March 3, 2010



Churches and monasteries on the Navarrese Route

Mr Javier Martínez de Aguirre.
Complutense University of Madrid

The monumental landscape through which the pilgrims passed was subject to continuous modifications. In the case of Navarre, the churches and monasteries that a traveler could contemplate and visit in 1450 had very little to do with those that had welcomed those who had walked to Santiago four hundred years earlier. The lecture is dedicated to observing these transformations of the monumental landscape sequenced by centuries.

We do not know what the first pilgrim of whom there is historical evidence, Gotescalco, bishop of Le Puy, who visited the confines of the kingdom of Pamplona in 950, could have admired. We know very little of the pre-Romanesque Navarre, except for the existence of some monumental building such as the cathedral of Pamplona, whose vestiges prior to the year 1000 have not been clearly differentiated. On the other hand, we suppose that a traveler who came a hundred years later, around the year 1050, would not fail to contemplate the great work of Leire, sample very interesting in its rudeness of the early Romanesque. The rest of the temples would still preserve pre-Romanesque features, such as San Miguel de Villatuerta.
A pilgrim of the year 1150 would appreciate a completely renovated route. He would find bridges of great merit, such as Puente la Reina, and new towns that would facilitate his journey, such as Sangüesa, Puente la Reina or Estella, where buildings of B quality were being constructed, such as Santa María de Sangüesa. Monasteries such as Irache would not only offer hospitality in the hostels, but would also welcome the faithful in the churches that were being renovated in accordance with the new architectural style. He would notice the familiarity of these buildings of the Romanesque plenary session of the Executive Council with respect to those he had just visited in the South of France and would find in the cathedral of Pamplona a realization of considerable quality especially for the sculpture of its cover (inspired by Platerías of Santiago) and its cloister.

One hundred years later, the traveler would travel through a kingdom full of late Romanesque temples and with some examples of early Gothic, such as Roncesvalles, whose church could remind him of those he had known in the vicinity of Paris. The cities would bustle with great works still under construction, such as San Pedro de la Rúa or San Miguel de Estella. And in all the villages and valleys he would have seen stone buildings, some with singular merits such as Torres del Río or Eunate. In addition, the traveler would have stopped before the great portals that manifested the Christian doctrine on the Glory of Jesus Christ and the destiny that awaits man in the Hereafter, such as those of Sangüesa and Estella.

In 1350 the cities would present splendid buildings of the radiant Gothic. In Pamplona they were finishing the cathedral cloister and its annexes, one of the most interesting in Europe at the time; the pride of the bourgeoisie of San Cernin would be shown in their new parish building. Also in other towns such as Estella or Sangüesa they would be pleased to show their achievements: the doorway of the Holy Sepulchre, the church of the Savior or the tower of Santa Maria. But next to these refined works, a new subject of constructions spread in the 13th century: the Franciscan and Dominican churches, much simpler, with their single naves covered with roofs over transversal arches. In rural areas, parishes such as the one in Villatuerta were evidence of the vitality of Navarrese society around 1300, a happy memory that hardly consoled those who had just suffered the great plague of 1348.

Finally, the pilgrim of 1450 would contemplate the final phase of the reconstruction of the cathedral of Pamplona, since a large part of the Romanesque temple had collapsed at the end of the 14th century. He would see the naves finished and the walls of the chevet under construction while waiting for pillars and vaults to be finished. The flamboyant Gothic was slowly being introduced. Navarre would bid farewell to the traveler with the new church of Viana, one of the most relevant of our Gothic, with its magnificent triforiums.

Of course, our travelers of both times would enter the temples and pray before images of the Virgin, Jesus Christ or the saints that would increase their devotion because of their beauty, such as the Romanesque ones of Pamplona and Irache, or the Gothic ones of Roncesvalles, Estella or Los Arcos. They would slow down to read one by one the scenes of the Gothic altarpieces. And perhaps, when thinking about the destination of their tiring wanderings, they would think of the figure of the apostle St. James before which they had prayed in Puente la Reina, report .