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23 julio 2024

We walk from Canfranc station to Villanua

I continue my particular pilgrimage. On this second day walking between Canfranc Estación and Villanua I want to bring you closer to details of the places we will visit such as: Torreta de Fusileros, Iglesia de la Asunción or the bridge of the Pilgrims.

And we arrive to Canfranc-Station, place where the International Railway Station of Canfranc is located, a singular and even splendid building constructed in 1928 and that worked until 1970, year of the closing of the railway connection with France when a train of merchandise derailed in France and, from then on, the communications of people and merchandise are made by road, reason why the station, little by little, is abandoned. Its style is based on various architectural influences, using marble, cement, iron and glass in its construction, and at the time it was conceived as a great showcase for Spain to other countries, always within the project of creating a border crossing through the Pyrenees to communicate Spain with France and the rest of Europe.
Guided tours are available, although depending on the restoration and refurbishment work, the content and route may vary.


The place, although it has just over 200 inhabitants, offers pilgrims and visitors and tourists bars, restaurants and stores, as the place is recognized as a tourist place, apart from the station, for its varied and beautiful natural environment.
The municipality itself is made up of two urban centers: the historic Canfrac, less than four kilometers away, which has preserved all the essence of a small mountain village, and the modern Canfranc-Estación, which arose in the heat of the railroad station, and to which, after the devastating fire that devastated Canfranc in 1944, the town hall, the capital of the municipality and other services were transferred here.

Apart from the station, it would not be out of place to visit the parish church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Canfranc-Estación, designed in 1965. Its strange beauty, a mixture of tradition and modernity, integrates in clear harmony with the Pyrenean landscape around it, and its fan-shaped plant, resembles in its main facade a sinuous layout symbolically evoking the pilgrim’s shell, perhaps as a tribute to the Aragonese Way of St. James that passes before its very doors. The church was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2007 by the Government of Aragon.



After having a drink in its bars to regain strength, visit the station and the church, and unless you want to continue taking a quiet walk around the place, we leave Canfranc-Estación by the sidewalk of one of the sides of access to the tunnel of the national road, we cross a small gallery, crossing shortly after a bridge over the Aragon River to take a nice path.

The distance between Canfranc Estación and Canfranc Pueblo along the route of the Camino Aragonés is a little less than four kilometers. After crossing the bridge, if you look to your right, you will see on the other side of the road the Torreta de Fusileros, from the 19th century, which if you want to visit you would have to go back and make a detour, although the historical route actually ran parallel to the road, or in its day, the Camino Real, next to the aforementioned Torreta.


And if you stop looking towards the Turret and continue, you will find the remains of the Espelunca Tower, built in 1592 to serve as protection in the defense of the pass.


It is curious to see both the Torreta de Fusileros and the ruins of the Torre de la Espelunca, because although their construction dates are different, their function was the same, to defend the entrance to Spain from France. They are one on each side of the road towards Canfranc, a few meters away, but there they remain, as a reminder of what the area was like in those times.

We arrive at Canfranc, a town in which the Aragonese Way of St. James had a fundamental and key influence in its development, being also linked by its location to the official customs traffic of people and goods from or to France. It also had a hospital for pilgrims in the Middle Ages, as it was a fairly populated and important enclave, a place of welcome for travelers and pilgrims, because by royal decree, its inhabitants were exempt from many taxes, among other things, always in exchange for taking care of the cleaning and maintenance of the pilgrimage route and offering security, accommodation, food and care to pilgrims and travelers.

And although today it has a little less than 100 inhabitants, the village is still a hospitable place, since it has the Pilgrims’ Hostel of Canfranc – Elías Valiña, a luxury place, excellently conditioned and managed.

Today it is a quiet village that receives far fewer visitors than Canfranc-Estación, but you can not pass by without admiring the parish church of the Assumption, already existing in 1202 and a survivor, since throughout its history it was destroyed and rebuilt several times, the last of them following the devastating fire that ravaged the town in 1944 destroying three quarters of the town.


You can also see the facade of the Tower of Aznar Palacín (XIV century) and the ruins of the church-monumental complex of the Trinity founded in the sixteenth century to serve the poor and pilgrims.


Then, we will leave Canfranc behind, crossing the Aragón river again by the so-called Pilgrims’ bridge, quite beautiful, although the locals also used to call it “Pon Nou” (new bridge).


Shortly after the valley will narrow and the road will take us through a narrow gorge, where among good scenery we will also find some stony and poorly conditioned sections that would not hurt to be cleaned up, both for pilgrims and for any walker or tourist passing through the place.
We head towards Villanúa, we will arrive soon, and there await us on the very slopes of the Collarada point, its stony dolmens and the Cueva de las Guixas, where witches, centuries ago, made their covens under the starry nights…





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

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