Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Najera’s Cave, Rioja, Spain

(among the most magical (and often most-overlooked) places on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, begun on 6 June 2014)

Straddling the pretty Naverette River with red sandstone cliffs and green river banks, Nájera is a gregarious town hiding a holy cave. 

The monastery, Monasterio de Santa María la Real, is built right into the cliff. Upon entering you pass through the cloister with its delicate Gothic-arched latticework and then deeper in you reach the church. 

In the very back is the cave, discovered in AD 1044 when the king of Navarra, García III, followed his hunting falcon, who was pursuing a partridge. Behind the thicket hiding the cave he spied a mysterious light and discovered Our Lady of Nájera surrounded by white lilies and the two birds, now good friends rather than predator and prey. 

You can visit the red sandstone cave, most likely carved out of the soft stone around the 3rd century. It was then forgotten, overgrown by forest and hidden, until that mystical day in the 11th century.

More on Nájera's folklore. 

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