There are Chickens in the Church in Santo Domingo

Chickens to the Rescue

If someone told me that I would see chickens in a Church I would have said, “You must be joking.” Well, now I can testify that it is indeed true. And there is quite the story behind it.

Santo Domingo

Today’s walk was an average one, at least that is what I will discover before too long, a mere 21 km. Even though it was suppose to rain all day, the weather forecast was wrong … though cloudy skies dominate the landscape. After a hearty breakfast I was on my way to Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

There are a few popular legends associated with this town. But, before we get to the most famous legend, just who was Santo Domingo? Santo Domingo is Saint Dominic who was born in the nearby town of Viloria de la Rioja. It is said that St. Domingo, born Domingo García in 1019, was from humble beginnings. He heard God’s call to ministry and as was the custom on 1000’s he wanted to become a monk. However, the monestary at San Millán did not want to accept this illiterate boy.

The monastery’s lost become the pilgrims’ gain. Santo Domingo build a pilgrims hospital, a church (now the cathedral), he also cared for and built many other building, bridges, and cleared the road. All this in service to God and those who Walk the Way.

The Chickens

Now we get to the chicken story. It is said that a German family of three, a father and mother and son named Hugonell, were on their pilgrim journey to Santiago. In Santo Domingo they stopped and stayed with a farmer. The famer had a daughter who tried to seduce Hugonell. However, Hugonell took his pilgrimage very seriously and refused the farmer’s daughter’s advances. She did not appreciate his piety and hid silver coins in his pack. When the family continued on their Way to Santiago, the farmer’s daughter called the authorities who found the ‘stolen silver coins’ in Hugonell’s pack. Hugonell was found guilty of theft and hanged.

His grief-stricken parents continued to Santiago. On their return, they stopped at Santo Domingo to see their beloved son’s remains. In those days thieves were left to rot on the gallows as a warning to others. Imagine their surprise when they found their son was still alive. They claimed that Santo Domingo held Hugonell so that he did not die. 

The parents went to find the magistrate and asked him to cut down their son, as he was clearly innocent of the crime. The magistrate was just sitting down for a meal – a hearty chicken dinner – and said, “Why, he is no more alive than this roasted chicken I am about to eat.” Just as the words escaped his very mouth, the chicken stood up on his plate, miraculously brought back to life feathers and all, and crowd. The miracle was not lost on the magistrate, Hugonell was cut down and received a full pardon.

In memory of this story, live chickens are kept in the cathedral, even to this day.

The story behind the story

I know, we may chuckle at the story of the lad being alive after so many days, let alone a roasted chicken becoming alive. Perhaps, we should ask, “What is the meaning behind the story?” As I think about Santo Domingo I would say that God has a plan for you and no one will dampen your service to God’s people. When I think about the Chicken and Hugonell, doesn’t the story tell us that innocence triumphs the truth will set you free?

This post was originally written on September 22, 2017. It has now been updated, both the reflection and the pictures. Enjoy!


Wine Yards on the Way
Wine Yards close to Najera
Flieds in the Countryside
The fields are plowed.
Medieval Boundry Marker
Medieval Boundry Marker after Azofra
People walking
People walking to Santo Domingo.
The Cathedral
The Cathedral in Santo Domingo.
Ermita de la Virgen
Ermita de La Virgen de la Plaza, Santo Domingo
The Museum at Santo Domingo
Inside the Cathedral, Museum.
Big Painting
A very big painting
The Cathedral in Santo Domingo inside
Inside the Cathedral
Dewey and Statue
Dewey standing beside one of the many statues
The chickens in the cathedral
Just in case you did not believe me … the chickens.
Santo Domingo
Statue of Santo Domingo
The Apse
The front of the Cathedral.
An angel made in 1538
Two Angels – One from 1538 and one from 1978 … hehehe
Dewey and Jesus on a Donkey
Dewey with a statue of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem
Statue of saint James and Philip
St. James and St. Philip, XVII
A Painting by Salazar
Santa Librada, 1630, painted by Pedro Ruiz de Salazar
A statue of Baby Jesus, 1620
Baby Jesus of Passion – Niño Jesús de Pasión – 1620
A 13th Centuary Statue of Mary and Jesus
One of the oldest Statues I saw – Virgen con Niño – Virgin and Child, XIII
St. Sebastian, by Diego de Ichaso
San Sebastián – Saint Sebastian, 1650, by Diego de Ichaso
A picture of Dewey
Dewey near the Cathedral


  1. A good day I would say. No rain was a plus. You sure found lots of interesting paintings and pieces of sculpture. You have been out long enough now that maybe time for a little reflection is a good thing.

  2. Your cover photo on your new post gives an excellent panoramic view of the trail you walked. Great story about the chicken. I was a little slow getting going this morning so this was a great start to the day. Thanks for your post.

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