Of all the Communities crossed by the French Route, La Rioja has the shortest section. Nevertheless, this 65 km segment is of fundamental historical, cultural, social and artistic importance. This can be seen with just a few examples. As has been suggested, and according to the history of Silos, at the beginning of the 11th century, Sancho III the Great, established what would be the definitive path for the French Route.
Before then, there was no set route for pilgrims going from Pamplona to Burgos, passing through Alava and Briviesca. The progressive military conquest encouraged the boom of pilgrimages through Riojan territory and the subsequent establishment of the overland route. In 923, Sancho Garcés of Pamplona and Ordoño II of Leon, reconquered all of La Rioja Alta, Viguera and Nájera, a Riojan locality that became the capital of the Kingdom of Navarra. After recovering the section of the road between Logroño and Grañón, Sancho III rerouted the Way, so that it crossed over the Ebro river and reached Logroño. In this way, the route passed through an area that offered a milder climate and was easier to walk, whilst seeking the acculturation and population of the land. Ultimately, the idea was to re-use the Roman road that went to Libia (Herramélluri) from Varea and Tricio.
On the other hand, the legend of St James the Moor Slayer originated in the Riojan town of Clavijo, 15 kms from Logroño. The legendary battle of Clavijo took place in the 9th century, at the foot of the beautiful Muslim castle which still conserves much of its ramparts. The Christians, with the aid of Ramiro I, King of Asturias, or according to other versions, Ordoño I, confronted the army of Banu Qasi in order to put an end to the "Tribute of the Hundred Damsels", meaning the annual obligation to hand over one hundred Christian damsels to the Muslims. During the battle, the miraculous appearance of the apostle decided the victory in favour of the Christians and led to the abolition of the aforementioned tribute. This is in turn the origin of the "Vote of St James". With little historical accuracy, it was maintained that in 834, in Calahorra, and in appreciation of the intercession of the saint, the farm workers granted the church of Santiago (St James) in Compostela the annual payment of part of their production. From the 12th century onwards, this income gradually spread right up to the kingdom of Granada and was abolished by the Court of Cadiz in 1833. In the 18th century, this tax accounted for two thirds of the Cathedral's income.
The charter was granted to Logroño by Alfonso VI of Castilla in 1095, to help promote the rapid growth of the population in this border town. The strengthening of the town, by granting legal equality of rights, freedoms and privileges to its inhabitants, whether Franks of natives, involved strengthening the kingdom. This town charter was a model for almost 80 towns throughout the north of the peninsular, representing a very modern vision of society and treating pilgrims considerately.
The Riojan locality of Santo Domingo de la Calzada is a key point on the Way and the cradle of the most popular miracle of the Way, that of the cock and the hen. This town was named after and founded by the saint, in order to provide service to pilgrims. In 1120, the Brotherhood of Saint Domingo de la Calzada was created to help pilgrims, and it is still in existence today, being the oldest in the world.
Just a few more interesting facts. The "Peregrino" (pilgrim) magazine has been published in Logroño for the last fifteen years. In the general opinion, it is the best magazine on the Way of St James and is sold throughout the world. The documentation centre for all St James-related topics is also located in Logroño, with an excellent thematic library. The accommodation network is perfect in La Rioja, with hostels in all the localities through which the Way passes: Logroño, Navarrete, Ventosa, Nájera, Azofra, Cirueña Santo Domingo and Grañón. Except for the sections through the town centres, the entire route through La Rioja is unpaved. It is worth remembering that another branch of the Way goes up the Ebro Valley, through the Rioja Baja, and joins the French Route at Logroño.