The Camino has many stories and legends, one of the most famous being set in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. It is said that a pilgrim couple and their son stopped here on their way to Santiago. The innkeeper’s daughter took a liking to the boy but he didn’t respond to her advances. A scorned woman, she hid a silver goblet in his things while he slept and in the morning reported him to the authorities for theft.
The boy was promptly arrested, hanged and, as was the custom in the Middle Ages, his body left hanging on the gibbet as warning to others who would commit similar crimes. His parents, meanwhile, continued their sorrowful journey to Santiago.
On their way home again, they once more stopped at Santo Domingo. Approaching the square where their son´s body still hung, they were startled to discover that he was still alive! Their son told them that his life had been spared by Santo Domingo (St. Dominic), who had kept him alive by supporting his weight the entire time. The astonished parents ran to report the news to the city official, who was just sitting down to eat his lunch when they arrived. Scoffing at their story, he replied that their son was as alive as the roasted chickens on his plate. No sooner had he said this than the chickens leapt up, sprouted feathers and flew away cackling! Their son was quickly cut down from the gibbet and pardoned of the crime.
Even today two chickens are kept in a coop in the church (rotated out each month) so that the miracle is not forgotten. Chickens in a church? But of course. On the Camino these things seem perfectly logical.
The story of Saint Dominic is an interesting one in itself. For nearly three centuries, the original Camino in this area was a dangerous route through bandit-infested forests and swamps. It was Santo Domingo de la Calzada who changed all of that.
Born around 1019, he wanted to become a monk but he wasn’t accepted because he was a poor student. He instead chose to to serve God by becoming a hermit, and serving pilgrims by improving roads and building bridges.
He apparently cleared about 37 kilometers of road in the tangled forests with just a sickle. Legends says that when he stopped to pray, angels continued the work for him. He also built a pilgrims’ hospice at the site of an old ruined fort, which later grew up into the village which bears his name today.
So hats off to you St. Dominic, for making my Camino a whole lot easier than it might have been.