Sitting on the front porch… on the Camino de Santiago

Soportales CastrojerizThey can appear everywhere along the camino, in big cities or small towns and villages. Covered walkways giving protection from the noon day sun, the rain or the cold wind. The soportale or porch is a reflection of its origin in the monastic cloisters (who themselves took inspiration from the courtyards of the Moorish mosques). These church porticos served a civic as well as religious purpose, acting as a gathering spot before mass or for public meetings. As the towns and cities of the Spanish Middle Ages grew, these covered porches evolved to form a part of the fabric of rural Spanish architecture. They became part of the main commercial street (Calle Mayor) and helped to protect goods from the weather as well as conduct the flow of pedestrians (Calle Portales Logroño). Sometimes, in the large public areas (Plaza Mayor) of cities, these covered arcades were built around the square in an consistent style (Burgos).  But, not everything was the result of planning. Often, the soportales were a spontaneous response to a need and grew organically over the generations without unity in their size or appearance, mixing columns, pillars and arch designs. Look for the grand porches in Santiago de Compostela in the Palacio de Rajoy on the Praza de Obradoiro or Rúa do Villar. Wherever they appear, you will be grateful to be sheltered while you make your way along the camino.