Many visitors from abroad marvel at the persistence and beauty of Roman roads that have survived more than two millennia of travel. On the Camino de Santiago, past travelers would travel north from Braga in Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, or west from Astorga in Spain back to Santiago de Compostela. Those ancient pilgrims traveled the Via Romana XIX, parts of which still exist along the routes. Journeying the Camino Portugues gains some of its mystic interest because it has been done for so long, and so many remnants of past travels still remain.
Via Romana XIX
A truly great empire only stands for as long as its infrastructure, and no one knew that as well as the Roman Empire did. They created a network of highways throughout their lands that allowed relatively rapid and unimpeded journeying around Europe. While some of these roads are in ruin now, the Via Romana XIX’s Portuguese leg is still quite beautifully visible.
Parts of this path were a military route and there are still engraved stones, walls, and bridges throughout the route that bear testament to the construction of this road many centuries ago. Walking the Camino Portugues through this route is especially beautiful and perfect for the nature enthusiasts in your group.
Pausing in Ponte De Lima
Ponte de Lima showcases some even more well-preserved examples of Roman architecture, including the bridge across the river Lima that gives the town its name. This bridge is beautifully lit at night and showcases the Roman ability to engineer and construction without modernity’s complex construction tools. Visiting the bridge gives you a chance to take a moment away from walking or biking the Camino Portugues and help you connect to the history and culture of Portugal along the way.
The bridge is technically two bridges comprised of large arches. It is partially a medieval bridge over what is now a dry riverbed, and partially the Roman section that crosses the river itself. The ruins of a military installation from the time of Emperor Augustus also are here for exploring and viewing. The idea of walking where people in the 1st century were walking, among the same buildings and bridges, is truly awe-inspiring.
To see more evidence of the Roman past, keep an eye out for the wayside crosses, or crucieros, along the Roman road sections of the Portuguese Camino. These crossroads will sometimes lead to bridges, but they also can take you in to small convents, chapels, and other important historical buildings. Even those that have been built since the time of the Romans still draw on the structural knowledge of Roman architecture.
While there are many sections of the Camino where the roads will be more modernized, but in many ways, the Roman method of construction has influenced even those modern highways and typical footpaths along the Camino. Their method led them to dig deep, fill in material, and place paving stones on the top to create an extremely stable path, and while modern materials change this method, the general principles of road construction have remained influenced by Roman architecture, according to History Learning.
Having information about the Camino de Santiago and the roots of the architecture and roads along the way can deepen the experience itself. Another way to gain some of these valued aspects of the Camino is to follow a detailed, curated itinerary with information that makes every step of the path meaningful. Contact us to learn more and get started.