My (Virtual) Camino – Stage 7 (Part 1) Los Arcos to Viana

Well, it’s been a while since an update. Holidays and time ran away with me, but (apart from my two weeks away) I’ve still been pedalling away so I’ve got a lot to update. If I’m to stand a fighting chance of finishing these posts this side of Christmas I might have to be a bit less detailed, but we’ll see – brevity is not my forte!

So when I left the last post, it was in Los Arcos with a large jug of sangria – always a good ending to a day!

This next stage sees us leaving Navarra and entering the La Rioja region – world-famous for its wine. Plenty to see on the way, with the odd legend, plenty of history and I’m sure a welcoming glass of red waiting at the end. Stage 7 would normally be Los Arcos to Logrono but at 28km it’s a long day. It’s an acceptable and common option to split this stage into two with a more relaxed pace. So we’ll be staying overnight n the lovely hilltop village of Viana.

Stage 7 (Part 1) – Los Arcos to Viana

Taken from Ersoski Consumer

We leave Los Arcos via the cemetery and the Capilla de San Lázaro. it’s a dusty trail running parallel to the NA-1110 to Sansol. 

Sansol has been on the pilgrim map since the second half of the 12th century, when the Order of St John of Jerusalem established a pilgrim hospice there. It takes its name from its patron saint San Zoilo. San Zoilo was a Cordoban martyr from the 4th century, but the village was named after his namesake Zole a Benedictine abbot of the nearby monastery of Azuelo, which had been founded by Cordoban monks. Zole, or Sancto Zole as he became, was himself martyred by the Moors in the 9th century.

From Sansol we can see Torres del Río which marks the start of the hardest part of this stage as we start to rise to Bargota.

Torres del Río offers a little gem once you’ve managed the uphill climb. The Iglesia Octognal del Santo Sepulcro is a 12th century Romanesque church built by the Knights Templar. It is simple and elegant with an Arabic style starred dome.

The next stop on the camino is the Ermita de la Virgen de Poyo, in Bargota, a Baroque style hermitage built in the 16th century. It’s named for its altarpiece that houses a carving of the Virgen del Poyo.

Ermita de la Virgen de Poyo, Bargota

Juanis of Bargota

According to the legend, Bargota is thought to be the birthplace of one of the most popular figures in Navarran witchcraft, Juanis de Bargota As well as being a priest in the church of Santa María he was also a warlock. It’s claimed he had a special relationship with Endregoto, a female witch from Biana. Both were persecuted by the Inquisition in 1610, but while Endregoto was burned at the stake, Juanis avoided punishment by showing extreme repentence.

Cesare Borgia and Viana

Our final stop is Viana, the last town in Navarra on the Camino. It was founded by Sancho el Fuerte in 1219 through the grouping of numerous small villages in order to defend Navarre from Castile. It is also the final resting place of Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI and brother of the infamous Lucretia Borgia. This little town on the Camino might initially seem a strange place to find a famous Italian Borgia, but his family and cultural background was almost entirely Spanish.

I’ll admit to having a fascination with the Borgia’s from a very young age when I was allowed to read books by the sainted Jean Plaidy. I credit her with my love of history and as she was one of the few authors I was allowed to borrow from the adult library when I still had a junior ticket. She introduced me to Lucretia Borgia and history suddenly became interesting. Jump to the end for a mini (fiction) reading list.

Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois.jpg
Profile portrait of Cesare Borgia in the Palazzo Venezia in Rome, c. 1500–10 (Wikipedia)

The Borgias

Borgia Family, Spanish Borja, descendants of a noble line, originally from Valencia, Spain, that established roots in Italy and became prominent in ecclesiastical and political affairs in the 1400s and 1500s. The house of the Borgias produced two popes and many other political and church leaders. Some members of the family became known for their treachery.

Four Borgias became especially noteworthy in a historical sense. Alfonso de Borgia (1378–1458) established the family’s influence in Italy and became Pope Calixtus III in 1455 (see Calixtus III). Rodrigo Borgia became a cardinal of the Roman Catholic church and, later (1492), Pope Alexander VI (see Alexander VI under Alexander [Papacy]). As cardinal and pope, Rodrigo fathered a number of children by his mistress Vannozza Catanei. Cesare Borgia (q.v.; c. 1475/76–1507), son of Rodrigo, achieved political power while ruthlessly attempting to establish a secular kingdom in central Italy. Lucrezia Borgia (q.v.; 1480–1519), a daughter of Rodrigo and a patron of the arts, became famous for her skill at political intrigue.

The family produced many other persons of lesser importance. One, St. Francis Borgia (1510–1572), a great-grandson of Rodrigo, was canonized. The family began to decline in the late 1500s. By the middle of the 18th century it had disappeared.

Encyclopedia Britannica

How did Cesare find himself in Viana? Cesare was married to Carlota de Albret, neice of the King of France and sister of the King of Navarra. After Cesare was exiled to Spain in 1504, he returned to service of the King of Navarra (his brother-in-law) where he was made captain general. He was sent to Viana to defend the outpost against the forces of the Count of Lerin who was fighting for the Aragonese. Borgia recaptured Viana, but not the castle, which he then besieged. In the early morning of 11 March 1507, an enemy party of knights fled from the castle during a heavy storm. Outraged at the ineffectiveness of the siege, Borgia chased them, only to find himself on his own. The party of knights, discovering that he was alone, trapped him in an ambush, where he received a fatal injury from a spear. He was then stripped of all his luxurious garments, valuables, and a leather mask covering half his face (disfigured, possibly by syphilis, during his late years). Borgia was left lying naked, with just a red tile covering his genitals. (Wikipedia)

A bit of artistic licence and not for the faint hearted – Excerpts from The Borgias (2011)

Cesare’s Remains

Cesare Borgia was originally buried in a marbled mausoleum King John III had ordered built at the altar of the Church of Santa María. In the 16th century the Bishop of Mondoñedo, Antonio de Guevara, published from memory what he had seen written on the tomb when he had paid a visit to the church. This epitaph underwent several changes in wording and meter throughout the years and the version most commonly cited today is that published by the priest and historian Francisco de Alesón in the 18th century. It reads:[23]

Aquí yace en poca tierra
el que todo le temía
el que la paz y la guerra
en su mano la tenía.
Oh tú que vas a buscar
dignas cosas de loar:
si tú loas lo más digno,
aquí pare tu camino,
no cures de más andar.
Here lies in a little earth
he whom everyone feared,
he whom peace and war
held in his hand.
Oh, you who go in search
of worthy things to praise,
if you would praise the worthiest
then your path stops here
and you do not need to go any farther.

The tomb was destroyed sometime between 1523 and 1608, during which time Santa María was undergoing renovation and expansion. Tradition goes that a bishop of Calahorra deemed it inappropriate to have the remains of “that degenerate” lying in the church, so the opportunity was taken to tear down the monument and expel Borgia’s bones to where they were reburied under the street in front of the church to be trodden on by all who walked through the town.

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, in A los pies de Venus, writes that the then Bishop of Santa María had Borgia expelled from the church because his own father had died after being imprisoned under Alexander VI. It was held for many years that the bones were lost, although in fact local tradition continued to mark their place quite accurately and folklore sprung up around Borgia’s death and ghost. The bones were in fact dug up twice and reburied once by historians (both local and international—the first dig in 1886 involved the French historian Charles Yriarte, who also published works on the Borgias) seeking the resting place of the infamous Cesare Borgia. After Borgia was unearthed for the second time in 1945 his bones were taken for a rather lengthy forensic examination by Victoriano Juaristi, a surgeon by trade and Borgia aficionado, and the tests concurred with the preliminary ones carried out in the 19th century. There was evidence that the bones belonged to Borgia.

Cesare Borgia’s remains then were sent to Viana’s town hall, directly across from Santa María, where they remained until 1953. They were then reburied immediately outside of the Church of Santa María, no longer under the street and in direct danger of being stepped on. A memorial stone was placed over it which, translated into English, declared Borgia the Generalissimo of the papal as well as the Navarrese forces. A movement was made in the late 80s to have Borgia dug up once more and put back into Santa María, but this proposal was ultimately rejected by church officials due to recent ruling against the interment of anyone who did not hold the title of pope or cardinal. Since Borgia had renounced the cardinalate it was decided that it would be inappropriate for his bones to be moved into the church. It was reported that Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, the Archbishop of Pamplona, would acquiesce after more than 50 years of petitions and Borgia would finally be moved back inside the church on 11 March 2007, the day before the 500th anniversary of his death, but an Archbishopric spokesman declared that the church doesn’t authorize any such practice. The local church said that “we have nothing against the transfer of his remains. Whatever he may have done in life, he deserves to be forgiven now.”

(Citation Wikipedia entry on Cesare Borgia)

Well after all that excitement perhaps a quiet night in Viana is no bad thing after all!


Viana, once a walled city, retains a lovely old centre. Its ancient streets, El Cristo, La Pila, El Portal de la Trinidad, and Calle Mayor, all lead you to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento square also known as the Plaza de los Fueros square. 

Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

The gothic church of Santa María is a must see, it was declared a national monument in 1931. The other essential visit is the ruins of the church of San Pedro.

I think I’ve decided where I’ll stay tonight – The Palacio de Pujadas – (well it’s only virtually), though I’ll pass on staying in the Cesare Borgia room , what do you think?

A short video highlighting the delights of the walk from Los Arcos to Viana – enjoy!

The Borgias – a (mini) fiction reading list

Image is an affiliate purchase link to Amazon

Madonna of the Seven Hills: (Lucrezia Borgia) Kindle Edition

Madonna of the Seven Hills by Jean Plaidy (1)

In a castle in the mountains outside Rome, Lucrezia Borgia is born into history’s most notorious family. Her father, who is to become Pope Alexander VI, receives his first daughter warmly, and her brothers, Cesare and Giovanni, are devoted to her. But on the corrupt and violent streets of the capital the Borgia family are feared, and Lucrezia’s father causes scandal, living up to his reputation of ‘most carnal man of his age’.

As Lucrezia matures into a beautiful young woman, her brothers are ever more protective and become fierce rivals for her attention. Amid glorious celebrations their father becomes Pope, and shortly after Lucrezia is married – but as Borgias the lives of the Pope’s children are destined to be marred by scandal and tragedy, and it’s a fate that Lucrezia cannot hope to escape …

Light on Lucrezia: (Lucrezia Borgia) Kindle Edition

Light on Lucrezia by Jean Plaidy (2)

Born into Rome’s notorious Borgia family, Lucrezia’s life so far has been coloured by violence and betrayal. Now, married for the second time at just eighteen she hopes for happiness with her handsome husband Alfonso. But faced with brutal murder she’s soon torn between her love for her husband and her devotion to her brother Cesare …

Servant to the Borgia: Chronicles of the Borgia Kindle Edition

Servant to the Borgia by Elizabeth McGlone

Rome-1492. The election of a new pope to the throne of St. Peter has elevated his family to the pinnacle of power. But even as the Borgia patriarch schemes to establish a kingdom that will rival the old powers of Europe, an enemy emerges who will stop at nothing to ensure that the Borgia dynasty crumbles before it begins. As the streets of Rome are painted with blood and the rumors of illicit passion, only the actions of a servant who knows the darkest secret of the family can save the Borgia from destruction.
The glittering halls of the Vatican are a thousand miles away from the life that Betta has known. Forced to work to save her family from starvation, a chance encounter introduces her to a life of wealth and danger, where the edges of a blade are never more than a step away. As the threat to the Borgia grows nearer and they are forced to fight for survival, Betta will risk everything to safeguard the only friend she has ever known.

Blood & Beauty Kindle Edition

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant (1)

By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched only by its brutality and corruption. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy, he is defined not just by his wealth, charisma and power, but by his blood: a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If he is to succeed, he must use his Machiavellian son and innocent daughter.

Stripping away the myths around the Borgias, Blood & Beauty breathes life into the astonishing family of Alexander VI and celebrates the raw power of history itself: compelling, complex, and relentless.

In The Name of the Family: A Times Best Historical Fiction of the Year Book Kindle Edition

In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant (2)

In the Name of the Family – as Blood and Beauty did before – holds up a mirror to a turbulent moment of history, sweeping aside the myths to bring alive the real Borgia family; complicated, brutal, passionate and glorious. Here is a thrilling exploration of the House of Borgia’s doomed years, in the company of a young diplomat named Niccolo Machiavelli.

It is 1502 and Rodrigo Borgia, a self-confessed womaniser and master of political corruption is now on the Papal throne as Alexander VI. His daughter Lucrezia, aged twenty-two, already thrice married and a pawn in her father’s plans, is discovering her own power. And then there is Cesare Borgia: brilliant, ruthless and increasingly unstable; it is his relationship with the diplomat Machiavelli which offers a master class on the dark arts of power and politics. What Machiavelli learns will go on to inform his great work of modern politics, The Prince.

But while the pope rails against old age and his son’s increasing maverick behavior it is Lucrezia who will become the Borgia survivor: taking on her enemies and creating her own place in history.

The Serpent and the Pearl (The Borgia Chronicles series Book 1) Kindle Edition

The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn

Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous—or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web…

Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham, and she is to be given as a concubine to the ruthless, charismatic Cardinal Borgia: Spaniard, sensualist, candidate for Pope—who is passionately in love with her.

Two trusted companions will follow her into the Pope’s shadowy harem: Leonello, a cynical bodyguard bent on bloody revenge against a mysterious killer, and Carmelina, a fiery cook with a past full of secrets. But as corruption thickens in the Vatican and the enemies begin to circle, Giulia and her friends will need all their wits to survive in the world of the Borgias.

The Lion and the Rose (The Borgia Chronicles series Book 2) Kindle Edition

The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

As the cherished concubine of the Borgia Pope Alexander VI, Giulia Farnese has Rome at her feet. But after narrowly escaping a sinister captor, she realizes that the danger she faces is far from over—and now, it threatens from within. The Holy City of Rome is still under Alexander’s thrall, but enemies of the Borgias are starting to circle. In need of trusted allies, Giulia turns to her sharp-tongued bodyguard, Leonello, and her fiery cook and confidante, Carmelina.

Caught in the deadly world of the Renaissance’s most notorious family, Giulia, Leonello, and Carmelina must decide if they will flee the dangerous dream of power. But as the shadows of murder and corruption rise through the Vatican, they must learn who to trust when every face wears a mask…

Poison In The Blood: The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia Kindle Edition

Poison in the Blood : The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia by M G Scarsbrook

Lucrezia Borgia fights to save her husband from assasination by her powerful family…

1497, Renaissance Rome: As the teenage daughter of Pope Alexander VI, Lucrezia Borgia is a young noblewoman immersed in all the glamor of the Vatican Palace. Yet after a brutal killing shocks the city, Lucrezia learns that a dark truth lies beneath the surface of the Papal Court: in their ruthless quest for power, her father and brother are willing to poison their enemies.

Her family are murderers.

After discovering that her new husband is next to die, Lucrezia struggles to help him escape from Rome before the assassins strike. Against a barrage of political intrigues, papal spies, and diabolical tricks, Lucrezia uses all her wits to defy her family and save her husband from assassination.

But as tragedy looms ever closer, and her plans gradually fail, she finds herself confronting an enemy far more sinister than she ever imagined…

The Borgias' Spy: An unputdownable, gripping thriller Kindle Edition

The Borgias’ Spy by Andrea Frediani

How the mighty will fall…

1497. Pope Alexander VI Borgia is perfecting his plans for the control of Italy when a heinous crime deprives him of one of the people dearest to him. All of Rome is mobilised to discover the perpetrator but a strange series of coincidences means famous court painter Pinturicchio finds himself on the front line.

To shed light on a murder that has cut the papacy to the quick, Pinturicchio is assisted by the city’s most established artists, from Michelangelo Buonarroti and Filippino Lippi to Piermatteo d’Amelia and Perugino. The Borgias have so many enemies that the list of suspects grows by the day, but a masked man may be the key witness to the crime – or even its perpetrator…

Andrea Frediani brings one of the most famous cold cases in history to life in this thrilling tale of intrigue and deceit set in Renaissance Rome.

The Borgia Bride Kindle Edition

The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis

This sweeping historical novel tells the dramatic tale of that most intriguing of Renaissance women, Lucrezia Borgia.

Incest. Poison. Betrayal. Three wedding presents for the Borgia bride…

Italy 1492 Pope Alexander VI is elected. And so begins the Borgia reign of terror.

Alexander murders, bribes and betrays to establish his dynasty. No one is immune. Rome is a hotbed of accusation and conspiracy. Every day, the River Tiber is full of new bodies.

Sancha de Aragon, daughter of King Alfonso II of Naples, arrives in Rome newly wed to Alexander’s youngest son, Jofre. Their marriage protects Naples against the ambitions of the French King Louis and gains Spanish support for the Borgias. But Rome is very different to her beloved Naples.

The debauchery of the Borgia inner-circle is notorious: every lust is indulged and every indiscretion overlooked. Sancha is no innocent: she possesses an indomitable spirit which allows her to survive in the snake-pit, but her ancestors once rivalled the Borgias in cruelty and Sancha’s greatest fear is that blood will out.

Lucrezia Borgia’s vicious jealously stings Sancha at first, but gradually the two young women develop a cautious friendship. Lucrezia, adored by her father but used ruthlessly as a political tool, seems deceptively innocent and sympathetic, and their bond strengthens when Lucrezia is married to Sancha’s treasured brother, Alfonso. But when Sancha falls in love with Cesare Borgia, her husband’s enigmatic older brother, she has no idea of how bizarre and internecine are the family’s true ties. Alexander is rather more than an indulgent father; Lucrezia not the innocent she appears; and Cesare’s ambition burns wildly. The only safe relationship with the Borgias is none at all: as Sancha, her brother and Naples are soon to discover…

The Vatican Princess Kindle Edition

The Vatican Princess by C W Gortner

Infamy is no accident. It is a poison in our blood. It is the price of being a Borgia.

Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias became Italy’s most ruthless and powerful family, electrifying and terrorizing their 15th-century Renaissance world. To this day, Lucrezia Borgia, the Pope’s beautiful daughter, is known as one of history’s most notorious villainesses, accused of incest and luring men to doom with her arsenal of poison. Was she the heartless seductress of legend? Or was she an unsuspecting pawn in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and her own survival?

From her pampered childhood in the palaces of Rome to her ill-fated, scandalous marriages and complex relationship with her adored father and her brothers, this is the dramatic, untold story of a papal princess whose courage led her to overcome the fate imposed on her by her Borgia blood.

Borgia Confessions: A Novel

The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo

During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired. Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him. As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare’s lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition. Alyssa Palombo’s captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy’s most infamous families – the Borgias.

The Subtlest Soul (The Merchant of Secrets Book 1) Kindle Edition

The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox (1)

When one false step can lead to disaster, only the most intrepid dare venture into the Borgia labyrinth. Matteo da Fermo must make that journey, compelled by a duty of revenge. His path takes him into the dark heart of Renaissance Italy. We watch him transform from dreamy, lovelorn adolescent to courageous soldier and nerveless spy. We move from army camps and besieged hilltop towns to noble palaces and the glittering decadence of papal Rome. Along the way, Matteo meets brutal assassins, devious courtesans, flamboyant cardinals, and a rich cast of historical characters, including Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci.

While negotiating this vivid and colorful world, Matteo is also charting his way through the equally treacherous landscape of love and desire, forced to balance his feelings for his childhood sweetheart Nicolosa with the dangerous attractions of the women who form part of his dangerous odyssey. The most fascinating of these is Felice della Rovere, daughter and spymaster to his patron Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, a woman “whom the devil seemed to have sent to this earth specifically to bring him to grief.”

Set during the time when Cesare Borgia was ruthlessly exploiting his father’s papal authority to carve out a new empire in central Italy, The Subtlest Soul crafts a colorful and enthralling panorama of life in this remarkable era.

The Peril (The Merchant of Secrets Book 2) Kindle Edition

The Peril by Virginia Cox (2)

How do you escape Cesare Borgia, the most feared man in Europe? After double-crossing Borgia, The Subtlest Soul’s Matteo da Fermo is sent to Paris on a secret mission, disguised as a friar in one of the strictest religious orders of Renaissance Europe. From there, following a series of improbable adventures, Matteo makes his way to the glittering and treacherous French court at Blois, and then back to Italy, where he resumes his breakneck career of intrigue and subterfuge, and his convoluted, star-crossed love life.

The Peril continues the gripping narrative of The Subtlest Soul, while broadening its historical canvas from Italy to Northern Europe, and dramatizing the prehistory of the Protestant Reformation and the story of the spread of Italian Renaissance culture north of the Alps.


  1. One of these days I will visit Spain and hopefully see these sights you have shared with us. I have not read or watched anything about the Borgias, but you have given me some interesting titles to choose from. Great post, Jill.

    Liked by 2 people

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