Welcome to Calzada de Valdunciel.

Calzada de Valdunciel is located along the Silver Route, the ancient Roman path known as Iter ab Emerita Asturicam that tied together Mérida and Astorga, as well as its mining villages. The Silver Route crosses the center of Calzada de Valdunciel at Santa Elena Street, going past the fronton court and turning towards Ruta de la Plata Street until the northernmost extreme of the city center, where the rural path that takes walkers to Zamora is once again taken up.

Through this project, which was financed by the City of Calzada de Valdunciel and the Regional Government of Castile and León, it is hoped that value will be placed on the heritage and natural resources associated with the local Silver Route/Southern Way of Saint James.

Throughout the route and area surrounding it, visitors will find important sites such as the Fuente Buena, or "Good Fountain," which features a Roman stele that has been reused on the fountain's parapet; the "Iglesia Parroquial de Santa Elena" ("Church of Saint Helena"), from the sixteenth century; and "Los Miliarios" ("Milestones") Square, where one can find the remains of Roman milestones and pieces of old medieval buildings, as well as samples of popular architecture from the La Armuña region.

But, the Bird Watching and Silver Route viewpoint is, undoubtedly, the area's most spectacular feature as it brings visitors closer to the heritage and natural resources associated with this ancient Roman road.  There, the amazing landscape of La Armuña can be enjoyed – a land that is rich in a great variety of steppeland birds and the numerous water birds that visit the nearby Valdoñegas Pond.

The viewpoint has its own adapted binoculars and signage that will help you to identify the water birds that go to said pond to search for food or rest. Likewise, the Silver Route, which has become the Southern Jacobean Way, is explained in this spectacular open area where several informational panels introduce pilgrims to the history, uses, construction, and characteristics of these historic paths.

 

 
 
 
     
 
 
 
 
 

For each of the aforementioned attractions, there is explanatory signage that offers information to visitors.  These signs include Braille, as well as QR codes to allow for the downloading of the different audio tracks that are part of an informative audio guide in Spanish and English designed for the visually impaired.  Said audio tracks can be downloaded by simply scanning the corresponding QR codes.  The tracks will also be linked to below so that they can be downloaded from this website.

There is also an audio guide available for children which is adapted with language that they can easily understand.  Likewise, a sign language guide is available for those with hearing disabilities, and said guide can also be downloaded through the QR code.

 

   
 
       
 
 
 

Fuente Buena ("Good Fountain") was probably built during the Middle Ages or Early Modern Period, and its construction shares some features with other nearby fountains.

Its proximity to the Silver Route surely helped to quench the thirst of travelers and pilgrims while supplying drinking water to the nearby residents of Calzada de Valdunciel.

Still, its parapet is what makes this fountain exceptional. There, an etching of a recumbent woman's half body can be seen.  Her right hand rests under her breast, and she is using her other hand to hold a libation recipient, perhaps full of mead. The original stele that would have been decorated or had text has disappeared, probably to adapt this Roman stele from the High Empire (between the second and fourth centuries) to act as a parapet.

This funerary stele's reuse indicates the possibility of the existence of a Roman estate or villa, or even of a small rural center tied to the route.


   
       
 
 

The Church of Santa Helena was built in the sixteenth century, although the main entrance, the portico with its great carved artwork, and the transparent "camarín" shrine in the main chapel were repaired around 1728.

In terms of its interior, with a single nave, noteworthy is the building’s gable-style roof where one can still see some decorative Mozarabic artwork that went unnoticed in years gone by.   Nevertheless, it is the church's main altarpiece presided over by Saint Helena, the town's patron saint, that surprises both locals and visitors alike.  It was carved in the eighteenth century in Churrigueresque style.

The Church of Saint Helena also unveils to us remains of a Romanesque building from the twelfth or thirteenth century, parts of which were reused for the church's construction. These parts include remains of walls, decorative fragments on the columns of the tribune, some modillions with human figures that stick out from the top of the tower, and a surprising stone sculpture in Gothic style that is embedded in one of the arches crossing the main nave.  The sculpture represents a king or warrior with a cross and a globe in his hands and is a piece which probably belonged to a tomb at one time.


   
       
 
 

This is known as the Los Miliarios ("Milestones") Square due to the large stones that are in front of you and which were used until not long ago as steppingstones for crossing the Arroyo de la Vega Stream.

Rescued from their more practical use, some historians have identified some of these stones as Roman milestones that do not bear any type of inscription, and others have been identified as remains from medieval buildings – nearby hermitages that have disappeared.

These milestones marked the distance traveled, in Roman miles, along Roman roadways from their starting point to the capital of the province or territory they belonged to.  They were like present-day mile markers. While these possible milestones have no inscriptions, the majority do display the mile number, the Emperor's name, and the imperial governor under whose mandate the route was either built or repaired. 

   
       
 
 

The popular architecture of Calzada de Valdunciel presents a good sample of the typical constructions of the La Armuña region – with their wide gateways for carts to pass, corrals, and patios.  These humble dwellings, built of adobe and rammed earth, dot the countryside with earthen colors.

The corral, located behind the home, with its large gateway for carts to go in and out, was a very important place for the family's pocketbook, as the economy was based on rainfed agriculture. Houses were entered from the street via the front door.  Once inside, there was a hallway that provided access to the bedrooms, which had ample space for impromptu dances, and to the kitchen at the back, with its large fireplace where straw was used to light a fire to keep the water and the family warm.

On the upper floor of the home was the sobrao: the place where wheat and barley were stored, with its wooden slab roof.

There were few comforts in the traditional homes of Calzada de Valdunciel. Today, few people remember the old straw mattresses, or when the women whitened the walls of those old houses with lime.


   
       
 
 

This viewpoint, which overlooks La Armuña's landscape dotted with grain fields and the Valdoñegas Pond, provides information on the Silver Route and the Southern Jacobean Way as well as on the birdwatching resources in the region. Below, the informational panels found at the viewpoint are available for download.