Puebla de Sanabria is a fabulous place to take a rest day on your Camino Sanabrés, and just be a tourist for a while. The town and the region of Sanabria, in which it resides is where this Camino gets its name!
“The castle, and all it represents, will always be with us. Once it was born, once the stone was made living, the repository of power made real, the idea could never be unmade. Even if all the castles of all the world were destroyed, in the minds of men they would be built anew; the wizard called imagination would raise high walls and towers out of ruins.” ~ David Day, "Castles"
I love the quote above because for me it truly captures the feeling I have regarding castles. It most certainly is the fantasy of my creation, compared to the harsh reality of what a castle was actually all about, I know!
The crowning glory of Puebla de Sanabria is indeed its castle. With its many nooks and crannies, stairways and towers and rooms to explore, my imagination was not disappointed.
While you could most likely see all that you needed to see here in less than half a day, we chose to spend a full day resting, after 10 grueling days on the Camino Fonseca from Salamanca.
Please check the Puebla de Sanabria Tourist Website for operating hours of the sites I cover below, so you can best coordinate your visit if you are here a short time.
Our rest day was actually full of rain, as you will see in the photos, so I was grateful that I had taken some photos the afternoon of our arrival, when it was still sunny.
The least expensive place to stay for the pilgrim is the private Albergue Casa Luz. There are no municipal albergues here. This albergue is quite nice. It is a converted old house, with each of the many rooms with various numbers of beds, from four to ten. It has a nice kitchen, laundry, separate shower facilities and an outdoor patio area. It is most convenient to the old town.
If you really want a splurge, you can look for accommodation closer to the center of town and the castle. The best way to find the best current deal is to look on booking.com for more luxurious accommodations. There is even a Parador here.
There is also a reasonably priced hotel to the north of town, across the river, but still very conveniently located to the attractions, called the Hotel Los Perales.
One of the main attractions in the town and at the top of the fortress hill, just south of the castle, is the very old, 12th century Romanesque church, the Iglesia de Santa María del Azogue. It is in the main plaza, the Plaza Mayor. Below is a photo of it and its impressive bell tower, which was built sometime after the church.
According to the Puebla de Sanabria website, "The capitals on the doorway of the church are Romanesque and show plant-type decorations. Also depicted here is the biblical theme of Adam and Eve tempted by the serpent. On the shafts of the columns, there are human figures dressed in the attire of the time." This doorway is quite old and eye-catching!
The interior of the church is simple and elegant. "The wide transept and its polygonal apse are Gothic and are covered by star-shaped ribbed vaults. Inside there is a baptismal font from the 13th century with carved figures on the front. The organ, a beautiful instrument dating from 1780 and from which musical notes emerged until 1930." This quote is also from the town website.
Below left is a photo of the altar, and below right, a close-up with Santa María de Azogue in the center.
To the left, below, I was attracted to the altar where the Virgen de las Victorias was venerated. I lit a candle for an ill niece, with the same name.
I was unable to find any information on who exactly Santa María de Azogue is other than a regional name for St. Mary, but to the right is another altar to her, with children at her feet, as they are on the main altar.
Perhaps the best view of the church and the Ermita are from the castle ramparts! The view shown here is fantastic, despite the rainy and overcast day.
This small baroque church, the Ermita de San Cayetano, just south of the castle, and next to the San Azogue, was built in the 18th Century. It is an eye-catching little chapel. It was a shame that it was closed. I could find no opening hours on the official town website, so it may only be opened for private masses. To see inside, click on the link above.
The familiar placard on the Camino is just to the left of the front of the Ermita, in the Plaza del Castillo.
The crowning jewel of Puebla de Sanabria is the Castillo, built in the mid-15th century by the Counts of Benevente. It is built on a rectangular plan, with the central tower of the Keep, called the Torre del Homenaje, also known colloquially as "El Macho."
You most likely will want to spend several hours here at the castle. Included within and by the entrance is the municipal Tourist Office. The outer rooms have been renovated to function as museum exhibition rooms depicting the natural features of the surrounding area, art galleries, assembly rooms and even the town's municipal library.
The central Keep is a museum featuring information on the history of the castle itself.
Enter the castle by the north side, at the gate shown below.
We slopped around in the puddles of the inner courtyard, visiting all the outer rooms, and the means to enter the Torre del Homenaje, or the Keep, shown on the right side of the photo.
You are allowed to walk along the entire length of the rampart walls, accessing it from many different stairways. The rain did not deter us, but casted a more mystical spell to the place! We only needed to be aware of our footing on the slippery stairways.
This is a view of the inner tower from the eastern rampart wall.
I just loved the appearance of the slate roof tiles in the rain as we walked the ramparts of the castle. You can also see the people on the opposite tower, with their umbrellas.
The surrounding views from the top of the ramparts in all directions are the best and for me the best reason for climbing up them!
Here is a view of the town to the east, from one of the towers, with the Río Castro below. The road that you can see on the near side of the river is the Camino Way, that you will be taking onward.
A separate watchtower, shown below, was built by the Portuguese at the top of the eastern wall and to the south of the castle. It is now known as the Portuguese Bulwark and was built in the 18th century during the War of Succession.
You can see this watchtower to the left as you approach the fortress wall from the east.
The terrace top of the bulwark now houses outdoor tables of the Sidrería La Guaja, the Cider House and restaurant that is a part of the Hotel Rural Guaja.
Having lunch and a cider on this terrace is fabulous and allows for the most amazing views over the town and the Río Castro. We were happy we had enjoyed lunch here the day before when it was sunny and clear. For photos, see our day five.
No tour of Puebla de Sanabria would be complete without a walk through the medieval streets. Below are only a few photos that I took of the town. Because the town sits on a hill, every direction that you walk is down that hill!
There are more sites to see than I have covered in this article. For an exhaustive look at everything Puebla de Sanabria, click here for the amazing website put out by the town.
This is the heart of Camelot, not these stones, not these timbers, these palaces and towers. Burn them all and Camelot lives on, because it lives in us. Camelot is a belief that we hold in our hearts. ~ King Arthur
May your own tour of Puebla de Sanabria take you on a journey of wonder and imagination, and may this lovely town live on in your heart! Ultreia!
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