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The Ways of Saint James


Cantabria forms part of The Coastal Way of Saint James, the oldest of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela.

It includes the Monastery of Santo Toribio of Liebana which, from 1512, and by papal bull from Julius II, it was added to Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela as one of the four locations of Christianity where the jubilee can be obtained by pilgrimage.

Both this route and the Lebaniego Way pass through the same towns, therefore many pilgrims take the opportunity to obtain both jubilees.


Unlike the others which are carried out at fixed intervals, the Lebaniego Jubilee is only held when the celebration for Saint Toribius, on 16th April, falls on Sunday.

The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela which crosses Cantabria forms part of the so-called “Coastal Way” which, according to manuscripts, was highly transited during the Middle Ages to avoid the Moors. Many Chronicles were compiled of the pilgrims' advance through Cantabrian territory, amongst others Saint Francis of Assis during the 18th century.


From Castro Urdiales to Laredo

On route are the villages of Ontañes, Santullán and Sámano and after passing the ruins of the old Pilgrims' Hospital there is a beautiful panoramic view of Castro Urdiales.

Castro is a seafaring town with peculiar historical identity, the origins of which date back to prehistory.

The Chapel of Santa Ana and the Tow hall dating back to 18th century, along with the typical streets of the old town, round off the historical features of the town.


From Laredo to Meruelo

The gothic Church of Santa María de la Asunción, located at the top of the Puebla Vieja overlooks and protects Laredo. In this area there are numerous pubs and bars thus making it the town's most popular venue for socializing.

The Way continues from Laredo in the direction of Colindres from where it is possible to cross to Santoña by boat or to continue by road via Cicero, Gama, Escalante and Argoños on the edge of Marshes of Santoña.

From Santoña the rout continues via the beaches of Berria and Helgueras until reaching Noka. Both routs converge in Bareyo where it is worth stopping to admire the beautiful Romanesque Church of Santa María.

From Meruelo to Santander

From Barello, the next stop en route is the Capital of Cantabria, Santander. There are two routs which can be taken to reach this destination.

The first of these goes from Ajo and follows the coast through villages in the municipality of Ribamontán del mar, Galizano, Loredo and Somo located around the bay.

Described by its visitors as modern, cosmopolitan and home to one of the most spectacular bays in the world, Santander offers numerous possibilities for visitors.

The surroundings of the Cathedral, El Sardinero, Reina Victoria, the Paseo de Pereda, Castelar and the Maritime area are all extensive areas for enjoying a stroll and relaxed conversation.

From Santander to Santillana del Mar

During this phase, the pilgrim moves slightly inland and comes upon towns such as Santa Cruz de Bezana, Monpia and Boo de Piélagos.

Now at the heart of the Besaya region, the most important town is its capital, Torrelavega, which is an outstanding commercial and indrustrial center.

Once in Santillana, lose yourself in the cobbled streets of the old quarter which date back to the Middle Ages and which have not lost any of their charm. Its numerous and varied possibilities have made it one of the most beautiful villages in Spain and therefore a must-see.

Santillana boasts a vast array of architectonical treasures. The most outstanding is the Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana, in the urban centre, which is the most significant Romanesque example in Cantabria, as well as the abundance of magnificently preserved mountain houses “ Casas Montañesas”

From Santillana del Mar to San Vicente de la Barquera

This fifth phase introduces the pilgrim to the western coast of Cantabria. In order to reach the next destination, San Vicente de la Barquera, the pilgrim will go through towns as outstanding as Cobreces, with the Cistercian Monastery or Comillas, where in addition to the beaches, impressive architecture can be enjoy, such us the spectacular Capricho de Gaudí, work renowned Catalán architect or the buildings built during the patronage of Marquís of Comillas, such us the Palace of Sobrellano and its chapel pantheon or the Pontifical University.

In this village it is once again possible to choose from alternative routes; the historical one or the one for walkers.

Both however offer fantastic panoramic views and historical vestiges which line Valdáliga until reaching San Vicente de la Barquera.

From San Vicente de la Barquera to Quintanilla

San Vicente de la Barquera is the rendezvous for the Coastal Way of Saint James and the Lebaniego Way. This is where the pilgrims decide whether to continue towards Santiago de Compostela, going through the last villages of Cantabria such as Pesues and Unquera along the spectacular estuaries of the Tina Menor y Tina Mayor or whether they prefer to head for the Lebaniego interior until reaching the Monastery of Santo Toribio. In order to be able to venerate the relic of the Lignum Crucis.

From Quintanilla to Potes

The next phase to the Liebana Way links Quintanilla de Lamasón to Potes. Over this route the pilgrims go through the town of Cicera, via the Arceón pass, until reaching Lebeña, a natural section 8 km long with height differences ranging between 500 m going up and 700 m going down. The alternative route by road goes up to Hermida.

Lebeña is home to the Church of Santa María, one of the finest Spanish Mozarabic examples in Cantabria.

From Cillorigo, specifically from Tama, to Potes there is a parallel path by road referred to as the “Way of Campañana” which follows the River Deva and along which the full beauty of the Lebaniego meadows can be appreciated.

Liebana offers a unique gastronomy. Its location at the heart of the Picos de Europa mountain range, the abundance of villages which respect and keep their customs and the existence of an unusual microclimate make possible to cultivate many, fruits and pulses which have a special flavour in this region.

From Potes to Santo Toribio de Liébana

Next to Potes is Turienzo which is home to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, founded during the 12th century and considered as the oldest Monastery in Spain where worship has continued uninterruptedly.

The Monastery was an important centre of thought at that time, with the personality of the Beatus of Liébana standing out, author of the “Commentaries on the Apocalypse”, during the 18th century.

The monastery is guardian of the Vera Cruz or “Lignum Crucis” the largest fragment known of the Cross of Crist which was brought by Saint Toribius from the Holy Land.

This relic very quickly became the reason for pilgrimages by Christians from all over.

The large influx of pilgrims led to a papal bull in 1512 from Pope Julius II, thus establishing the Lebaniego Jubilee for the years in which the festivity of Saint Toribios falls on a Sunday.

Thus, the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana became a holy place along with Santiago de Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem.



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