Things to see and do - Pamplona
A Tour of Romanesque Churches in Navarre :
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A Tour of Romanesque Churches in Navarre
A Tour of Romanesque Churches in NavarreBy car, 185 km, 1 day
Pamplona is an excellent point of departure for exploring northwestern Spain's Romanesque churches, built along the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route. Leyre Monastery, a spiritual centre in Navarre from the 11C, is located in a magnificent natural setting. The Church of Santa María la Real de Sangüesa was a refuge for pilgrimages from the 12C. Ujué, which hasn't changed since the Middle Ages, contains a partly Gothic sanctuary. Estella, the highpoint of the journey, was chosen to be the residence of the kings of Navarre in the 12C.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
A few capitals from the portals and cloister remain from the early Romanesque church and are in the Museum of Navarre. Inside the cathedral, in front of the gate that closes the sanctuary, stands the alabaster tomb ordered in 1416 by King Charles III the Noble, founder of the cathedral, for himself and his wife. The 14C and 15C cloister houses tombs and sculptures.
By the early 11C, the abbey of San Salvador de Leyre had established itself as the uncontested spiritual centre of Navarra. Sancho III the Great and his successors made it their pantheon and enabled the building of the church. The bishops of Pamplona were at the time traditionally former abbots of Leyre. In the 12C however, when Navarra was linked to Aragón, the royal house neglected Leyre in favour of San Juan de la Peña. By the 13C, the monastery had become Cistercian and was to remain so until the 19C when it was abandoned. In 1954 it was taken over by a Benedictine community from Silo who restored the 17C and 18C buildings and built a hostelry. The church remains the sole trace of the original monastery. Pause as you enter the east end and admire the turret, treble-windowed square tower and three apses. Continue on inside and look at the first two Romanesque bays, the chancel with its semicircular apses and the Gothic nave. Note the elegance of the pillars and the capitals, as well as the beautifully assembled blocks of rough-hewn stone. In the nave, to the left, is a wooden chest containing the remains of the first kings of Navarra. Don't miss the crypt. The vaulting is relatively high but divided by arches which rest on enormous capitals, some of which are incised with only the most rudimentary lines. Unusually, these capitals rest on short shafts of unequal height, almost at ground level. The visit ends at the West Portal, known as the "Porta Speciosa" because of its rich decoration and carving that covers every available space!
It was built in the 12C and finished in the 13C by the addition of the octagonal tower, a spire and the splendid south doorway. The latter has such an abundance of sculptures that it is astonishing for the sheer variety of subjects and the richness of their expression. Saint Francis Xavier was born in 1506 at Castillo de Javier, 7km to the northeast.
The choir remains of a Romanesque church built here in the late 11C. The central chapel contains a venerated statue of Santa María la Blanca, in the Romanesque style and made from wood covered with silver plate.
The origin of this Romanesque chapel, south of Pamplona and a few miles from Puente la Reina, remains unknown. It may have been a funerary chapel on the pilgrim road, as the human bones found there suggest. The outside gallery, now exposed, formerly led to adjoining buildings and was used by pilgrims as a shelter. Isolated in the middle of a field, the chapel is harmonious in proportion and design.
Along the winding streets stand whitewashed façades decorated with rounded doorways, balconies, coats of arms and sculpted corniches. At the top of the village, the Church of San Román has a polylobed 13C portal.
On the spurs of the cliff, the Church stands opposite the Palace of the Kings of Navarre. The building preserves some remarkable parts from the 12C and 13C including the doorway at the top of monumental staircase and the Romanesque cloister.