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Church's Chicken? The Miracle of the Hen and the Rooster, Santo Domingo, Spain

Ol and I entered the beautiful cathedral in Santo Domingo. “Is that a real chicken, it’s moving” Ol says. Sure enough I looked up and there was a chicken and a rooster!

There are legends of numerous miracles along the Camino de Santiago. We were told to be sure to visit the Cathedral of Santa Domingo of La Calzada, the site of one of the camino’s most unusual.

Legend tells of a young German Pilgrim who was walking to Santiago with his parents when they decided to rest at an inn in Santo Domingo de Calzada.

The owner of the inn´s daughter immediately fell in love with him; however her feelings were not reciprocated, so the girl, angered, placed a silver cup into his luggage and accused the boy of theft.

Thieves at that time were punished by hanging, and this was the fate of this poor pilgrim. His parents, saddened by his death continued the pilgrimage, and upon arriving in Santiago de Compostela, began their return journey to visit the grave of their dead son.

When they arrived in Santo Domingo however, they found their son still hanging in the gallows but, miraculously alive. Their son, excited, said to them: “Santo Domingo brought me back to life, please go to the Mayor´s house and ask him to take me down”.

Quickly, the parents arrived at the Mayor´s house and told him of the miracle. The incredulous Mayor, who was preparing to have dinner with friends, responded: “That boy is as alive as these two roast chickens we are about to eat,” and suddenly, the chickens came to life, sprouted feathers and beaks and began to crow, and so, to this day there is a saying about the town which goes: “Santo Domingo of the Way, where the roosters crow after being roasted”.

From it’s beginnings Santo Domingo de la Calzada has always been linked to the Pilgrimage of St. James.

Domingo Garcia was born in 1019 and decided to devote his life to God. He tried to enter two monasteries but they would not accept him.

Around the year 1040 he became a hermit in the forest where the city now stands.

From his home he was able to see how difficult the pilgrimage was for those undertaking it. He began by building a bridge to cross the Oja river and then he built a hospital where pilgrims could take refuge. He then built a church.

When he died he was buried in the middle of the Pilgrimage, which he had designed. His followers maintained the little village, which took his name and they continued his work, creating a confraternity which still exists today. He is the Patron Saint of builders and engineers.

In the Cathedral in front of Santo Domingo’s Mausoleum there is a stone and polychrome and gothic hen house, which was built in the middle of the XV TH century to keep alive a hen and a rooster in memory of Santo Domingo’s most famous miracle.

There are documents from Pope Clementine VI dated 1350 allowing these animals in the cathedral.

Below the cage is a representation of the pilgrim being hanged and above the cage there is a piece of wood from the gallows.

We loved visiting Santo Domingo and enjoyed both the cathedral and climbing the bell tower, with it’s original working clock from 1780.

We stayed in a beautiful hotel on Santa Domingo square that was once a hospital for pilgrims. It has a beautiful view of the clock tower and the cathedral.

Though the village is small, Santo Domingo’s life work is evident to this day. The entire town is devoted to helping Pilgrim’s on their way to Santiago.

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