Iglesia del monasterio San Salvador de Leyre : Michelin's recommendations
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!