th century, or those existing in Campumanes (cited in 1247), Ujo (shelter documented in the XV ) or Mieres del Camino (whose first hostel is already mentioned in 1189).
Along with these shelters, there are also numerous references to actions to improve the bridges along which the Jacobean route of Salvador ran, in the case of those alluding to the Ujo, Mieres or Olloniego bridges, all of them directly linked to localized pilgrim hospitals. in its vicinity, in a typical association of the Jacobean world.
Oviedo was consolidated from the end of the 11th century as the second great pilgrimage center of the Iberian Peninsula, only behind Santiago de Compostela, as reflected in the Departures of the Wise King Alfonso X, who when defining the pilgrim does so by indicating that he is the person who goes on a pilgrimage to Santiago or San Salvador de Oviedo “or to other places in a long and strange land.” It will be frequent in medieval centuries that the association between San Salvador de Oviedo and the Asturian region as a whole occurs, especially in documents from outside Spain, in which Gijón/Xixón is referred to, for example, as the port of San Salvador.
The Camino del Salvador will be frequented by foreign travelers, some of whom left testimony of their pilgrimage, always alluding in their texts to the harshness of the transit through the Cantabrian mountain range or to the beauty of the Asturian landscape. A famous French pilgrimage song points out the need felt by many in the medieval centuries to deviate in León from the French way to head north, along the route of El Salvador, towards the Holy Chamber of Oviedo:
Who goes to Santiago and not to Salvador
Visits the servant and leaves the Lord
In the current Jacobean renaissance, the Salvador route has been consolidated as a connecting road between the French road and the roads of the North of Spain. It is a route that starts from the very center of León, from the vicinity of the old San Marcos hospital, current Parador Nacional, and that on its Asturian side (once the port of Pajares has been crossed) runs through the councils of Lena, Mieres, Ribera de Arriba and Oviedo, from where you can continue towards Santiago along the primitive route (there is a path, not officially declared but marked on the ground, that connects Oviedo with Avilés and from there with the coastal road to Compostela).