It is situated in the shadow of the Montes de Oca mountain range at the beginning of La Pedraja, cradled between the hillside and the river Oca that crosses it. The history of Villafranca Montes de Oca, closely linked to the Jacobean route, dates back to Roman times, as it is the successor to the Roman city of Auca Autrigona. With the Muslim incursion this area was razed to the ground and until the High Middle Ages it does not appear again as such. In the Visigoth period it was the episcopal seat and in the 10th century it was known as a centre of true political-religious influence, until in 1075 King Alfonso VI ordered the transfer of the episcopal seat to Burgos and this, together with the struggles of the Aragonese King Alfonso I the Battler against his wife, the León Queen Doña Urraca, put an end to their decision-making hegemony.
In the year 1179, according to document, King Alfonso VIII gave the population legal charter with the corresponding rights and exemptions that accompanied it. In the fourteenth century Queen Juana Manuel, wife of King Henry II, built a hospital for pilgrims to serve the poor and people who passed through here. Villafranca had royal jurisdiction with ordinary mayor, exercising over twelve places. Throughout the nineteenth century was constituted as a constitutional council with the same name in the district of Belorado, Old Castile region.
Among the houses of Villafranca Montes de Oca, some of them of adobe and faithful to the way of building Castilian, two of its main monuments stand out. The parish church of Santiago Apóstol, from the 18th century, with its sturdy tower and neoclassical façade standing out on the outside. In the interior of the temple and acting as a font of holy water the shell of a giant scallop, they say brought from the Philippines, presumes, not without reason, to be the largest in the churches of the Camino. And the pilgrims' hospital of San Antonio Abad, from the 14th century with a 15th and 16th century façade and a coat of arms from the time of the Catholic Monarchs and an interior courtyard with remains from the 15th century. The Queen's Hospital, as it is known, because it was founded by Queen Juana Manuel and richly endowed by her for her subsistence, was along with the King's Hospital in Burgos, the center in which the crown served the pilgrims and poor of the province.
On the outskirts of Villafranca Montes de Oca, to the northeast of the village, you can see the ruins of the monastery of San Felices de Oca and to the south of the hamlet is the cozy hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Oca, of pre-Romanesque origin and on its side a clover-shaped fountain where tradition places the martyrdom of San Indalecio. Both hermitages are linked to the history and tradition of Villafranca Montes de Oca. In its surroundings, mountains, forests and gorges invite you to stroll. Approaching the feet of the San Millán peak in the Sierra de la Demanda, or a pleasant walk along the gorge of the Oca river, upstream of the hermitage, and to cross the beautiful valley where the uninhabited Alba is located, are some of the attractive options that Villafranca Montes de Oca and its surroundings offer.
Villafranca Montes de Oca celebrates fiestas on 17 January in honour of San Antón or San Antonio Abad; on 10 June it celebrates San Bernabé; in mid August the fiestas are in honour of Our Lady of Oca; in addition, on 25 July they celebrate Santiago Apostle and in September Thanksgiving.
The tradition of the place tells that Auca was one of the oldest episcopal seats of Hispania. It says that its founder was the kind disciple of the apostle James, St. Indaletius, who came here around the year 65 to preach and spread the Christian faith, founded the apostolic see, converted the sacred places of the autrigons into Christian sanctuaries, and suffered martyrdom. In one of these sanctuaries there was a well and when the martyred body of St. Indaletius was thrown into it, it overflowed and the body was returned, becoming a spring at the same time as the Fountains of Oca sprouted next to the hermitage built by the saint to venerate Our Lady in place of the pagan goddesses.
Villafranca Montes de Oca was the seat of bishops since 589 when the Diocese of Oca arrived, today Villafranca Montes de Oca, the first bishop by the name of Asterio, until 1075 when this episcopal seat was definitively moved from Oca to Burgos, thus converting the aforementioned diocese into the seed of the current diocese of Burgos. There is a rule in Canon Law that says that there cannot be a bishop without his diocese and therefore as the auxiliary bishops are not the holders of the diocese where they practice, the Holy See gives them the ownership of other historical ones. This explanation is valid to know why Pope Francis was between 1992 and 1998 titular bishop of the old Diocese of Oca, Auca in Latin, since while Jorge Mario Bergoglio was auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires during this period of time and coadjutor archbishop in 1997 also of Buenos Aires, Pope John Paul II named him titular of the Diocese of Oca.
An old legend told in Villafranca Montes de Oca is the story of a group of young people who, disguised as witches, went out on the road to frighten the pilgrims who, unprepared and predisposed by the mysterious surroundings surrounding the area, came out terrified. The boys returned to the inn and without stopping to laugh they told their feat. One evening, in the evening, they saw a lonely woman approaching and they, as always and dressed in the same manner, came out of the grove and began to jump around her shouting and wobbling their brooms, but the woman did not even move. The boys insisted telling her that they were witches and that she should flee if she did not want to leave her soul there, to which the woman replied: "and because I am going to flee if you are like me since I am also a witch" and saying this she rose through the air beginning to turn over their heads. The young people then began to run, letting go of everything they carried, until they reached the village where they found that apart from losing all the desire to make jokes, their hair had become completely gray.
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The N-120 that connects Logroño with Burgos passes through Villafranca Montes de Oca and can also be accessed from the north if you come from the N-1 or the AP-1 entering the BU-703 between Prádanos de Bureba and Castil de Peones.
There is a daily bus service covering the route Burgos-Logroño-Zaragoza with a stop in Villafranca Montes de Oca.
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