Those of us who are passionate about the Camino de Santiago and about accumulating Jacobean routes in our boots know that the pilgrim always finds something new that surprises him. For example, who would tell you that in Cantabria there is a Jacobean route of its own, independent of the Northern route, and what if I told you that it even has its own Holy Year? That’s right, dear pilgrims. In this post we would like to introduce you to one of the most magical and hidden paths of all: the Lebaniego way. Keep reading carefully, we assure you that it is worth discovering more about this unique route.

History of the Lebaniego Way

Perhaps more than what the story of the Lebaniego Way is, what we should ask ourselves is: why do people go on pilgrimage to Liébana? The reason for the pilgrimage to this place can be found in its monastery, the monastery of Santo Toribio in Liébana. What makes this place exceptional is that it preserves the largest known relic of the Lignum Crucis: “wood of the cross”. This is the largest piece of wood on record, the cross of Christ. Specifically, the piece belongs to the left arm of the cross.

And now you are probably wondering how this relic ended up in the monastery of Liébana. History says that Saint Toribio of Astorga was in charge of protecting the relics of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. This man brought them to the Iberian Peninsula, and specifically took the Lignum Crucis to Astorga. Later, due to the Muslim invasion, the Christians took this relic to Liébana to protect it from possible attacks.

When the existence of this relic in the monastery of Santo Toribio was known, the faithful began to make a pilgrimage to it, forming what we know as the Lebaniego Way.

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Itinerary of the Lebaniego Way

The Lebaniego path, for walkers on the Northern route, begins at a fork in the road from San Vicente de la Barquera. It is a beautiful route, 73 kilometres long, in which the pilgrim walks from the coast to the interior of Cantabria. The lebaniego way can be divided into 3 stages, the main points of which are Cades, Cabañes and Santo Toribio de Liébana. In its journey this route crosses the municipalities of San Vicente de la Barquera, Herrerías, Val de San Vicente, Peñarrubia, Lamasón, Potes, Cillórigo and Camalego.

Despite being in a natural environment orographically delimited by the Cantabrian Mountain Range and the Picos de Europa, there are studies that support the existence of four pilgrimage routes to the monastery of Liébana. These routes have recently been signposted as Short Route (PR).

mojón del camino lebaniego

Stage: San Vicente de la Barquera – Cades

This stage is 28.5 kilometres long, so it can be done a little longer for those who have never hiked before. Before leaving San Vicente, we recommend visiting the Gothic church of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, the castle and the convent of San Luis. The route begins by setting off for Serdio. After passing through the Senda Fluvial del Nansa, you will reach Camijanes. Later, the cmaino runs through Cabanzón, where it is essential to stop and contemplate its medieval tower. Finally the stage ends in Cades.

San Vicente de la Barquera

Stage: Cades – Cabañes

In this second stage we will have to walk a little more, being the distance of 30.5 kilometres, that is, two kilometres more than the previous one. Leaving Cades, you will have to head for La Fuente, where you will find the Romanesque church of Santa Juliana, which has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest. Passing through Burió and the Collado de la Hoz, we descend to Cicera. From Cicera, head for Lebaña, where you will pass through a forest of ancient oaks, highly recommended for mushroom lovers. From here, head for Santa María de Lebeña, pass through Allende and climb up to Cabañes, where the stage ends.

Santa María de Lebeña

Stage: Cabañes – Santo Toribio

This stage is the shortest, which is very good as it is the last one of the route. It is only 13.7 kilometres long. From Cabañes we have to go to Tama, where we will find its Romanesque church. On the Campañana route we can avoid the road, with the Picos de Europa in the background. From Potes we will already go to the monastery of Santo Toribio.

Lebaniego Jubilee Year

This is without doubt one of the most peculiar and interesting things about the Lebaniego way: it has its own jubilee year. This privilege dates back more than 500 years, when Pope Julius II issued a papal bull granting the monastery of Santo Toribio the privilege of being able to carry out its own holy year. From that moment it was established that pilgrims who walked to the monastery during the Holy Year would obtain a plenary indulgence.

The last jubilee year of the Monastery of Liébana was celebrated in 2017. The next one will be in 2023. It should be noted that although it is not a Holy Year, the monastery is open to the public for visits.

monasterio de Santo Toribio

The Lebaniega credential

In addition, this route also has its own credential: the lebaniega credential, which certifies that the route has been completed.

What are the infrastructures and signposting like?

Obviously, the Lebaniego route is not as simple as the French or Portuguese route. However, the Cantabrian government has done a lot of work on signposting and action to make it accessible. In addition to the signposting on the route, there is a lot of information on the website of the route, with maps, photos and directions.

As for accommodation, due to its location, there is not as much on offer as on other routes, but by planning the route a little in advance and making reservations, you will not have any problems.

You know, pilgrims, next 2023 the Lebaniego Way is the perfect plan.

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