Though Villafranca del Bierzo’s name can be traced back to 791, it has existed as a town for much longer than that. The first settlements in the area date back to the Neolithic age, but the first historically known group of people to inhabit the area were the Celtiberians. The town became more widely known in the Middle Ages, when the Codex Calixtinus cited Villafranca as a resting point between Rabanal and Triacastela.
In 1070, during the reign of Alfonso the 7th, a Cluniac monastery was founded there to produce wine, and various French pilgrims began to settle in the town. Later, many hostels arose to serve the needs of pilgrims passing through the area.
The 12-th century Romanesque church of Santiago can be found at the village’s entrance. Its gate, known as the Door of Pardon, was previously a site of great importance for pilgrims, especially injured ones, Pilgrims who were too sick or injured to complete the Camino could end their pilgrimage at the Door, and receive a special blessing and pardon.