Villafranca del Bierzo
It is the last important town in Leon that is crossed by the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela. Its rich monumental heritage, and the influence of the St. James pilgrims, have made it an important tourist centre. Its old town has been declared Property of Cultural Interest.
The main square, or Plaza Mayor, the City Hall, calle del Agua (Water Street), the arch at which it ends, the mansions, such as a 15th-century Moorish one, the convent of Agustinas Recoletas, and other palaces, make up the tourist circuit.
At the entrance of the village, you can find the 12th-century Romanesque church of Santiago. The Puerta del Perdón gate is at one of the sides. Pilgrims who could not make it to Santiago de Compostela because they were ill were given the jubilee blessing here. The Castle-Palace of the Marquises of Villafranca is near this church. However, the best place to see palaces is Calle del Agua: amid coats of arms some emblematic buildings appear, such as Torquemada Palace, Casa Morisca or the birthplace of the writer Gil y Carrasco. Other monuments that are worth visiting are, amongst others, the Gothic Collegiate Church of Santa María, built by Gil de Hontañón, the Baroque convent of San Nicolás el Real, the convents of la Anunciada and San José, founded in the 17th century, and the Church of San Francisco, which has a beautiful Mudejar coffered ceiling. We should also visit the Natural Science Museum.
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