Navarra´s architecture is rich and varied. The Way of St James or “Camino de Santiago” has had a powerful influence in the fantastic buildings and monuments a pilgrim will see on his or her journey. Together with the beauty, history and piety of the architecture, unforgettable legends are woven.
Countryside, history and heritage converge in this northern corner of Navarra´s geography. It is the starting point for the Jacobean Route in the peninsula and is 47 kilometres from Pamplona. Its Collegiate Church from the 13th century is French Gothic and has been recently restored. The group of buildings that surrounds it makes this one of the most interesting visits in Navarra. The Battle of Roncesvalles took place here in the 18th century.
An important Medieval fortification with nine large towers crowning the ramparts is found only 30 kilometres from Pamplona. It is known as The Circle or “El Cerco” and was built in the 11th century. Inside the walls is the church-fortress of St Saturnino from the 13th century related to Toulouse and declared an Artistic Historic Monument.
Santa María de Eunate is 24 kilometres from Pamplona and six kilometres from the town of Puente la Reina. It is a church-lighthouse. In the upper part of the small tower a torch was installed for the pilgrims who travelled on the Way of St. James. The church has an octagonal floor with an exterior cloister. It was built in the 12th century.
PUENTE LA REINA
This town has a lovely, Romanic bridge and lies 20 kilometres from Pamplona. The Parish Church of St James was built in the 11th century to help alleviate the journey of the pilgrims on their walk to Santiago. It was later torn down, and in its place was built the actual church in the 16th century. The Church of the Crucifix from the 12th century was enlarged in the 14th century. Its 16th century crucifix is Germanic and has the form of a Y.
A city of monuments. 50 kilometres from Pamplona. The following deserve special attention. The Palace of the Kings of Navarra from the 12th century is an example of civil Romanic architecture and is today the site of the Museum Gustavo de Maeztu. Other monuments include the Church of St Pedro de la Rúa from the 12th century, the ruins of the Convent of Santo Domingo of the 13th century, the Church of Santa María Jus del Castillo, built on an ancient synagogue in the 12th century – the façade is from the 18th century; and the Church of St Miguel from the 14th and 15 centuries. Before leaving Estella, it is interesting to visit the older town hall from the 16th century, the home of Friar Diego de Estella, a Renaissance palace from the 16th century and the Palace of the Governor from the 17th century that is now the Carlist Museum.
Monuments belonging to the Monastery of Irache, built between the 12th and 16th centuries, are very close in distance to Estella and an important stop for pilgrims. Also near Estella is the Monastery Cisterciense de Iranzu, built between the 12th and 14th centuries in a mountainous, forest setting.
TORRES DEL RIO
The Romanic Church del Santo Sepulcro – only 68 kilometres from Pamplona – was built in the 12th century directly on the pilgrims´path to St James. The ground floor is octagonal and covered with a vault of parallel ribs similar to the caliphate style. It was a church-light house.
Another important group of monuments are to be found 44 kilometres from Pamplona. The walls of this town were built in the first century. During the middle ages, the kings and queens of Navarra lived here. Their castle-palace was declared a National Monument in 1925 and is an example of non-religious Gothic architecture. It was built in the 14th century and enlarged in the 15th. Unfortunately a fire almost completely destroyed it in 1813, and it was not until 1937 that rebuilding was begun. A state-run hotel called the Parador de Turismo is located in the oldest part of it beside the Church of Santa María, a Gothic structure from the 13th century.
A city of monuments, 44 kilometres from Pamplona on the Way to St James. Special attention should be paid to the Romanic Church of Santa María la Real, declared a National Monument since 1889 with its incredibly beautiful façade depicting the saga of Sigurd and Regin. The Baroque Palace of Vallesantoro, built in the 17th century, and today the House of Cultura or “Casa de Cultura” is also very interesting. Examine its portal, eaves and the stairway. The metallic bridge of Sanguesa over the river Aragón, inaugurated in 1891, was built by the company Construcciones y Talleres de Willebroeck, S.A. of Brussels.
Sixteen kilometres from Sangüesa and 50 from Pamplona is the Monastery of Leyre, a National Monument. Its origins date from the middle ages, and it is the oldest temple in Navarra, built at the beginnings of the 10th century over an ancient Visigoth temple. One important aspect of the monastery is its crypt, 11th century, and the Porta Speciosa from the 12th century. Special attention should be paid to the Santo Cristo, the library and its pantheon where the first kings of Navarra rest. The Gregorian chants of the Benedictines who live there are delightful.
The Cistercians come from the Benedictine Order. They appear at the end of the 11th century and at the beginnings of the 12th century in the Monastery of Citeaux in Borgoña, fleeing from all luxury and concentrating on manual work. There are three Cistercian monasteries in Navarra: Fitero, Iranzu and La Oliva.
La Oliva, 70 kilometres from Pamplona, continues the precepts of its beginnings. The monastery was founded by García Ramírez in the 12th century.
Fifty-three kilometres from Pamplona. Its Medieval city centre with steep inclines and narrow streets is like a labyrinth. The Church-Fortress of the Virgen de Ujué, built in the 11th century and remodelled in the 14th century has recently been restored again. The heart of the Navarrese king, Carlos II Evreux, nicknamed “El Malo” or the Bad One, is kept in a small wooden chest under the central arch.
The church is surrounded by a defensive wall. The exterior viewpoint around the building served as a lookout post.
A walled city of monuments. It is a town to stroll through and see its noble houses. It, too, is on the Way to St James. Special attention must be paid to the Church of Santa María. It was built in the Gothic style between the 13th and the 14thcenturies. A tower and a southern door in the Renaissance style were added in the 16th century. The Prince and Cardinal César Borgia, killed near Viana in 1507, are buried in the atrium. The paintings of Luis Paret in the Chapel of Nuestra Señora del Ramo inside the Church of Santa María are very interesting.
Tudela, of Islamic origins, lies 90 kilometres from Pamplona. The visitor should make a point of seeing the Cathedral of Santa María, built in the 12th century over the remains of a large mosque; the Church San Nicolás de Bari from the 18th century; and the Church of La Magdalena from the 12th century, declared a National Monument as is the cathedral. La Magdalena has one of the few Romanic towers existing in Navarra.
The Monasterio Cisterciense de Fitero is to be found 23 kilometres from Tudela. It was built during the 12th and 13thcenturies and enlarged in the 16th century. It was declared a National Monument in 1931. As the town of Fitero grew and expanded, the monastery found itself much closer to the life it had tried to leave behind.