The Valley of Camaleño is in the eastern area of Liébana, and its history is closely bound to the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana which, during the Middle Ages, exercised its domain over the whole valley and first received the name of Valdebaró.
The municipality of Camaleño has been through history, mainly in medieval times, an important nucleus of monasteries establishing in the valley: Santa María, in Baró; San Esteban de Mesaina, in Mieses; Santos Facundo and Primitivo, in Tanarrio; Santa Eulalia, in Lon; San Adrián and Santa Natalia, in Argüébanes; Santa María, in Cosgaya; San Salvador de Villeña, in the hills of Villeña, between Pembes and Cosgaya and, near Fuente Dé, Santa María de Naranco, without forgetting the monastery of Santo Toribio and the Romanesque hermitages of San Pelayo and Enterría.
A legend tells that Don Pelayo, Reconquest hero, was born in Cosgaya and that his son Favila was killed by a bear in the mount of La Calavera, in Cosgaya. Another legends says that near Subiedes, the rearguard of the Arab troops defeated in the battle of Covadonga was killed by a landslide. In the book of "Becerro de las Behetrías", dated in 1353, the following villages appear as: dominated by an abbot (Turieno and Santa Olalla de Lon), by an abbot and by a lord chosen by the villagers (Baró), dominated by a lord (Espinama), by a lord and by an abbot (Mogovejo, Argüébanes, Tanarrio and Cosgaya), and finally as by a lord and by an abbot (the village of Pembes). Any other part in the valley preserves the remains of its rich historical past.
We leave the village of Potes and near Fuente Fonfría, a road ascends to the left taking us to the village of Mieses and the monastery of Santo Toribio. Mieses appears quoted in the old Cartularios which were old document indexes since 813, this one kept in the monastery of San Esteban de Mesaina. In the upper part of the village is worth contemplating a magnificent evergreen oak specimen, called "La Copuda" by the locals, and in one of the districts the hermitage of Virgen del Pilar, with an altar-piece, where the carvings of; the Virgin with child and San Lázaro stand out, both from the XVI century. The road ends up at the foot of the Viorna hill, at the millenary monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, keeping the "Lignum Crucis" in its walls; the biggest remaining fragment of the Cross of Christ that we know about.
We then return again to the crossroads of Fonfría, to get the main road leading to Fuente Dé. We first arrive at Turieno, on the banks of the river Deva, whose history is closely linked to the monastery of Santo Toribio. From the 11th of November in 828 we know about its existance. In the XIV century another document writes about the tower, the farmhouse and palace built in this place by Gonzalo Martínez Orejón. The place was of dominated by an abbot from the monastery of Santo Toribio, and in 1397 the district of Floranes is also quoted. There´s a magnificent coat of arms from the Linares family in his natal house, and there´s a legend telling that here the man, who was archbishop and captain of the new kingdom of Granada, was born. According to tradition, the monk, Toribio, was also born in Turieno, founder of the monastery of San Martín. Turieno used to belong, in the XVIII century, to the council of Santibañez, with Floranes, Congarna and Mieses. In the XVI century, Turieno had a church under the name of Santa María. The current church was built in 1817 preserving the buttresses, blessed water pile, and the bases where the triumphal arch leans on, from the previous church.
We know that Congarna existed in 921, and that there was a monastery under the name of San Julián. Actually, there´s a hermitage under the same name at the beginning of the track which takes us from the village up to the monastery of Santo Toribio. It has an annular vault and an entrance portico, with a very antique shield showing those relics brought by the monk, Santo Toribio. There´s a window made of "toba" (a very light material), that could have belonged to the old monastery. Near Congarna, next to the current council cemetery, was the village of Otero, from which we have X and XVI century news.
Over Turieno is Argüébanes, at the foot of the eastern massif of Picos de Europa, and very near it, the monastery of San Justo was built. Inside the village group there used to be another monastery, the one of Adrian and Santa Natalia, quoted in the IX century, probably placed in the same spot occupied today by the parochial church, where the remains from a previous construction can be seen.
We then leave the old council of Santibañez and reach the village of Baró, where the monastery of Santa María used to be, quoted in 831, and place occupied today by the current church, in the district of Quintana, with Romanesque-Gothic windows on its walls. The access door is pointed, with some archivolts with the shape of "juncas" over moulded plate rails with molduras, and above it there´s a coat of arms from Mendoza de La Vega y Luna. Outside there are some "canecillos" which ar the bit at the end of the beams sticking out of Romanesque tradition. The church could be from the XV or XVI centuries.
The council of Baró is made up by the following villages: Baró, La Frecha, Beares, San Pelayo and Camaleño. In San Pelayo we can contemplate a Romanesque hermitage of rectangular plant, whose main chapel is covered by an annular vault. It has a shield with a legend over the entrance door. With the coat of arms of the Linares, who must have been the chapel´s patrons. The stones over which the romance on the shield is written used to belong to the ancient tower of the Linares family, placed in the village of San Pelayo. If we go up to Bodia from Baró we´ll be able to see, next to the hermitage of San Acisclo and Santa Vitoria, the remains of a mediaeval necropolis. The church was quoted in 831. In Bodia there´s also a crucified Christ, kept in a private house, made in varnished copper.
From San Pelayo we can also easily reach the village of Lon, where, above the village, used to be the monastery of Santa Eulalia, from the X century, which gave name to the whole council. In the district of Las Esperillas there´s a hermitage with the coat of arms of Mier, dated from the year 1741.
Again we return back to the main road and pass by Camaleño, capital of the municipality, where to town-hall is and whose buildings and belongings where locked up in the monastery of Santa María de Piasca in the XVI century. There´s a small hermitage at the village square, under the name of San Idelfonso. Here, a traditional fair is celebrated since over a century ago, on the 12th of October, which in the later years has been encouraged with the town council by the celebration of a livestock contest-exposition and giving important prices.
If we continue following the main road and turn right we arrive at the villages of Tanarrio and Brez. In Tanarrio we find the church of Santa María del Moral. The nave´s roof is wooden and the main chapel is covered by a pointed vault and triumphal arch. On its plate rails there are some small human head carvings. It seems that the arch and vault construction at first didn´t have pointed arches, but where remodelled over the old Romanesque arches brought from the monastery of San Facundo. If we wanted to know where such monastery was built in the VII century we would have to take a track from the village, in a north-western direction, towards the col of Cámara, taking us to the hermitage of San Facundo. The original structure is only preserved in the chapel. Rui Díaz Encinas was born in Tanarrio in the XVI century. He was a famous army man at the "Tercios de Flandes", as well as Rafael de Floranes, important writer from the XVIII century.
In the village of Brez, at the foot of the eastern massif of Picos de Europa, is worth visiting the parochial church, at the top of the village, conserving a Romanesque door with gothic arch and a plate rail with four lines of "billetes" is the shape of a chess board. On the wall there are a series of carved rosettes with seven petals each. The main altar-piece is from the XVII century.
If we follow our way to Fuente Dé, the next village is Los Llanos, next to the main road. Near this place, chronicles say that in 722, after the Arab army was defeated in Covadonga, the survivors crossed Picos de Europa, and a landslide buried them.
From Los Llanos, and along a right-hand road, we can go to Mogrovejo, one of the most beautiful and charming villages in Liébana´s region, which formed, since the old days, a council together with Luarna, Redo, Los Llanos, Sebrango, Bárcena, Besoy, Llaves and Vallejo. Mogrovejo took its name from the famous mediaeval tower in the village. Luarna was the district previously located where the current parochial church is now placed. This was the old name of the village and like this appears quoted in 1197. The church has a nave and three sections, covered in wood, and the main chapel covered by an annular vault. There´s a beautiful Barroque altar-piece from the XVII century with a carving of Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo and family shields, as well as a picture of the same personage; archbishop of Lima, and "oriundo" from the house of Mogrovejo, born in Mayorga in 1558. There´s a magnificent Gothic-Flemish carving of the "Virgen Milagrosa" on a lateral altar-piece.
In Redo; a district from Mogrovejo, there´s a hermitage under the name of San Pedro; in Bárcena is the hermitage of San Roque, built in 1871; in Besoy, the Magdalena, a very old hermitage. In Los Llanos, there´s also a beautiful mediaeval bridge, preserves the following shields: Mogrovejo, Torices and Noriega. In Sebrango is the hermitage of San Acisclo and Santa Vitoria, very deteriorated; and in Llaves the parochial church dominating the valley and built after the civil war.
Mogrovejo´s history rotates around the tower of the same name. We know there was a wall around it, and that the king Sancho IV granted the privilege of giving the immunity to the enclosure out of which no criminal could escape, except in those cases of divine, human and lese-majesty. The second Christmas Sunday, the lord of the house named the majors and solicitors from the valley of Valdervaró. In this house the lieutenant and cornet, from the battle of Covadonga, were born.
The restaured tower still preserves the primitive defensive loopholes. The house-tower was reformed in 1872. A shield of alabaster in the main door of the house highlights the arms of Mogrovejo, Lasso de la Vega, and Terán Mier. There´s a square plant chapel with an annular vault. The village of Mogrovejo was declared historical group in 1985.
We now continue our route towards Fuente Dé, and along a right-hand side road we drive up to the village of Pembes, but first contemplating the district of Enterría, and its Romanesque type hermitage, similar to the one in San Pelayo. Pembes was quoted in 847, although the truth is that Santo Tomás de Collía, near Cangas de Onís, quoted the "Pembelos", on a tombstone, as those people belonging to the "Orgnomes" tribe, from the old Cantabrians who populated these mountains.
If we come back to the main road we get to Cosgaya, where in 796, was the monastery of Santa María de Silva. In the district of Treviño there´s a magnificent construction with four coats of arms from the count of La Cortina, who later had great importance in the valley of Bedoya (Cillorigo). Cosgaya already appears in the Abeldense that and the chronicle of Alfonso III, who wrote about the disaster happened to the Arabs in Subiedes. According to tradition this is where San Pelayo was born. He was the first king of the Spanish Reconquest, and the king Favila, who died killed by a brown bear in the mount of La Calvera. Near Cosgaya, in the mountain range of Vileña was the monastery of San Salvador and San Juan de Vileña, the most important monastery in Liébana from the IX century, quoted in 796.
We then come close to the village of Las Ilces, quoted in 1183, where there used to be a church under the name of Santiago. This is a village where it is possible to see the famous "horreos"; typical granaries on pillars, greatly represented in the whole municipality.
We then arrive to Espinama, starting point for all sorts of trips to the central massif of Picos de Europa. Mentioned from the year 930 and famous for the verses the Marquis of Santillana dedicated to its people: "E fueron las flores de cabe Espinama los encubridores ...". The old parochial church, under the name of San Vicente Mártir, closed in 1968, when another one was built on the land occupied in those days by the Obra Pía. This old construction seems to date from the year 1686, although in its surroundings some medieval sepulchre tombstones appeared. It´s made of an only nave with four sections with annular vaults, and a main chapel covered by an annular vault. The tower was built in 1925, substituting to the old bell tower.
Alejandro Rodríguez, was born in Espinama in 1697 and after emigrating to Mexico, he ordered the building of the Obra Pía, in which the town council neighbours received a magnificent education and which worked perfectly until the beginning of the XIX century. Near Espinama is the village of Pido, documented historically from 1158, which had an ancient hermitage under the name of San Roque, on a hill dominating the village. Pido, at 930 meters altitude, is one of the highest villages in Liébana, and here the famous bulls fights among the council villages took place until recent times. Near Pido, and before reaching Fuente Dé, we get to the monastery of San Juan de Naranco, mentioned in 932. The king Felipe IV annexed this monastery, which was a royal patrimony, to the convent of San Raimundo de Potes, in the XVII century.
The visit to the valley of Camaleño concludes in Fuente Dé, at the foot of the bottom station of the cable car, contemplating the rocky "amphitheater" where the Deva river is born.
CABEZÓN | CAMALEÑO | CILLORIGO | PESAGUERO | POTES | TRESVISO | VEGA