Camino Day 19: Gijon to Avilés 

Along the Camino, one finds that the larger the city, the more distressing entering and exiting it can be. Urban sprawl is definitely alive and well here, so not much to report until Avilés. 

     

This is a town with rich medieval history. Back around the turn of the last millennium, the king of Castile wanted a northern port on the Atlantic so that he could trade easier with France. At the time, there was a small village on the coast and he basically bribed them to get the whole enterprise going. 

     

What came of it was a Royal Charter wherein the town was answerable only to the king. He also gave them some perks like tax-free Mondays for markets and extra protection from the town’s enemies. 

     

In turn, they ran the port and made sure the ships sailed on time. Just to be sure, the people of Avilés had the king write it all down and the above is the original copy that has remained in the town since the 12th century. (Oh, and Mikey did check the back, but no treasure map.)

    

     Like many of the costal villages we’ve encountered, the profitability of maritime trade is evidenced by their beautiful architecture. 

     

     The Church of Saint Nicholas is a relatively new church (mid-twentieth century), but occupies pride of place adjacent to the central Plaza España. 

 

The Church of Saint Thomas of Canterbury definitely exhibits some English influence. 

     

But, the crown jewel of Avilés is the 13th century Church of the Franciscan Fathers. It is the oldest building in Avilés and was actually open diring siesta!

     

The altar was very simple in style and had been partially reconstructed during the early baroque period. 

     

The Christ Chapel was an 18th century addition. 

     

Also inside the church was a paso or giant hand carved float depicting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Pasos are carried on the backs of congregants through the streets in the processions of Holy Week. 

     

However, the really cool bit was the tomb of Pedro Menéndez de Avila. Peter who? Oh, he’s just a kid who grew up in the town, went to this church, and then founded Saint Augustine, Florida – the oldest European settlement in the Americas. 

     

Well, this explorer has a long day ahead of him. If all goes well, we should be clocking in around 40km or 25 miles. As such, bedtime is drawing near. Good night you princes of Avilés, you kings of Spain.