It is located at the top of the Peña de Francia, a mountain of 1723 meters of altitude of the Sierra de Francia, inside the Natural Park of the Batuecas, province of Salamanca. According to documents from the thirteenth century, this area is already referred to as Francia and everything seems to indicate that the Peña de Francia, like the Sierra de Francia and some of the villages in the region, owes its name to a group of French colonists who, after the expulsion of the Moors in the eleventh century, settled in the area and repopulated it, as is shown by their names and surnames of French origin. In addition, the image of the Virgin was discovered in La Peña by a devout Frenchman, Simón Rolán, who after a revelation and after a few years of not giving up, in the year 1434, when John II was king of Castilla, found it hidden in the place known today as the chapel of La Blanca.
The construction of a hermitage where to venerate this brownish Virgin was the starting point of this famous Marian place, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Peña de Francia. In 1436 the Dominicans settled in the Peña. Under the supervision of the monks, in the fifteenth century, the convent was built, the church was enlarged, the square was built, the viewpoints, the roll, the latter erected in the middle of the square in the sixteenth century as a symbol of the privilege of jurisdiction that King John II, later ratified by Charles V, granted to the monks. In 1516 and as a convent of support and pantry for the winter season, necessary to survive in the Peña began to build, south of El Maíllo, The Low House, which today despite being declared a Historic-Artistic Monument is in a sorry state of ruin. The disentailment of Mendizábal led to the abandonment of the sanctuary, to which the Dominicans returned in 1900.
Several hiking routes run through the Las Batuecas-Sierra de Francia Natural Park, some of which cross the slopes, others run through the mountain ranges and others lead the hikers to the summits. Peaks such as the Peña de Francia, the second highest in the Sierra de Francia, from which you can admire a wide, varied and spectacular landscape where plains, villages, other mountain ranges and even the Gabriel y Galán reservoir are mixed. But even the Peña de Francia is not only visited by hikers, but also by devout pilgrims and visitors to whom the mountain goats, who from the rocks, quietly enjoy their habitat, are the first to welcome them to this mystical place of miracles, legends and devotion. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Peña de Francia awaits and surprises all of them. It is a monumental complex from the 15th century with some elements that were somewhat later and was declared an artistic monument in 1956.
Here you can admire the Gothic church with its seventeenth-century neo-classical façade and eighteenth-century tower. On the highest rock of the mountain, inside the church, the "camarín" houses the nineteenth-century carving of the Virgin, which contains the remains of the ancient image, which was damaged after being stolen and hidden for some time in a cave in the municipality of Sequeros. The Dominican convent, attached to the church, is organised around a small courtyard where a well, or cistern, was built to collect rainwater from the roofs. Today it is known as Green Well because of the colour of its water due to the reflection of the light. In the square, surrounded by arcades, the jurisdictional roll, from the 16th century, with the coats of arms of Juan II of Castilla and of the Dominican Order, looks great.
In the corner of the square, the chapel of La Blanca, which probably dates from the 16th century and is built over the cave where Simon Vela found the image of the Virgin. Between the arcades of the square is The Balcony of Santiago, a spectacular viewpoint located where the chapel was once built in honour of the Saint because an image of him was found there. In 1975 was inaugurated at the end of the road, next to the chapel of La Blanca, on "the Jump of the Child", the Viewpoint of Santo Domingo, this great roundabout with sundial included, magnificent viewpoint, is also known as the Sundial. The monumental complex is completed by the chapel of San Andrés and the chapel of Santo Cristo, as well as the inn, which dates from the 16th century and has the title of Hospedería Real (Royal Inn), since Isabel La Católica, Carlos I and Felipe II, among other kings, stayed there.
On September 8, the festivity of the Virgen de la Peña de Francia is celebrated, with a pilgrimage included.
The Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Peña de Francia of Ciudad Rodrigo celebrates an annual pilgrimage coinciding with the last weekend of June. Leaving from this town and during some days of pilgrimage, on foot, on horseback or in a horse drawn carriage, the pilgrims climb the image of their patron saint, the Virgin of the Peña de Francia, to the sanctuary and then return to lower it.
Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia is the patron saint of Ciudad Rodrigo, the province of Salamanca and the autonomous community of Castilla y León. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Peña de Francia is a place of pilgrimage, a visit that is more than obligatory as it is part of the Way of Saint James, the Mozarabic Way of the South, which starts in Seville and goes to Santiago de Compostela via Merida, Plasencia, Zamora and Orense.
Legend has it that a family who had come to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Peña de Francia with great devotion to give thanks and continue asking for the favors of the little brown lady watched as their little boy, who was playing among the rocks of an imposing field that descends vertiginously, fell into the deep ravine. The parents, in anguish, descended as quickly as the steep terrain allowed them in search of their ill-fated son, fearing a fatal outcome. What was not their surprise when they found the child happy and entertained in his games. Since then, this place has been known as El Salto del Niño and from its viewpoint, the one in Santo Domingo, a wide and beautiful landscape can be seen without any danger.
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The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Peña de Francia can be reached by the SA-203 road, which departs from the road that connects La Alberca with Monsagro and Serradilla del Arroyo. Being on this road where we will find the detour that gives access to the sanctuary.
A parking lot about 200 m from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Peña de Francia will allow us to park our vehicle to visit it.
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