Romaesque route in Navarre

Romanesque is an artistic/architectural style that mainly developed in Europe in the 11th, 12 and early 13th centuries, the region of Navarre being one of its most outstanding exponents.

The importance of the ancient Kingdom of Navarre and the passage of the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago – a spiritual, cultural and artistic artery of the mediaeval age – across the region have given it an immense heritage in the form of churches, monasteries, cathedrals and other works of civil architecture that delight the devotees of this style.

Its buildings are characterised by the robustness of their walls and buttresses and the low level of light that filters through their openings, elements that invite the visitor to meditate. Another of the key points are the round arches, barrel vaults and the sober ornamentation of the capitals and façades. Some of these have been converted into ingenious - and sometimes amusing - altarpieces in stone.

The Romanesque Route in Navarra contains 54 monuments that have been declared Heritage of Cultura l Interest, and we will present them in order from north to south:

  1. Sanctuary of San Miguel in Excelsis (Uharte Arakil): standing high up on the Aralar mountain range with spectacular views around, it houses a Romanesque altarpiece considered a masterpiece of European enamelwork. San Miguel is one of the best-known spiritual centres in Navarre.
  2. Monastery of Santa María de Zamarce (Uharte Arakil): not far from San Miguel, it is located on the Roman road that used to link Astorga and Bordeaux. Only the church is conserved; it stands out for its interior capitals and its monumental Romanesque façade.
  3. Charlemagne’s Silo (Orreaga/Roncesvalles): Also called the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, it is the oldest building in the complex of the Collegiate Church of Roncesvalles (Roncesvaux). It stands over a crypt with a vaulted ceiling where, according to the legend, Roldán (Roland) stabbed himself with his sword after his defeat in battle.
  4. Our Lady of Muskilda (Ochagavia): surrounded by spectacular scenery at over 1,000 metres above sea level and just 4 kilometres from the picturesque, discreet and elegant village of Ochagavia, this chapel is impregnated with characteristic features of Pyrenean architecture.
  5. Chapel of Santa María (Arce): located next to the Itoiz reservoir in the middle of the countryside, its appearance is similar to a number of rural Romanesque churches in the Navarrese style such as Echano, Artaiz or Gazólaz.
  6. Church of San Martín (Artaiz): set in the Unciti valley, it is one of the most beautiful examples of rural Romanesque architecture in Navarre. Its charm lies in its rich and delicate sculpture, where the hands of a number of master masons can be seen.
  7. Basilica of Santa Fe (Urraul Alto): one of the best examples of late Romanesque architecture in Navarre. It is part of a solitary and surprising architectural complex consisting of the basilica itself, a cloister, a hórreo (granary) and a welcoming country hotel.
  8. Chapel of Santa María del Campo (Navascués): influenced by the Jaca architectural style, it is a fine example of rural Romanesque architecture. It stands out for its bold bell tower in the middle of the nave and for a collection of sculpted corbels representing secular themes related to the Monastery of Leyre.
  9. Church of San Martín de Guerguitiaín (abandoned settlement of Guerguitiaín): Like the one in Vesolla, it is a simple church in an abandoned settlement. One of its capitals shows the unmistakable signature of the maser mason Petrus ("Petrus me fecit" - Petrus made me).
  10. Church of Vesolla (abandoned settlement of Vesolla): Vesolla and Guerguitiaín look across at each other in the shadow of Mount Izaga. Its façade, profusely decorated with plant motifs, faces and birds, is outstanding. It was also sculpted by master mason Petrus.
  1. Monastery of Yarte (Lete de Iza): one the least-known monasteries in Navarre, it belonged to the Monastery of Iratxe until the Desamortización (confiscation of church property in 1835). The original buildings have disappeared, the only ones now conserved being the Romanesque chapel of Santa María de Yarte and some ruins.
  2. Church of San Esteban (Eusa): although somewhat hidden away, it is one of the best stone-arched churches in Navarre. The corbels on the main front of the building draw the visitor’s attention.
  3. Cathedral of Santa María (Pamplona): originally Romanesque, after its demolition it was replaced by the present Gothic cathedral with its sober neo-Classical façade. Some Romanesque elements are still visible, such as the chapel of Jesus Christ and the door to the granary. Two corbels of great quality stand out; they are now exhibited in the Museum of Navarre.
  4. Church of San Nicolás (Pamplona): located in the Historic Quarter of the city, it is one of the few churches in Pamplona that still conserves some Romanesque features - its thick walls and grilles - and only one of its three watchtowers is still standing. This reveals its origins as a military bastion to defend the inhabitants of the borough.
  5. Royal and General Archive of Navarre (Pamplona): the residence of monarchs, viceroys and senior military officers in the past. Following refurbishment by the architect Rafael Moneo, it is now home to the Archive of Navarre. Among the Roman remains conserved are two walls of the old palace and a vaulted exhibition room in the late Romanesque style.
  6. Magdalena Bridge (Pamplona): the entry point into Pamplona of the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago, in the same style as the bridge at Puente la Reina. Its original rounded arches were replaced by other, more pointed, ones in the 15th century. On one side of the bridge, a stone cross with an image of Santiago (St James) welcomes the pilgrims.
  7. San Pedro Bridge (Pamplona): it could be of Roman origin, which is why it is believed to be the oldest bridge in the city. Transformed in the mediaeval era, it acquired the appearance it still shows today. It has three rounded spans, and next to it stands a stone cross identical to the one at the nearby Santa Engracia bridge.
  8. Church of Santa María (Gazólaz): located on the Pilgrim’s Way de Santiago, its most striking features are the arched atrium in the late Romanesque style and its profusely decorated capitals.
  9. Sanjuanist Church (Cizur Menor): an old monastery and pilgrims’ hospital of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, known as the Order of Malta. It was built in the late Romanesque style. Its fortifications are interesting, the front with a Chrismon on the tympanum predominating.
  1. Monastery of Santa María de Irantzu (Abárzuza): a grandiose Cistercian abbey built between the 12th and 14th centuries, currently inhabited by Theatine priests. Its church of Santa María, built in the late 12th century, stands out for its high level of light inside.
  2. Church of San Miguel (Estella-Lizarra): originally built on a hill, clearly as a fortress, at the end of the 12th century. A succession of later reforms and extensions have made it an amalgam of volumes and added features, among the conserved elements being the three-apse chancel and the superb north front, whose sculptural wealth can be said to eclipse the rest of the church.
  3. Church of San Pedro de la Rúa (Estella-Lizarra): standing on high ground overlooking the town, its cloister is considered one of the richest in terms of sculptural wealth in Navarrese Romanesque architecture. It also has a beautiful 13th-century porch, an imposing bell tower and an interior with Romanesque ashlars in the choir and a variety of Romanesque and Gothic sculptures.
  4. Palace of the Kings of Navarre (Estella-Lizarra): the only civil Romanesque building in Navarre. Built towards the end of the 12th century, it has a magnificent but delicate façade in three sections framed by columns with delightful capitals that tell stories, one of them the battle between Roldán (Roland) and the legendary giant Ferragut. It is now home to the Gustavo de Maeztu Museum.
  5. Church of Santa María Jus del Castillo (Estella- Lizarra): built in the 11th century, it is linked to the Jewish past of the town. It has a single nave with three differentiated sections, separated by Romanesque pilasters that are covered by ribbed vaults. After refurbishing, it has been converted into an Interpretation Centre for Romanesque architecture and the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago.
  6. Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Estella-Lizarra): construction work on this church started in the 12th century, and although its façade is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Navarre the apse of the Gospel nave is Romanesque (late 12th century).
  7. Monastery of Iratxe (Ayegui): the first pilgrims’ hospital in Navarre that the Benedictines started to build in the second half of the 11th century. Over the centuries it has been a university, a military hospital and a monastery. Its church has a Romanesque chancel and a Cistercian body. The main façade and that of San Pedro (St Peter) are also Romanesque.
  8. Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Torres del Río): built in the 12th century, this sober and harmonious church has an octagonal ground plan. It was a funeral chapel and a lighthouse along the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago. Inside, its impressive vault of intercrossing ribs recalls Hispano-Muslim art. Some historians believe it may have been built by the Knights Templar.
  9. Church of San Andrés de Learza (Etayo): a charming late Romanesque church with a reddish tone in its walls that looks down on the secluded square of Señorío de Learza from a hill. Its high Cistercian-style arches are slightly pointed, and inside the Romanesque baptismal font stands out.
  10. Tower of Arellano (Arellano): an old 12th-century tower-lookout built in the form of a closed prism. It has a square ground plan with narrow slits as windows. Its entrance, rounded and with large keystones, is on the level of the first floor.
  11. Church of Santa María de Eguiarte (Lácar): it has a single nave with three sections, a wide crossing and a straight chancel, and has quadrangular pillars with capitals decorated with historical themes. Its beautiful atrium stands out with rounded arches, wooden beams and rectangular columns, and a rich Romanesque front is preserved on the epistle wall.
  12. Romanesque bridge (Puente la Reina): built in the 11th century over the river Arga, it was one of the most important mediaeval bridges in Europe. It has six rounded arches resting on prism-shaped pillars. The eastern one is buried underground nowadays. It originally had three defensive towers, one of which displayed the Renaissance image of the Virgin of El Puy, the protagonist of the legend of the Txori (bird).
  13. Church of the Crucifix (Puente la Reina): built by the Knights Templar at the start of the Rúa Mayor (main street), it has two naves, one Romanesque and the other Gothic. The Romanesque front displays rich ornamentation, the main motif being pilgrims' shells.
  14. Church of Santiago el Mayor (Puente la Reina): reconstructed in the 16th century, some of the outer walls and two beautiful fronts are preserved of the old Romanesque church. One of them stands out for its Moorish influence.
  15. Church of Santa María de Eunate (Muruzábal): one of the most beautiful and suggestive churches on the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago. It is solitary, simple, original and mysterious. Its octagonal ground plan and outer cloister with 33 arches make it different to any other Romanesque church. The capitals, although highly eroded, show animals, heads and plant motifs.
  16. The Cerco de Artajona (Artajona): perfectly adapted to the profile of the hill it stands on, this popular mediaeval fortification is the biggest in the Central Zone of Navarre. Its 11th-century walled complex still preserves 9 of the 14 original towers, linked by a parapet walk.
  17. Chuch of San Pedro ad Víncula de Echano (Olóriz): built at the end of the 12th century, it consists of a nave in three sections with a pointed half-barrel vault. Its main front faces north instead of south or east, as was usually the case. The distinguishing icons it contains reflect secular themes.
  18. Hórreo de Iracheta (Iracheta): a granary built in the 11th or early 12th century with ashlars and a rectangular ground plan in two parts. The interior contains 10 rounded arches that sit on sturdy pilasters. The roof is hipped and the tiles are made of sandstone. It was used for storage and for and collecting the diezmo (a tax payable to the church).
  19. Church of Santo Cristo de Cataláin (Garinoain): built in the early 13th century, it was a pilgrims' hospital on the Pilgrim's Way to Compostela and reflects the influence of the Jaca style of architecture. Its graceful belfry with three openings is a twin of the one at Echano. On the outside, the striking features are the chancel of the church and the apse with three rounded windows and decorated capitals. Its interior is in the early Romanesque style, as is the baptismal font.
  20. Church and crypt of San Martín (Orisoain): built in the mid-12th century and rediscovered in 1965, it is one of only four churches in Navarre with crypt. It is semi-circular in shape and has six columns with rough but profusely decorated capitals, covered with a half-barrel cul-de-four vault. The masterly sculpted front of the church consists of three rounded arches that stand on archivolts, decorated with plant motifs and cylindrical stone in the Jaca style.
  21. Church of La Asunción (Olleta): a fine example of rural Romanesque architecture from the second half of the 12th century, it belonged to the Order of the Nights of St John of Jerusalem. With a single nave and three splayed windows in the apse, it stands out for its beautiful Chrismon on the tympanum of the front of the church and a dome topped by a small lantern of lowered arches.
  22. Church of San Martín de Tours (San Martín de Unx): a fine example of rural Romanesque architecture in Navarre and an excellent viewpoint over the surrounding landscape. Striking features are the baptismal font, the decoration of its capitals and the Romanesque crypt.
  23. Church of San Pedro (Olite): the oldest church in the town. It dates from the 12th century, with a ground plan of three naves and a mid-13th century cloister with rounded arches on top of double capitals. The rounded front is elegant, sober and domed and is a mix of the Romanesque and Gothic styles. The remains of the polychrome decoration that covered it in the distant past can still be seen.
  24. Church of San Adrián de Vadoluengo (Sangüesa): a small, privately owned church, it is a fine example of rural Romanesque architecture. It has very simple ornamentation, with cylindrical concrete shapes in the Jaca style and a variety of corbels standing out.
  25. Church of Santa María la Real (Sangüesa): slender, its style corresponds to the transition from Romanesque to Gothic. The spectacular façade, depicting Doomsday, is an authentic altarpiece in stone and is considered one of the most outstanding Romanesque works in Spain. The chancel is also Romanesque and the naves are supported by sturdy pillars, plus other interesting features of construction.
  26. Church-fortress of Santa María de Ujué (Ujué): this fortified church       of Romanesque origin stands elegantly and strongly at the highest       point in the village. Its most peculiar feature is precisely its appearance      of a military fort, with crenelated towers, parapet walks and sturdy buttresses.       The only thing that remains today of the Romanesque era is the chancel       in three sections, the triple semi-circular apse and the tower of the chancel,      as well as a carving of the Virgin Mary with Child.
  27. Church of Santiago (Sangüesa): a fine example of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic in which the influence of the Pilgrim’s Way to Compostela is very clear from the adornments in the interior of the church: staffs, shells and pumpkins. The main façade, domed and slightly pointed, and the decoration on the capitals denote its Romanesque origins.
  28. Monastery of San Salvador de Leyre (Yesa): built between the 11th and 14th centuries over an early pre-Romanesque church in the foothills of the mountain range of the same name, Leyre stands out for its robust capitals and its beautiful and original Romanesque crypt. Another of its great treasures is the Porta Speciosa, a beautiful 12th-century façade. The outer apses of the chancel, the bell tower, the interior of the church and its long nave make up one of the first mediaeval constructions in Spain.
  1. Monastery of La Oliva (Carcastillo): its spacious Romanesque church is one of the best examples of Cistercian art in Spain, outstanding features being the chapterhouse - one of the most harmonious in Spanish Romanesque - and the Gothic cloister. On the 14th-century façade some elements from the old Romanesque church were used, for example the Chrismon on the tympanum and the corbels on the upper cornice.
  2. Walled settlement of Rada (Murillo el Cuende): strategically located on top of a hill, it had great defensive importance in the mediaeval era. It houses remains of a 12th-century castle, a 100-meter-long canvas of the town's walls (also 12th-century), an old round tower (early Romanesque) and the church of San Nicolás (late 12th century).
  3. Monastery of Fitero: the first monastery of the Cistercian Order in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the few located within a town, its grandeur surprises the visitor. The abbey church has a chancel ambulatory with five chapels, making it a unique example of a Cistercian monastery in Spain. It also houses a large collection of Arabic chests, mediaeval caskets and a beautiful Gothic reliquary made from Limousin enamel.
  4. Church of Santa María Magdalena (Tudela): the main façade, with a slender three-section tower attached to it, represents the essence of the Romanesque style in Tudela. It seems to have been built on top of an old Mozarabic church, which explains why the chancel is slightly off-centre.
  5. Cathedral of Santa María (Tudela): built in the 12th century on top of the main mosque of the city. With a Romanesque ground plan, it is divided into three naves and has three entrances. The south front (dedicated to the Virgin Mary) is the oldest and in the Romanesque style, as is the north façade, called Santa María. The third, and most eye-catching, is the spectacularly-decorated front depicting Doomsday. The cathedral has an interesting large Romanesque cloister, built towards the end of the 12th century.
  6. Monastery of Tulebras (Tulebras): the first church founded by the Cistercians in Spain. Built in the Romanesque style, mainly visible on the façades, nave and chancel. It also has an interesting collection of religious art in its museum.
  7. Church of San Juan de Jerusalén (Cabanillas): a simple building with a single nave and a beautiful domed front that was put back in its original place after a complete restoration. This church was home to hospitable monks who attended to pilgrims.

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