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23 julio 2024

We walk between Somport and Canfranc-station

Puerto de Somport, at an altitude of more than 1600 meters in the middle of the Pyrenees Mountain Range. Before us, the course of the Aragon river marks the path to follow, so we begin to take the first steps, passing next to a Jacobean column that marks the distance to Santiago de Compostela, 858 kilometers, although 87 are those that separate us from the town of Undués de Lerda, the last village of Aragon before entering Navarra.

We take a look to our right, at the small chapel dedicated to the Virgen del Pilar, whose protection will never hurt us. At the foot of the chapel, there is a sculpture representing a pilgrim, the work of the artist José Antonio Barrios Ibáñez, of which he said the following about his work: “Everything is made by and for the soul” Certainly, the work behaves deeply respectful with the mountain environment, maintaining the harmony of the place.

Contemplate, harmony, peace, calm… That active looking, that entering into the intimate relationship with what surrounds us from what we perceive through our senses, as if we were looking for a little peace, tranquility, rest and harmony between us and what surrounds us.

We take a deep breath and continue walking. Following the marked route, we will soon reach the ruins of the Hospital de Santa Cristina, just before the arrival to Candanchú. It would take too long to talk about this emblematic place, which lived its greatest splendor in the XII and XIII centuries, when it came to have several delegations, depending on it 14 French churches and 30 Aragonese ones. In the Codex Calixtinus, the medieval pilgrim’s guide, the cleric Aymerich Picaud describes it, together with those of Jerusalem and Rome, as one of the three most important hospitals in the world. Although, as is the norm for the human species, this center was the target of profound religious and political struggles, which led to its decline from the 14th century onwards. A fire caused by the French during the War of Independence practically destroyed it, the final straw being the disentailment of Mendizábal (19th century), which led to its definitive disappearance.

Soon, we will pass and leave on our right the Candanchú Ski Resort, the oldest in Spain, clearly distinguishing what are the slopes of Tobazo (1986 meters), which are waiting for the winter precipitation of snow to accommodate the thousands of people who travel to practice this sport in the winter months.

The ski resort and area of Candanchú has just under 80 inhabitants on a permanent basis, but has all kinds of hotel and catering services, especially during the ski season.

Beyond, and above the horizon of the resort, we can distinguish the peaks of Aspe, Sombrero, Lecherin and others, all above 2,500 meters of altitude. From where we look at the peaks, we can follow the signs and take the GR 11, which through La Canal Roya would mark the clear path to the Ibones de Anayet, a nice hike only recommended in the warmer months.

We continue walking, and shortly before crossing the bridge Castellar, or Ruso as it is also known, you can already see to the right, next to the road, the mass of the Castellar hill, where the ruins of the Castle of Candanchú, which appears documented in the thirteenth century, in 1293, when the King of Aragon James II acquired it from Pedro Cornet. The castle itself was important in terms of surveillance and control of the upper valley of the Aragon River, fulfilling its defensive mission and collecting customs taxes until well into the sixteenth century. It is known from written chronicles that in 1610 it was already uninhabited and in a state of ruin, the same state of progressive ruin that will soon lead to its total disappearance.

We follow the path, somewhat abrupt in some sections, we cross a beautiful forest and pass by some bunkers which, if we are not attentive, go completely unnoticed among the vegetation of the area.

We continue ahead until we find the chimney of the Anglasé foundry, an ashlar chimney tower that represents the only vestige of an old copper and iron mine. The chimney, the only survivor of the industrial complex, is a solid stone construction, reinforced with ashlars at its base and corners, which is one of the few examples of old mining architecture in the province of Huesca. In its times of glory, the place had a factory of combs, razors and buttons where about thirty workers worked, as well as and due to the proximity of the Camino Real also came to establish a sale, so that in the mid-nineteenth century the Anglasé offered the image of a small village, full of activity, which would highlight the high chimney of its foundry, the last vestige of its splendor.

After a brief encounter with the forest and following the path, one kilometer ahead, a wooden bridge allows us to cross the waters of the Izas ravine, which flows into the Aragon River.

And while we follow the path and before reaching the area of Canfranc Estación-Los Arañones, let us not forget to look up, where we can see at the top of a narrow pass over the Aragon River, as a lookout, what was the old military fortress of Coll de Ladrones, established between the XVI/XVIII centuries, although it was hardly used due to deficiencies in its construction, being abandoned in the mid-nineteenth century. Anecdotally, King Alfonso XIII and the Prince and Princess of Asturias visited the site on one occasion (September 5, 1903), as evidenced by the commemorative plaque placed at the bottom of the long staircase of 800 steps that links the fortress to the Aragon River.

Currently, due to its state of deterioration, it is closed. Apparently, it only admits some visits in summer and in a very restricted way.

We will continue walking, and so we will reach the bridge of Roldán, where we pass to the other bank of the Aragón river, which will finally take us to Canfranc-Estación.

But we will leave the arrival to the place and its imposing International Railway Station for the next installment of this route that we follow along the Aragonese Way of St. James.

An article by Fran Lucas Herrero. Read his other articles here

More about Fran Lucas Herrero on his website

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