The entire region of La Rioja is rich in Neolithic and Bronze Age dolmens, and often a dolmen is found in the center of a vineyard. Logroño itself began as a Celtiberian town on the banks of the Ebro River known as Varea.
Romans later settled here, the river again being a part of the attraction as both a source of water and for navigation, connecting this outpost to the Mediterranean.
There are several sacred places in the city, but two especially moving sites are Santa María del Palacio, where you will find Our Lady of the Ebro, and the intimate 13th century church of San Bartolomé. Both are well used by locals as places for prayer and respite from the busy world outside.
San Bartolomé was spared rebuilding in later periods and thus avoided the excessive ornamentation of the Baroque that hit many of Logroño’s (and Spain’s churches) in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a mix of late Romanesque and early Gothic. The simple, solid stone, and dark interior recreates the quiet effect of sitting in a cooling cave.
Outside, the scenes on the western doorway depict the life of Saint Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles (Bartholomew is also known as Nathaniel.) The left panel is harrowing, showing Bartholomew’s martyrdom by being flayed alive and then beheaded. Because symbols of martyrdom are also symbols of victory of the soul over mortal death and fear through faith in God, Bartholomew became the patron saint of tanners and leather workers.
Nuestra Señora del Ebro, Our Lady of the Ebro, taking the name of her water source of discovery, is in a chapel to the left of the nave in the Iglesia de Santa María del Palacio. When visiting this church in the early evening, this chapel is often a hot spot for locals to meet and greet their friends and neighbors, pay their respects to Our Lady, and then go off into the promising night for a glass and pinchos with friends.
Our Lady of the Ebro is a wooden polychrome Gothic statue of Mary and the infant Jesus that dates to the 13th century. The maker of this sculpture is known, a Burgundian craftsman named Leodegarius who was known for his work on many churches in France and northern Spain (very likely Chartres was one of the places he worked).
Her miracle appearance arrived one day in the 19th century when a woman washing clothes at the riverbank saw her floating down the Ebro river. Where she came from, how she landed in the water, no one knows, but she was already six hundred years old (as an icon) by the time she arrived in Logoño. The woman waded out and retrieved her.
The Ebro itself has mystical qualities. The name comes from the Iberian and Basque word for a river or a valley. Ibar from Basque, means river and valley, both. The Latinized, Iberus, gives the entire Peninsula its name, Iberia. Those who live here are inhabitants of both river and valley.
Archaeologist on the meseta (high plateau) and across northern Spain have found many settlements and artifacts that attest to a long and prominent presence of Celtiberian people—indigenous Iberians who mixed with Celts migrating into Iberia around 2,500 years ago—including in the areas from Logroño to León.
Also worth a visit is Logrono’s Plaza de Santiago (also called the Plaza de la Oca) where a huge, detailed, and beautifully designed Game of the Goose, El juego de la oca, is inlaid into the entire square. Some people think the Game of the Goose is a metaphor for the Camino and some others think it goes beyond that and think it contains clues to esoteric truths a pilgrim can find by walking the Camino. The Plaza de la Oca even has several huge dice (used in the game) on the periphery that here serve as sculpture and places to sit.
The Camino continues to Navarette, Ventosa, and Nájera.