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Did the pilgrims 1000 years ago walk on or next to the Roman roads?

RENSHAW

Official Camino Vino taster
Year of past OR future Camino
2003 CF Roncesvalles to Santiago
2/4 weeks on the CF frequently.
Hospitalero San Anton June 2016.
I often think 'How true is the current Frances route?' There are some parts that I have walked many times and each time I have questioned 'Why this route' Did it really follow the same route through the Meseta as it does today?
I have had disagreements with others that say most of the Camino is buried under the current highways?
Then there are towns that were hardly in existence at this time such as Estella. Would one not have walked through each town to get water and provisions? Was it permitted to take short cuts through private land? Have some towns been excluded?
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I think you are asking two questions, namely
  • did the pilgrims 1000 years ago walk on or next to the Roman roads and
  • do the pilgrims of today walk on or next to the Roman roads and/or on or next to the roads where the pilgrims of 1000 years ago walked
There is a good answer to your first question here: Are there any major roads built in the Middle Ages (Europe)?

And the answer to your second question: rarely.
 
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cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Hola @RENSHAW You are not alone with this question. I and I think many other modern pilgrims have asked themselves "would 10th century pilgrims have walked a waterless meseta in July"? I believe that at certain times (high summer and the depths of winter) that the coastal routes would have been more popular. That said Los Arcos must have been a centre for pilgrims given the that magnificent church which dates from the 12th or 13th century. Maybe the best comment is that pilgrims walked whatever "camino" they were told about.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
Don is right of course. For many centuries, the Roman roads were the only real roads there were. Everything else was cattle trails, mud lanes, and watercourses. Because Romans tried to follow the path of least resistance, and their roads lasted forever, it only made sense to keep using those. Medieval roads were also "paved," and the camino still follows some of those, although they are much degraded and often now lost under asphalt or tar-and-chip laid down to cut down erosion. The knee-killing path down from Riego de Ambros to Molinaseca was for centuries The Road up and down that mountain -- you still can see the ruts in the stones cut by thousands of cart-wheels. (The Camino Vadiniense and Via de la Plata have some fabulous stretches of Roman/medieval road engineering if you have an eye for these things.)
The Camino has shifted its course many times over the years as property lines changed, new roads, bridges, inns, monasteries and hospitals were built.. you name it. Get ahold of Don Elias Valina's guides from the 1980's, and take a good look at the maps. Big shifts since then, mostly to get pilgrims off the roadsides and out of farmers' fields and yards... and to keep those thousands of feet from turning fragile pathways into slippery bogs. Oh, and to get them to the door of the local bar!
The Way is a living thing, forever evolving and changing, but always moving in the same direction. Cool.
 
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Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
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Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
There are a few sections of Roman roadway still in use on the Le Puy route; my personal observation is that one would have walked on them, rather than alongside, except when there was the passing wagon etc.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Spain has some amazing examples of Roman built roads that are either visible or hidden under the ground but much of the traces of even major Roman roads are gone for good. Not all of them were straight as arrows and not all of them were built in the form of several layers with a stone surface that is so familiar to us.

Below is an example of the possible course of such a major Roman road through La Rioja. You can make out the location of today's towns of Puente la Reina and Estella. Various recent authors/researchers have tried to sketch the course of the road on the basis of whatever facts are available. There is no unanimity, and as you can see, after Irache (monastery), the road may have most likely gone through Piedramillera, Aguilar de Codés and La Población, considerably to the north of both the contemporary Camino trail and the major modern national road NA-1110.

So, we who walk today, all we may have in common with both the medieval pilgrim and the Roman administrator, is that we move in the same general direction towards villages and towns in the west.

Roman road Estella.jpg
 

Glamgrrl

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Travel318
This was a question that we asked as the Camino avoided the airport close to Santiago...and of course other places.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
This was a question that we asked as the Camino avoided the airport close to Santiago...and of course other places.
I don't know how accurate or approximate the following sketch is, I picked it up from a blog. It shows various major Roman roads and their numbering within Galicia. But of this I am fairly certain: within Galicia there is no major Roman road that would coincide with the contemporary trail of the Camino de Santiago that we follow today and that goes from Astorga via Ponferrada, Melide and Arzua to Santiago.

BTW, Astorga, Manzanal and Bembibre are stations on a major road that was still walked by many medieval pilgrims on their way to Santiago and travelled by many other Santiago pilgrims in later centuries. Basically unknown as a camino/pilgrimage road to most of us today. Many also walked or travelled along Astorga-Lugo-Santiago, again something that is mostly unknown to us as a "Way to Santiago".

The Way to Santiago is more a very broad channel for movement than the narrow single foot trail, marked by yellow arrows, that we know.

Roman road in Galicia.jpg
 
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RENSHAW

Official Camino Vino taster
Year of past OR future Camino
2003 CF Roncesvalles to Santiago
2/4 weeks on the CF frequently.
Hospitalero San Anton June 2016.
I certainly do not want to 'bully' the Meseta - I love the Meseta!. For instance, the dirt road between Carrión de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza is just so straight and is the most direct route that it must have been the the most direct route - here I can well imagine that there is an ancient road now covered in chip underneath this exact route as @Rebekah Scott suggests may be the case.
Edit: Even if Calzadilla was only a small hamlet with a church in the Middle ages?
 

Dsavid Keyte

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino de San Salavador (2015)
Camino de la Costa (2016)
Camino Lebaniego 2017
We came across a short section of a Roman road, high in the mountains between León and Oviedo, of course we had to have a walk on it although only the large stones remained, so it was a bit like stepping stones. The N120 is close to the old route, from the Gold mines of the Medulas to Rome, Astorga being an important fort overlooking the Gold route
 

Kathar1na

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
the dirt road between Carrión de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza is just so straight and is the most direct route that it must have been the the most direct route - here I can well imagine that there is an ancient road now covered in chip underneath this exact route
There is an excellent website, mainly in Spanish, called www.traianvs.net, with many details and photos of Roman roads in Spain. There is a section about Carrión de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza here.

The first sentence says that in this section, the infrastructure was very little altered, apart from the natural influence of time, until August 1998. At that point in time, it was decided to "repair" the road for pilgrim traffic, and this reparation lead to a "reprofiling of the platform and the ditches". There are also two photos but I don't know from when. I don't know enough Spanish and I don't have enough technical background to understand it all but I wonder whether this was a part of the road where the road was not covered by stones on the surface? As far as I understand it, the Romans made use of material found in the area. I'd really like to understand this better.


Calzada romana.jpg
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
Don is right of course. For many centuries, the Roman roads were the only real roads there were. Everything else was cattle trails, mud lanes, and watercourses. Because Romans tried to follow the path of least resistance, and their roads lasted forever, it only made sense to keep using those. Medieval roads were also "paved," and the camino still follows some of those, although they are much degraded and often now lost under asphalt or tar-and-chip laid down to cut down erosion. The knee-killing path down from Riego de Ambros to Molinaseca was for centuries The Road up and down that mountain -- you still can see the ruts in the stones cut by thousands of cart-wheels. (The Camino Vadiniense and Via de la Plata have some fabulous stretches of Roman/medieval road engineering if you have an eye for these things.)
The Camino has shifted its course many times over the years as property lines changed, new roads, bridges, inns, monasteries and hospitals were built.. you name it. Get ahold of Don Elias Valina's guides from the 1980's, and take a good look at the maps. Big shifts since then, mostly to get pilgrims off the roadsides and out of farmers' fields and yards... and to keep those thousands of feet from turning fragile pathways into slippery bogs. Oh, and to get them to the door of the local bar!
The Way is a living thing, forever evolving and changing, but always moving in the same direction. Cool.
Rebekah, as you are one of the true Camino angels (having read many of your posts and listening to your interviews on podcasts) you or someone may know the answer to this. Of all the Caminos which ones are truest today to their original routes. I do not know if there is really an answer to this. I will be doing the VDLP as soon as I have an effective vaccine in me. I am really looking forward to it because I love a peaceful and long route and being a history major in college there is so much history right on that Camino. Any insights from you or anyone else would be greatly appreciated.
 

El Cascayal

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Primitivo May 2019
Invierno November 2019
Ingles April (2020) postponed
Where Invierno becomes La Plata; Ponte Taboada & Silleda, are these not Roman roads?
 

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Pelegrin

Veteran Member
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2019
Spain has some amazing examples of Roman built roads that are either visible or hidden under the ground but much of the traces of even major Roman roads are gone for good. Not all of them were straight as arrows and not all of them were built in the form of several layers with a stone surface that is so familiar to us.

Below is an example of the possible course of such a major Roman road through La Rioja. You can make out the location of today's towns of Puente la Reina and Estella. Various recent authors/researchers have tried to sketch the course of the road on the basis of whatever facts are available. There is no unanimity, and as you can see, after Irache (monastery), the road may have most likely gone through Piedramillera, Aguilar de Codés and La Población, considerably to the north of both the contemporary Camino trail and the major modern national road NA-1110.

So, we who walk today, all we may have in common with both the medieval pilgrim and the Roman administrator, is that we move in the same general direction towards villages and towns in the west.

View attachment 86907
I think that the Romans had much more interest in connecting Legio (Leon) with Cesaraugusta (Zaragoza) and Tarraco (Tarragona) than connecting it to Galia (France) because they sent the gold from Las Medulas and other mines in the NW of Hispania to Rome by boat.
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
Alas, I am not an expert in Roman remains or the old highways of Spain. I know that most Roman roads and bridges here were rebuilt and/or replaced during the medieval period, and some later improved during the Golden Age of the Catholic Monarchs and Philip ii, royals who loved to gad about the country. When Roman highways fell into disuse, their paving stones were often dug out and carted off for other uses.
I do know there's a very nicely preserved (restored) strip of Roman road out in the wilds between Calzada del Coto and Reliegos, and another one in Fuenterroble de Salvatierra on the Via de la Plata. One thing to remember: in the early days, roads were built for trade and soldiers, not for pilgrims or even local convenience. Astorga and Merida were major Roman cities because they tied-together trade routes and military stations. The Camino Invierno was a trade route that linked mines to markets -- its occasional use by pilgrims was purely incidental. What are the "original routes?" The Primitivo, clearly. The Olvidado. And the Frances! What is "original?" The pioneer pilgrims just followed the roads that took them most safely and directly to Santiago. There was no "Way." The road was already there. The Way was made by walking!

(meantime, track down a copy of "Camino de Santiago: Relaciones geograficas, historicas y artisticas," by Jose Ortiz Baeza, Manuel Paz de Santos y Francisco Garcia Mascarell. 2010, Ministerio de Defensa. It's all color maps and photos and relief drawings of the Camino Frances, a treasure trove for map lovers and Camino heads.)

I will ask some of my historian buds what they think of this question.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
in this section, the infrastructure was very little altered, apart from the natural influence of time, until August 1998. At that point in time, it was decided to "repair" the road for pilgrim traffic, and this reparation lead to a "reprofiling of the platform and the ditches". There are also two photos but I don't know from when.

View attachment 86934
Reading through this "translation" again, I guess it's barely comprehensible. It means that the profile of the soil stayed in the same shape for 2000 years, in the form it was shaped by Roman engineers and road workers.

It reminded me of similar amazing testimony: Tucked away in the woods in the south west of Germany, you can still see meters and meters of the ditch and the low earth dam that was heaped up and topped by a wooden fence to mark the limes, the border between the Roman Empire and the territories of Germanic tribes. Along Hadrian's Wall in England, another external border of the Roman Empire, you can see still ditches and other signs of soil having been moved and shaped upon order of and supervision by the Roman administration in fields and meadows immediately to the south of this border. Time did not change it.

Limes (reconstruction):

Limes.jpg
 
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David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2005
I have often pondered this .. seems to me that with most pilgrims walking in caravans for safety that it would be obvious to take main routes from town to town, with possible diversions to sacred sites such as relic holding churches ... with St Jean the Napoleon route is now considered to be "the correct route" but surely not, it wasn't there before Napoleon's engineers built it and anyone with any sense at all, if they crossed the mountains there, would have taken the main road.

My first Camino in the year 5 I walked some weeks in France on the way to St Jean and saw that the route had been combined with a French walking route, a GR .. the guide maps would show the route leaving the road to go up to the top of a hill, along a ridge and down again - merely, it seemed to me, for 'prettiness' for weekend ramblers, so I always ignore those and stayed on the straight and direct path, and I believe that early pilgrims would have done the same.
 
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Kathar1na

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I love the Meseta!. For instance, the dirt road between Carrión de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza is just so straight and is the most direct route that it must have been the the most direct route - here I can well imagine that there is an ancient road now covered in chip underneath this exact route as @Rebekah Scott suggests may be the case.
This is more interesting than I thought and goes beyond "oh look old pavement stones of a Roman road" :). This is from traianvs.net again where there is a description from 1840 describing the way from Carrión de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza:

From here the path begins to follow a Roman road, whose excellent condition causes admiration. In it, the small stones that form it have been united so strongly with the mortar that bound them, converting the adherence into cohesion, that it constitutes a single compact rock.
Again, to me this sounds as if the road was not paved. And below are screenshots from before and after the road works in preparation of the Holy Year 1999.

Road transformation.jpg
 
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NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
appears to be a bit wriggly and was apparently straightened
I imagine those wriggly spots developed during winter and early spring when the path meandered around wet, boggy spots. Now those fields are likely tiled to drain that wet away.

the guide maps would show the route leaving the road to go up to the top of a hill, along a ridge and down again

No doubt pilgrims took the most direct routes and only headed into the hills and forests to avoid road tolls, highway robbers and other such hindrances. I too channeled the cunning pilgrim and skipped those scenic detours on the GR65.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
wriggly spots developed
You saw the comment before I decided to remove it because I wasn't sure and it didn't make sense and it's just photos anyway ... :rolleyes:🙂. Anyway, my understanding is that the profile of this road didn't change because its infrastructure which was perhaps only small gravel or sand bound together by cement or mortar or whatever the correct word is became as compact as a rock.

It does look nicer and more romantic before 1999 than now. :)
 
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kelleymac

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
I often think 'How true is the current Frances route?' There are some parts that I have walked many times and each time I have questioned 'Why this route' Did it really follow the same route through the Meseta as it does today?
I have had disagreements with others that say most of the Camino is buried under the current highways?
Then there are towns that were hardly in existence at this time such as Estella. Would one not have walked through each town to get water and provisions? Was it permitted to take short cuts through private land? Have some towns been excluded?

I wondered about the original path taken by pilgrims from Le Puy-- I cannot imagine that they took the route that went over the hills (current route) and did not follow the river valleys. Were there Roman roads there? Does anyone have information on that? -- Maybe I should repost this question in the Le Puy site....

thanks,

Kate
 

TrvlDad1

Covidyard Bob
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2017 Frances from Saria
2018 Finnisterre & Ingles
2019 Portuguese from Valenca
2020 Assisi(cancel.)
Hadrian’s Wall Path in northern England along the Scotland border, roughly from Carlisle to Newcastle is a wonderful and reasonably preserved example of Roman road-building for defense (probably preserved due to low density and limited travel at the time). Also several well-reconstructed supporting Roman towns along the way. Takes about two weeks and very historic. Not the Camino as to infrastructure or spirituality, but a nice trek.
 
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Mike Wells

author of 'Cycling the Camino Frances'
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The authenticity of many so-called pilgrim routes is open to question. Here is an example of very dubious heritage. In southern England the 'Pilgrims' Way' from Winchester to Canterbury follows the line of a hilly ridge know as the North Downs. It is a journey made famous by Geoffrey Chaucer's book The Canterbury Tales, a medieval morality tale of pilgrims on their way from London to visit Thomas A'Becket's shrine in Canterbury cathedral.

Although the route is marked clearly on British Ordnance Survey maps (in italic script denoting an ancient monument) and is waymarked as the Pilgrims' Way, it is all an elaborate hoax. In 1871 a man named Edward James was chief surveyor of the Ordnance Survey and thus Britain's top map-maker. He regarded himself as something of an amateur historian and published a pamphlet describing the route he thought medieval pilgrims would have followed to Canterbury. In his position as head of the OS he way able to make sure his route was incorporated into official maps of Surrey and Kent where it still appears. The idea gained credence when the author Hilaire Belloc romanticised the route in his own writings. There is little historic evidence to support James' invention. It is almost certain that pilgrims going to Canterbury, including those described by Chaucer, followed the old Roman road of Watling Street which ran closer to the river Thames, north of the North Downs ridge, through towns where there would have been inns to serve the travellers.

Lots of parallels here with the Camino. Twentieth century trails winding through fields shown on maps as the Camino and waymarked as such that were not followed by medieval pilgrims and a network of almost forgotten Roman roads that probably were.

Ironically, in his desire to associate his route with the Canterbury pilgrimage, James missed its true history. It is now though to be much older, pre-Roman in fact, and served as a means by which pre-historic humans could follow high ground to reach what is nowadays the English Channel where before the end of the last ice-age there was a land bridge connecting England and France.
 

howardd5

Member
Rebekah, as you are one of the true Camino angels (having read many of your posts and listening to your interviews on podcasts) you or someone may know the answer to this. Of all the Caminos which ones are truest today to their original routes. I do not know if there is really an answer to this. I will be doing the VDLP as soon as I have an effective vaccine in me. I am really looking forward to it because I love a peaceful and long route and being a history major in college there is so much history right on that Camino. Any insights from you or anyone else would be greatly appreciated.
from my reading and walking of the different Camino ,i would have to say the Primitivo from oviedo to Lugo offers the most correct route of original Pilgrims . I know it has some of the oldest and original churches as well .
 

NavyBlue

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy and Camino Frances. Via Francigena. Tro-Breiz in progress.
Hi,

In Calzada del Coto, west of Sahagun, you have an option : "El Camino Real" to Bercianos del Real Camino or the alternative way of "La Calzada Romana" to Calzadilla de los Hermillos and further.

As the name suggests, the Calzada Romana is a genuine Roman road. You will walk along the way itself, as the remnants are fenced for protection. Details are posted in a shelter (in Spanish). I learned then
that not all Roman roads are paved with large stones. Here, in the Meseta, local gravel has been used.
The cambered cross-section can be seen under the grass.

Needless to say that this road is quite straight and may feel a bit long for the pilgrim...

P7.JPG P8.JPG
 

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2005
The authenticity of many so-called pilgrim routes is open to question. Here is an example of very dubious heritage. In southern England the 'Pilgrims' Way' from Winchester to Canterbury follows the line of a hilly ridge know as the North Downs. It is a journey made famous by Geoffrey Chaucer's book The Canterbury Tales, a medieval morality tale of pilgrims on their way from London to visit Thomas A'Becket's shrine in Canterbury cathedral.

Although the route is marked clearly on British Ordnance Survey maps (in italic script denoting an ancient monument) and is waymarked as the Pilgrims' Way, it is all an elaborate hoax. In 1871 a man named Edward James was chief surveyor of the Ordnance Survey and thus Britain's top map-maker. He regarded himself as something of an amateur historian and published a pamphlet describing the route he thought medieval pilgrims would have followed to Canterbury. In his position as head of the OS he way able to make sure his route was incorporated into official maps of Surrey and Kent where it still appears. The idea gained credence when the author Hilaire Belloc romanticised the route in his own writings. There is little historic evidence to support James' invention. It is almost certain that pilgrims going to Canterbury, including those described by Chaucer, followed the old Roman road of Watling Street which ran closer to the river Thames, north of the North Downs ridge, through towns where there would have been inns to serve the travellers.

Lots of parallels here with the Camino. Twentieth century trails winding through fields shown on maps as the Camino and waymarked as such that were not followed by medieval pilgrims and a network of almost forgotten Roman roads that probably were.

Ironically, in his desire to associate his route with the Canterbury pilgrimage, James missed its true history. It is now though to be much older, pre-Roman in fact, and served as a means by which pre-historic humans could follow high ground to reach what is nowadays the English Channel where before the end of the last ice-age there was a land bridge connecting England and France.

Absolutely fascinating - love this sort of fraud - however, there was no direct Roman road between Winchester and Canterbury. The route would probably have been first north to Basingstoke, then Watling St east nearly all the way and then there could have been a minor Roman road that went from just east of Maidstone to Canterbury but it isn't recorded so from there would have been on whatever road that existed. There could be a lost Roman road of course (and probably was).


Spain .....the earliest recorded route(s) we have, authentic, is in the Codex Calixtinus, Book V - this is a link to an English translation that shows the large towns along the Way - https://codexcalixtinus.es/the-english-version-of-the-book-v-codex-calixtinus/ - it would seem that our route, at least through the towns, is pretty accurate ... so if a 'highway' then there were probably Roman roads that were still being used - I remember walking on a few of them.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
the Calzada Romana is a genuine Roman road. You will walk along the way itself, as the remnants are fenced for protection. Details are posted in a shelter (in Spanish). I learned then that not all Roman roads are paved with large stones. Here, in the Meseta, local gravel has been used. The cambered cross-section can be seen under the grass.

View attachment 87106 View attachment 87107
Thank you so much for posting the photo and the information poster, @NavyBlue. Things are falling into place for me ☺️. Although ... I now regret that I did not opt for this alternative way to Calzadilla de los Hermillos and had a look at it myself. I had seen similar photos of this closed off section before but I didn't really understand what I saw on these photos.

I had a few sentences from the poster translated:

This type of Roman road is the via terrana model, the most common type of Roman road, consisting of layers of gravel and pebbles which have been appropriately compacted and where the material used is abundant in the surrounding area and easily accessible.
Meseta Roman roads.jpg
 
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JabbaPapa

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The brief answer to the question is "Yes" -- because most Roman roads were minor ones, not the major infrastructural ones that everyone talks about, and yes the Romans did basically invent infrastructure as such.

And it's also "Yes" because you asked : "or next to ..." 👉

The road over the mountain after Astorga up to Cruz de Ferro and then down to Triacastela is a Roman one, it's just not a major road recorded on maps as one.

Just locally, there are three pathways here up into the mountain called "chemin romain", all of Roman origin, although only one of the three is the Via Aurelia and therefore the historic Roman and Pilgrim Road to both Rome and Compostela, and BTW from the entire Spanish, French, and Italian Mediterranean Coast to Rome. The other two are Roman pathways that were used by locals to get down and up again from Market and Work.

Having said that, in Western Continental Europe, many of the old Roman roads were transformed over the centuries to eventually become tarmacked motor vehicle roads, not rarely dual carriageway and &c., so that Pilgrims often end up avoiding them rather than walking or cycling on them.

So typically, the Camino will tend to advance near to the old Roman roads rather than lead you onto the old roads themselves, which have very often become the domain of motor vehicles.
 

David

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2005
The brief answer to the question is "Yes" -- because most Roman roads were minor ones, not the major infrastructural ones that everyone talks about, and yes the Romans did basically invent infrastructure as such.

And it's also "Yes" because you asked : "or next to ..." 👉

The road over the mountain after Astorga up to Cruz de Ferro and then down to Triacastela is a Roman one, it's just not a major road recorded on maps as one.

Just locally, there are three pathways here up into the mountain called "chemin romain", all of Roman origin, although only one of the three is the Via Aurelia and therefore the historic Roman and Pilgrim Road to both Rome and Compostela, and BTW from the entire Spanish, French, and Italian Mediterranean Coast to Rome. The other two are Roman pathways that were used by locals to get down and up again from Market and Work.

Having said that, in Western Continental Europe, many of the old Roman roads were transformed over the centuries to eventually become tarmacked motor vehicle roads, not rarely dual carriageway and &c., so that Pilgrims often end up avoiding them rather than walking or cycling on them.

So typically, the Camino will tend to advance near to the old Roman roads rather than lead you onto the old roads themselves, which have very often become the domain of motor vehicles.

Well, true but not quite right. the Romans controlled Spain for hundreds of years and all their roads were major roads as they were the only built roads in the country. Later they were still used, for more hundreds of years. Then, as new villages and towns were built and settled and Roman roads fell into disrepair new roads were built but all the major artery network in Spain was still Roman, even if the new roads went alongside - they took basically the same route. Now, of course, they are overlaid by modern roads or people no longer want to go to where they once lead ...
 

JabbaPapa

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I certainly do not want to 'bully' the Meseta - I love the Meseta!. For instance, the dirt road between Carrión de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza is just so straight and is the most direct route that it must have been the the most direct route - here I can well imagine that there is an ancient road now covered in chip underneath this exact route as @Rebekah Scott suggests may be the case.
Many routes that have characteristics typical of Roman roads actually run parallel to those roads, from the results of boundary disputes between farmers/peasants and between pueblos, in the Middle Ages, leading to re-routing away from the original traces.

Modern renovation of roads in the 19th to 21st Centuries has also led to many of those old roads being less attractive to foot pilgrims.

This was very visible to me when I walked through Catalonia last year.
 

JabbaPapa

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the Romans controlled Spain for hundreds of years and all their roads were major roads as they were the only built roads in the country. Later they were still used, for more hundreds of years. Then, as new villages and towns were built and settled and Roman roads fell into disrepair new roads were built but all the major artery network in Spain was still Roman, even if the new roads went alongside - they took basically the same route. Now, of course, they are overlaid by modern roads or people no longer want to go to where they once lead ...
That is somewhat incorrect in detail, as the Romans seem to have in most places renovated existing roads rather than starting from scratch (which they also certainly did in some places, including right here where I live).

Most of the divergence in Europe from the Roman roads network was motivated by local Nobles needing more local roads instead of the long distance infrastructural Roman ones, including because they were potential avenues for enemy armies (which they had in point of fact been deliberately designed for in regard to the Roman Legions), and by local farmers/peasants grabbing that land for their own purposes.
 

Kathar1na

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Where Invierno becomes La Plata; Ponte Taboada & Silleda, are these not Roman roads?
Interesting photos of roads with a layer of stones on top. I could not tell you whether they were put there 2000 years ago or 20 years ago unless I've read it in a book. A shallow depression or minor elevation of the soil? Without a guidebook telling me what it is, I can't even say whether it is natural or man made, let alone when it was created. 🙃
 
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arch

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Del Norte from Irun to Santander, Primitivo from Oviedo to Frances to Santiago September 2016
I often think 'How true is the current Frances route?' There are some parts that I have walked many times and each time I have questioned 'Why this route' Did it really follow the same route through the Meseta as it does today?
I have had disagreements with others that say most of the Camino is buried under the current highways?
Then there are towns that were hardly in existence at this time such as Estella. Would one not have walked through each town to get water and provisions? Was it permitted to take short cuts through private land? Have some towns been excluded?
It all started 1200 years ago
The Camino Primitivo or Original Camino is the oldest Camino de Santiago route, as this was the route followed by King Alfonso II the Chaste in the 9th century, from the city of Oviedo, in Asturias, to Santiago de Compostela. This was the first Camino de Santiago trail when most of Spain was under Moorish control. The first stage of the Camino Primitivo, across the mountains, is one of the most challenging of all Camino routes but the scenery is breathtaking.
 

JabbaPapa

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Rebekah, as you are one of the true Camino angels
Bekkah (as I think of her) is one of those True Hospitaleros, alongside such excellent people as Jesus Jato, Jean-Louis in Lourdes, and the sadly deceased Pablo Mesonero.
 
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JabbaPapa

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I wondered about the original path taken by pilgrims from Le Puy-- I cannot imagine that they took the route that went over the hills (current route)
They often did -- because they were motivated by reasons of both shelter and Religion to make their Way via the Monasteries and Pilgrim Hospitals that had been established in those remote locations.

Though it has to be said that the modern GR routes established in France by the Féderation Française de Randonnée very frequently take insane mountain itineraries deliberately avoiding the more historic routes leading more sensibly through the villages and valleys.
 

JabbaPapa

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Needless to say that this road is quite straight and may feel a bit long for the pilgrim...
It is a somewhat tedious walk, but the Albergues and pueblos that it leads through are pleasant, and IMO repeat Francès pilgrims would be not ill-advised to go that way at least once. :cool:
 
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RENSHAW

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It all started 1200 years ago ...............
I've been thinking , Lets round off the demise of the European Roman Empire to AD 400 , then would there have been ANY Roman roads still in existence 400 or even 600 years later? Was there any maintenance? and should we rather be talking about Romanesque roads. The Cirauqui road ; has that really lasted 1600 years? And it has already been suggested on other threads that the bridges on the Camino to Lorca are Romanesque rather than Roman. What about the bridge at Puente la Reina - has that stood for a 1000 years without any Major intervention?
 

frbobs

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Alas, I am not an expert in Roman remains or the old highways of Spain. I know that most Roman roads and bridges here were rebuilt and/or replaced during the medieval period, and some later improved during the Golden Age of the Catholic Monarchs and Philip ii, royals who loved to gad about the country. When Roman highways fell into disuse, their paving stones were often dug out and carted off for other uses.
I do know there's a very nicely preserved (restored) strip of Roman road out in the wilds between Calzada del Coto and Reliegos, and another one in Fuenterroble de Salvatierra on the Via de la Plata. One thing to remember: in the early days, roads were built for trade and soldiers, not for pilgrims or even local convenience. Astorga and Merida were major Roman cities because they tied-together trade routes and military stations. The Camino Invierno was a trade route that linked mines to markets -- its occasional use by pilgrims was purely incidental. What are the "original routes?" The Primitivo, clearly. The Olvidado. And the Frances! What is "original?" The pioneer pilgrims just followed the roads that took them most safely and directly to Santiago. There was no "Way." The road was already there. The Way was made by walking!

(meantime, track down a copy of "Camino de Santiago: Relaciones geograficas, historicas y artisticas," by Jose Ortiz Baeza, Manuel Paz de Santos y Francisco Garcia Mascarell. 2010, Ministerio de Defensa. It's all color maps and photos and relief drawings of the Camino Frances, a treasure trove for map lovers and Camino heads.)

I will ask some of my historian buds what they think of this question.
There's a nice chunk of Roman road on the Camino Madrid heading into Segovia
Alas, I am not an expert in Roman remains or the old highways of Spain. I know that most Roman roads and bridges here were rebuilt and/or replaced during the medieval period, and some later improved during the Golden Age of the Catholic Monarchs and Philip ii, royals who loved to gad about the country. When Roman highways fell into disuse, their paving stones were often dug out and carted off for other uses.
I do know there's a very nicely preserved (restored) strip of Roman road out in the wilds between Calzada del Coto and Reliegos, and another one in Fuenterroble de Salvatierra on the Via de la Plata. One thing to remember: in the early days, roads were built for trade and soldiers, not for pilgrims or even local convenience. Astorga and Merida were major Roman cities because they tied-together trade routes and military stations. The Camino Invierno was a trade route that linked mines to markets -- its occasional use by pilgrims was purely incidental. What are the "original routes?" The Primitivo, clearly. The Olvidado. And the Frances! What is "original?" The pioneer pilgrims just followed the roads that took them most safely and directly to Santiago. There was no "Way." The road was already there. The Way was made by walking!

(meantime, track down a copy of "Camino de Santiago: Relaciones geograficas, historicas y artisticas," by Jose Ortiz Baeza, Manuel Paz de Santos y Francisco Garcia Mascarell. 2010, Ministerio de Defensa. It's all color maps and photos and relief drawings of the Camino Frances, a treasure trove for map lovers and Camino heads.)

I will ask some of my historian buds what they think of this question.
There's a nice chunk of Roman road on the Camino de Madrid through the mountains, heading into Segovia, and a "marked as such" stretch of Roman road on the Camino Portugues
 

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I now regret that I did not opt for this alternative way to Calzadilla de los Hermillos and had a look at it myself.
We were also looking forward to seeing this stretch of Roman road on our walk last year, having read that it was the longest intact stretch of Roman road in Spain. However, on the days we walked (Nov. 5-6, 2019), it was evident that some of the remains in the area between Sahagun and Calzadilla de los Hermanillos are now under the new, widened tracks being laid out for a huge irrigation project. Nevertheless, our disappointment was tempered by the joy of finding a very interesting display of Roman engineering complete with numerous explanatory posters laid out in the park across from the Iglesia San Bartolomé in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos. The park is not directly on the route that the camino takes through the town, but it is well worth walking the few blocks off the camino to see it (see map below). Heading west from Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, the Via Romana is more intact and there is much of interest to imagine.

Detour of a few blocks to see the display of Roman engineering:
Screen Shot 2020-11-08 at 5.59.08 PM.png


Photos in the area. More in our journal here and here.
IMG_1985.JPG tempImageO3xvZr.jpg tempImagebvZXgD.jpg tempImageauiEQ5.jpg IMG_1809.jpg IMG_3296.jpg
 
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JabbaPapa

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I've been thinking , Lets round off the demise of the European Roman Empire to AD 400 , then would there have been ANY Roman roads still in existence 400 or even 600 years later? Was there any maintenance?
Maintenance was kept up in some places, and abandoned in others.

So there's no general answer to that question, but you really do have to look at specific cases one by one. In any case, the centralised maintenance of the imperial infrastructures came to an end after about 400, except in Italy and to a degree in Provence (Mediterranean France excepting French Catalonia), Catalonia, southern Spain, and a few areas of central Spain, which all retained their Latinity 'til about the early 8th to late 9th Century (Spain lost it last).

Also quite frequently, a road could shift away from its original route for purposes of pure local convenience. The Via Aurelia here, for instance, roughly follows its original route, much of which has become tarmacked main road, though both the main road diverges from that route here and there where modern engineering allowed a more direct route, through a modern tunnel for instance ; and the road itself before it was modernised diverges here and there from the historic one sometimes by hundreds of yards, even in places where the Aurelia departs from the main road and up into more hiking terrain.

Another reason why a Roman road may locally have fallen into disuse is where Roman towns or cities were abandoned, so that here for example the old Roman local capital Cimiez was abandoned in favour of the more militarily suitable Nice (old Nice was a hilltop fortress town with a natural port just downhill, more suitable for a period without the Pax Romana) ; Cimiez became a farming village, and roads to Cimiez became less important than those to Nice, and the Aurelia there just fell apart from disuse.

Roman roads were very often BTW just dirt or gravel roads except near to the towns, so it's not surprising that they have meandered away from their original paths over the centuries.
 
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RENSHAW

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....................... Roman roads were very often BTW just dirt or gravel roads except near to the towns, so it's not surprising that they have meandered away from their original paths over the centuries.
Most informative , thank you - I'm learning a lot from my own post.
 

Kathar1na

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Everything there is to know about Roman roads and bridges on the meseta is probably covered by these 154 pages: Descripción de la vía romana de Italia a Hispania en las provincias de Burgos y Palencia. Even when your Spanish is only rudimentary, you may enjoy the numerous photos and maps, old and new, and even aerial photos taken by US airplanes in the 1950s.

One thing that I learned, and had not been aware of, is the fact that these long lasting Roman roads consisting of compacted pebbles, sand and gravel were raised, ie they were higher than the ground on either side. It's already been mentioned earlier in the thread, and this documentation contains some photos that show this well. In many places, this is no longer very visible today because of agricultural changes to the soil on either side.
 

Kathar1na

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I wondered about the original path taken by pilgrims from Le Puy-- I cannot imagine that they took the route that went over the hills (current route) and did not follow the river valleys. Were there Roman roads there? Does anyone have information on that?
I do but I will not answer the question ☺️. Past experience has shown that it only causes heartbreak for some and discord with a few. 😇 🤓😌

Le Puy is walked both as a hiking trail and as a way to Santiago nowadays and it is very popular. That's what matters today.
 
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Nev Sheather

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I often think 'How true is the current Frances route?' There are some parts that I have walked many times and each time I have questioned 'Why this route' Did it really follow the same route through the Meseta as it does today?
I have had disagreements with others that say most of the Camino is buried under the current highways?
Then there are towns that were hardly in existence at this time such as Estella. Would one not have walked through each town to get water and provisions? Was it permitted to take short cuts through private land? Have some towns been excluded?
The christian pilgrim route took over from the pagan route to Finesterre, so long before any Roman roads. I think it has deviated and changed many times.
 

Kathar1na

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christian pilgrim route [...] pagan route [...] Roman roads
The fascinating thing about the roads taken by Romans and by medieval pilgrims is the fact that there is concrete testimony of their existence left for us to explore and to enjoy today, in the form of road infrastructure either visible to the naked eye or detectable by aerial survey or more modern techniques to investigate what is in the soil without disturbing it, in the form of bridges and buildings still standing, either fully or partially intact, or ruins plainly visible, in the form of plenty of written original documents or at least credible copies of original documents, in the form of names of roads transmitted through centuries like Calzada Romana, Calzada de los peregrinos and similar. It's amazing how many traces there are left.

Whatever earlier people may have done or how they may have moved, they just can't match this amazing testimony. ☺️
 
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hel&scott

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I got my love of Roman roads from my dad, a civil engineer, he had maps and models of Roman constructions along with books and detailed drawings. He would refer to these as often as he did his modern texts. Sadly he never got to see the remains of these engineering marvels himself. When cleaning out his office, I found a collection of postcards I sent him carefully tucked into the pages of his old atlas and the roads we walked highlighted. He said he always felt he was walking along with us.

I guess that's the romance of the road, and why many of us like to think we are following in ancient footsteps. It was probably easier for medieval pilgrims to walk along roads as they would only have to contend with carts, horses and other walkers. Modern roads are less pedestrian friendly. So it makes sence that the Camino these days deters off onto farm tracks and walkways as few of us enjoy long tarmic sections dodging trucks.

As wisely said before, the Camino is a living way, and as such is in constant change. So when it does follow an ancient path it's pretty special.
 
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Another wonderful resource is David Macaulay's book City: a Story of Roman Planning and Construction. Although written for students, adults can just as easily lose themselves in the beauty of the intricate pen and ink drawings on all 160 pages. They generally fill the page and show minute details of the tools used, steps in the construction, etc.

Macaulay trained as an architect but went on to illustrate a series of engaging books about construction - Cathedral, Castle, Pyramid, Mosque, etc. (Most of them are gracious and enlightening, but try Motel of the Mysteries if you want to laugh.) The books are usually available in libraries - or buy one for a favorite young person and take a look though it yourself before wrapping. :)

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 7.24.52 AM.png Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 7.23.40 AM.png
 
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NicMen

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Arriving in Lourdes for my first Camino 29th Aug 16 and starting to walk 31st.
As a pilgrim, it doesn’t really matter where we walk, but why we walk. And, as Machado and Serrat said: “walker, there is no road, you make the road by walking...”
Buen Camino.
 

mspath

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Roman camps throughout Spain which were recently discovered are briefly discussed in this Sci-News report.
66 military camps were found using aerial photography, satellite imagery and LiDAR. The military camps are located along the Duero River basin in the León, Palencia, Burgos and Cantabria provinces. A map marking these sites is included in this Sci-News report.
A link within the report leads to an lengthly abstract of the team’s results using remote sensing and geospatial tools which produced many detailed site maps. All was published 02/12/2020 in the journal Geosciences.

...Perhaps these Roman military archeological sites might be added to other Camino Forum landmark references for future visits.
 
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