Saint of the Day – 12 May – St Domingo de la Calzada / Dominic of the Causeway ((1019 – 1109) Priest, Hermit, Bridge Builder, a road, a Hospital/Hostel, a Church, in effect a town, Miracle-worker. Born in 1019 as Domingo García in Victoria, Biscay, Spain and died in 1109 at Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain, of natural causes. Patronages – Spanish civil engineers. eye diseases, the blind, the Pilgrim’s Town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain. Also known as – Dominic of Landeveien, Domenico, Dominicus…
Dominic was the son of a peasant named Ximeno García. His mother was named Orodulce. We know little about his early years, except that he worked as a shepherd and then tried, in vain, to be admitted as a Monk in the Benedictine Monasteries of Valvanera and San Millán de la Cogolla. This failure caused him to retire as a Hermit to a secluded place, Ayuela, near present-day Santo Domingo de la Calzada. There he led a contemplative life until 1039.
Fundamental to his later development was the relationship he established, around this date, with Gregory, Bishop of Ostia, who arrived in Calahorra as a Papal Envoy to combat a terrible locust plague that devastated the Navarrese and Riojan territories. For five years and until the death of the future Ostiense Saint in 1044, Dominic became Bishop Gregory’s close collaborator.
He received the Priestly Ordination from Gregory’s hands. Together, they decided to build a first wooden bridge over the Oja River to facilitate the transit of pilgrims to Compostela.
After the death of Saint Gregory, Dominic returned to the area where he had spent his years of retirement and undertook a profound colonising work there. He cut down the forests, cleared the land and began the construction of a stone road that was a deviation from the traditional path between Logroño and Burgos but which became, from that moment on, the main route between Nájera and Redecilla.
To improve the conditions of the pilgrims on their way to Compostela. who began to cross it, he replaced the first wooden bridge with another made of stone and built a complex consisting of a hospital, a well and a Church, to attend to the needs of travellers. Today, it is the Casa del Santo, which is a used as a hostel by modern-day pilgrims.
The town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada began as a few houses built around the Hermitage of the Saint in his lifetime. At his death in 1109, the village had grown in population. King Alfonso VI of Castile annexed La Rioja in 1076 and seeing that Dominic’s efforts contributed to the Castilianisation of the region, decided to support him and his projects. He visited Dominic in 1090 and, thereafter, Dominic, assisted by his disciple Juan de Ortega, began construction on a Church dedicated to Christ and the Virgin Mary. Outside, and attached to its walls, the Saint chose a place for his own burial. The Church was Consecrated by the Bishop of Calahorra in 1106.
Dominic died in 1109. His Church, later the Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, was where he was buried, as he had requested and it was elevated to the rank of Cathedral after being placed in the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Calahorra in the 1230s.
Many miracles are attributed to the intercession of St Dominic, among them the exorcism of a French knight who had been possessed by the devil and who was freed of his affliction by visiting the tomb of Dominic. Another miracle, concerns the healing of a German pilgrim named Bernard in the 15th Century, who was cured of an affliction of the eyes, by his prayers at Dominic’s tomb. Another concerns the healing of a blind Norman who was granted his eyesight by God, when he prayed fervently for Dominic’s intercession in the Cathedral.
The most famous miracle, however, concerns that of the rooster and the chicken, which occurred at Santo Domingo de la Calzada. In the 14th Century, a German 18-year-old named Hugonell, from Xanten, went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with his parents. A Spanish girl at the hostel where they were staying made sexual advances toward Hugonell. But he rejects her advances. Angry at this, the girl hid a silver cup in the German’s bag and then informs the authorities, that the youth had stolen it. Hugonell was sentenced to the gallows, in accordance with the laws of Alfonso X of Castile.
The parents sadly decided to examine their son’s body, still hanging on the gallows,but suddenly heard his voice telling them that Saint Dominic had saved his life! His parents quickly made their way to Santiago de Compostela to see the Magistrate. The Magistrate, who was eating dinner, remarked: “Your son is as alive as this rooster and chicken that I was feasting on before you interrupted me.” And at that moment, the two birds jump from the plate and begin to sing and crow happily.
The first element of the tale, that of a hanged pilgrim, is found in many collections of miracles, with the restoring of life after the death of the victim attributed not only St Dominic, but also to Saint James the Great, or to the Virgin Mary. The second part of the tale, the miracle of the dancing and singing roasted chicken and rooster, is unique to St Dominic de la Calzada.
In memory of Dominic’s miracle, a rooster and chicken, with white feathers, are kept alive at the Cathedral all year round. A different rooster and chicken are alternated each month, although they are called descendants of the original birds, who miraculously danced even though roasted. The pairs of roosters and chickens, when they are not at the Cathedral, are kept in a chicken coop called the Gallinero de Santo Domingo de la Calzada, which the Confraternity of St Dominic maintains with the help of donations. A wayside Shrine built in 1445, holds a relic associated with the miracle: a piece of wood from the gallows from which Hugonell was hanged and then restored to life. Medieval pilgrims gathered the feathers of these favoured birds, or received them from the Priest and would affix them to their hats. Another tradition claimed that if the birds ate breadcrumbs directly from the end of the pilgrim’s staff, that pilgrim would arrive safely in Compostela.
The German pilgrim Hermann Künig (15th century) claimed to have seen the room where the roasted birds began to sing and dance. Documents written by pilgrims, state that Hugonell’s shirt as well as the gallows, had been conserved by the Church of Santo Domingo. These artifacts are now lost