The first document mentioning the chapel at the nearby village of La Virgen del Camino is one written by the Cathedral Chapter in 1517, and the Corporation of León has always been linked to it. The people of León have expressed great devotion to the image of Our Lady of the [St James’s] Way ever since it has been known to exist, especially whenever the city has been through crises, such as plagues or crop failures, or whenever thanks have been due for blessings received.
Thanks are given by bringing the Virgin to the city, which entails a ceremony rooted deep in the past to which alterations have been made over the years to reflect social change. The presence of the Corporation of León in the ceremonies goes back to the beginning. In 1514, King Ferdinand granted the administration of the chapel to the Cathedral Chapter and in 1676, the Corporation began its period of permanent involvement. The Brotherhood of La Sobarriba also felt especially linked to the image and in 1715 the statutes of Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Way of La Sobarriba were drawn up. The ceremony was to consist in bringing the Virgin’s image in procession, of which they informed the Corporation, which accepted the vow and named a two-man delegation to agree on a date with the bishop.
Once the date had been decided on, interested local councils were advised of it, and on the day and at the appointed time the two municipal envoys and two members of the Cathedral Chapter designated by the bishop arrived at the shrine to take out the image. From near the old well, turns are taken by members of the councils of Valdefresno, Villaturiel and Valverde to carry the Virgin, the image finally being taken by the Corporation of León to St Marcellus’ Church, where it is received by the mayor, who lays a bouquet before it. It is then handed over to the Cathedral Chapter, who take it to the Cathedral, where religious services are held in its name. After the image’s stipulated stay in León, it is returned to the Shrine at La Virgen del Camino, with the same formalities taking place the other way round.
Our Lady of the Way
At present, the coming of Our Lady of the Way to León gives rise to a pilgrimage, with people from all the places on or near the route joining in with their parish crosses, insignias, banners and other devices. It is taken out of the shrine by two councillors from León and two members of the Cathedral Chapter, accompanied by Dominican friars, while the banners of La Sobarriba and the village of La Virgen del Camino, along with the flag of the shrine wait outside.
Also taking part along with the councils of Valdefresno, Villaturiel and Valverde are the parishes of Montejos, Fresno, Oncina, La Aldea, San Miguel, Valverde y Quintana de Raneros, Castrillo de la Ribera, Alija, Villarroañe, Roderos, Oterueol y Toldanos, Trobajo, San Andrés del Rabanedo, Villaseca de la Sobarriba, Paradilla, Villafeliz, Carbajosa, Valdelafuente, San Felismo, Valdefresono, Navafría, Villacil, Villavente, Villalboñe and Villaturiel y Arcahueja.