Just three kilometers north of Ponferrada is the church of Santo Tomás de las Ollas. Its more ancient name was Entrambasaguas, entre ambas aguas, between the two waters, for its location between the rivers Sil and Boeza outside of Ponferrada. Las Ollas refers to a style of pot made by monks living in this valley.
Santo Tomás is a 10th century Mozarabic church with mixed pre-Romanesque, indigenous Iberian, Visigothic, Carolingian, and Islamic designs. Its warm golden tone is inviting with its human-scale and rounded apse and earthy horseshoe arches.
The unusual dome is an 11-sided polygon that inside its chapel has nine horseshoe arches. An eleven-sided polygon and nine-arches is an interesting and unusual architectural form and numerical mixture, but here on the Camino we have a second church hinting to us arrive at the number 99 (9×11). Add one, for union, by stepping into the center, the 100th door as it were, and achieve communion with God.
This is similar, but with a different twist to Eunate (where it was 3×33+1=100). It is also in keeping with walking meditations effected at labyrinths in churches across France and Spain.
But olla in Spanish also means “eddy” or “whirlpool.” Could this be Saint Thomas of the Whirlpools, not of the pots that the monks made? Or, perhaps there is something more to those pots as well for the church stands at a confluence of two rivers, powerful threshold places for ancient people.
Archaeologist Juan Carlos Olivares Pedreño discovered that a Jupiter-like god called Reue appears with frequency in the mountains of León, Galicia and northern Portugal. Reue was especially associated with high places; his places of power are especially the confluence of rivers and openings of water sources.
It is possible that Santo Tomás is a Christian take on this popular Celtiberian god of these mountains and springs. Perhaps the monks of Saint Thomas had an inkling of this. It remains a beautiful little chapel in a lovely settings.